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Wolf House Kitchen in Silverdale - the rural cafe with a cosmopolitan menu

PUBLISHED: 09:54 05 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:54 05 September 2016

The cafe space

The cafe space


The young team at Silverdale’s Wolf House Kitchen has created a buzz at this rural café, combining global influences with the best local ingredients, writes Sine Fleet.

'Ortiz' sardines, fresh tomato salad, grilled sourdough and aioli'Ortiz' sardines, fresh tomato salad, grilled sourdough and aioli

Perched in a tranquil spot above Morecambe Bay’s sweeping coastline, Wolf House is a handsome 17th century farmstead which began a new life nearly 50 years ago when a young family took it on and began to build a creative community.

Discovering the location almost by chance, Ted and Denise Dowbiggin spotted the property was for auction and decided to take a look the next day. Instantly falling in love with the unspoilt location, they shared a vision of a creative life and business there – and with great determination, the pair set about making it a reality.

The Dowbiggins opened an art gallery at Wolf House in the 1970s, and later added a pottery and café. Their venture grew into a small community of thriving creative businesses, which today includes Wolf House Cottages, Wyn Abbot Ceramics & Gallery, artist Janice MacGloine’s studio and Wolf House Kitchen.

Now, with something of that same creativity and passion, a talented new team of young people are gaining fans at Wolf House Kitchen. Located in one of the former farm buildings, friends Kenny Cottam, Katey Mack and Francis Duncan have created something very special through their love of food and a desire to surprise and excite customers. Who would expect to find Korean dishes in a Lancashire seaside cafe?

Sarah SharpeSarah Sharpe

‘Since we started here, we’ve been fairly stubborn in what we’ve wanted to do – a lot of things that you’d expect of a café, we just don’t do,’ says Kenny. ‘One of my pet hates is being able to walk into a restaurant or a café that I’ve never been to, and know exactly what’s on the menu. So we constantly change things, and like to do things a bit differently.’

It certainly works in their favour – customers come back time after time for their wonderful cakes, baked on site and with up to 20 types to choose from. There are also innovative dishes created with flair and some surprising twists from fantastic produce that comes from in and around the Silverdale and Arnside Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Wolf House Kitchen team’s story is an inspiring one for any budding entrepreneur - full of dedication and hard work, opportunities seized and the value of mentoring and encouraging talent in young people.

They first met as schoolkids in the Lune Valley 14 years ago. ‘We all worked together at the Lunesdale Arms in Tunstall and became good friends,’ says Kenny, ‘The three of us were in the kitchens, doing dishes and later waiting-on and helping the chef.’ Francis adds: ‘It was such fantastic experience for us. The then owner, Emma Gillibrand put her faith in us and filled us with her passion for good food and the best ingredients.’

Kenny and Francis continued to work there on and off for 12 years, while Katey moved to Paris to study. Wanting to travel after finishing his degree, Francis persuaded Kenny to move to Paris for a while, and the three friends worked together again at the famous Parisian café, Rose Bakery.

Kenny says: ‘Rose Bakery is an organic, almost entirely vegetarian café originating in Paris, with bakeries now in London, Seoul, New York, and a handful in Japan. Their ethos is to get the very best ingredients and don’t mess with them. It’s how we work too.’

When they returned to Lancashire, none of what happened next was planned. Says Francis: ‘Stuff just sort of happened, and we went with it!’ Katey was baking for a shop called Parma Violet in Kirkby Lonsdale when the owners, Julie and Lewis Evans, took on Wolf House shop, gallery and cafe and asked the three to help – creating menu ideas and recipes.

‘Years earlier, when she was in her early twenties, Julie had been offered the opportunity to run her own café – which sort of set her up for the future. So she decided that she was going to do the same thing for us. We wouldn’t be where we are now without Julie and Lewis’.

Almost two years later, the team were spotted by Nick Johnson, a regeneration expert who was working on a major project to revive Altrincham Market. Impressed by Wolf House, he persuaded them to open a café at Altrincham Market House.

‘In our heads, we pictured a standard English market set up. The market had recently reopened and had been refurbished, but we weren’t really aware of what it was,’ says Kenny. ‘Nick sent me a few pictures, and I was surprised at how it looked, so we decided to go and see what he had to offer. We were just blown away, it’s a really special place. Nick offered us a unit - but we still said no! It’s 85 miles from Silverdale – we knew it would be a lot of work and stress, and we didn’t want to destroy what we have here,’ he explains.

They succumbed and in their first year, the team were part of an Observer Food Award for Best Market in 2015, described collectively with neighbouring businesses as ‘one of the most exciting food destinations in the country.’

‘It’s really nice because we see a lot of the same faces between the two venues,’ says Francis. We’re really lucky to have two completely different, characterful locations, and people come to see us at both.’

‘Wolf House, and the destination that the Dowbiggin family created here, is a magical spot – we see visitors who have been coming here for 40 years, bringing along new generations,’ says Kenny. On future plans, he says: ‘We’ve had no grand plan so far – it’s all kind of written itself. I think we’re just waiting for stuff to be thrown at us again!’

The Wolf House Gallery & Cafe is at Lindeth Road, Silverdale, LA5 0TX. 01524 701405


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