A CAFE and bakery which opened its doors less than two years ago is celebrating after clinching a top national award.

The Loft Cafe and Bakery won over judges at the prestigious Scottish Food Awards to be crowned Cakery Destination 2017.

It marks a meteoric rise for Anita Leveridge and Charlotte Kington, who set up the business in August 2015 and now employ about 25 people.

The two friends, who have known each other for more than a decade through their daughters at Yester Primary School, were delighted with the award, which came as a complete surprise to them.

Anita said: “It makes all the hard work worth it. It is nice to have that hard work recognised and we take it as a team effort.

“We have a lovely team here and we have been so lucky the right person has always come along at the right time.”

The cafe, based on Haddington’s Peffers Place and behind the town’s Corn Exchange, has attracted a strong customer base, offering a range of breakfasts, lunches and home baking, as well as teas and coffees.

Charlotte, of Samuelston, stressed the importance of using local ingredients to the business.

She said: “The only flour you will find in our building is Mungoswells – it is in our cakes. The only oil you will find is Black and Gold and if we need to fry an egg, that is what we use. We use it in our dressings as well and we use Yester Dairy too.”

The co-owners felt there were a variety of reasons as to why the business had proven a success.

Originally, Charlotte and Anita, of Upper Bolton, looked at what was then the Peter Potter Gallery on Haddington’s The Sands.

However, after missing out on that, they visited the former East Lothian Council staff canteen, which soon became their home.

Charlotte said: “We are very fortunate with the property. It had been empty for a long time when we took it on. It is light and bright and immediately lends itself to a pleasant space to be in.”

One of the other factors was the hard work put in by the team.

Anita added: “Our team are super friendly and they genuinely like to interact with the customers.

“We have got so many regulars that we have gotten to know.

“It is definitely hard work but for Charlotte and I, although it is a business and has got to make money, we just felt Haddington needed somewhere people could come and meet but was friendly and welcoming.

“The big thing is to be welcoming to everybody and we genuinely enjoy it.”