The Kendal businesses that have high hopes for the future
PUBLISHED: 17:28 02 April 2012 | UPDATED: 04:12 10 February 2013
The Castle Dairy and Lakeland Climbing Centre in Kendal have very lofty ambitions, as Paul Mackenzie reports Photography by John Cocks
He has worked in top kitchens and with big name chefs and now Robert Stacey wants to bring the taste of success to a new restaurant in Kendal. The Castle Dairy opened late last year when Kendal College took over the oldest building in the town the official opening performed, appropriately, by historian and son of Kendal David Starkey.
Following a 200,000 restoration project, the 14th century building has been transformed into a unique art gallery and restaurant serving contemporary British food.
Its the only restaurant of its kind in the country, said head chef Robert, who has previously worked in the Michelin starred kitchens at Marco Pierre Whites LEscargot and Galvins restaurant at the Park Lane Hilton.
This is the only restaurant staffed by apprentices. Its an apprentice academy. They have all come up through college and the restaurant is a kind of college finishing school, giving realistic work experience in all aspects of the business.
I have been used to working with people who know the standard they should be working to and the level of commitment and attention to detail that is required. Young people sometimes dont understand that so I have had to do more explaining than I am used to but so far the apprentices have applied themselves very well.
We want people to be surprised that the staff here are apprentices. If we are going to make it survive in this economic climate attention to detail is absolutely vital that goes for the dcor, the staff and the food.
We are putting on the best dining experience we can. Its going really well, there has been a lot of positive feedback from customers since we opened in December. We are still finding our feet to a degree but Im pleased with the way it has gone so far.
It is very different to what I have known before but Kendal is a lovely place to live and work, nice and quiet. There is some great food in the Lake District and we import very little from outside the area. We want to keep it as close we can and to put the emphasis on local produce our fish is from Morecambe, all our meat is from within a 30 mile radius. We are working in and around the seasons.
The college are running a similar scheme at Kendal Museum, giving students apprenticeships in museum management and curation. But for Robert, the scheme isnt simply an opportunity to provide work experience he has set the team at the Castle Dairy some very ambitious targets. I want to take The Castle Dairy as far as it can go and we are aiming high, he said.
Our first objective is to become one of the best places to eat in the region. I dont want to say publicly exactly what our target is after that, but we are aiming very high.
And the 25-year-old, who is married and has a one-year-old daughter added: I have been working in kitchens since I was 15. I have worked in brilliant restaurants and in private dining and I have learned a lot along the way. I came here because I wanted to make a name for myself.
Theyre aiming high across town at the Lakeland Climbing Centre, too 25 metres high to be precise.
The centre, which has one of the highest climbing walls in the country, opened in the mid-1990s and has recently expanded to meet a growing demand for indoor climbing.
Kate Phillips, the centres managing director, said: More people are coming to indoor climbing and there has been more demand for better quality facilities for children and beginners. For years we had a climbing wall that was built by climbers for climbers but wasnt very family friendly. Now we have created a more welcoming environment.
Kendal Parish Church has been a place of worship since the early 13th century. It has been extensively enlarged since it was first built and is now one of the widest parish churches in the country with five aisles
Kendals market charter was granted in 1189 and outdoor markets are held every Wednesday and Saturday
The River Kent is one of the fastest flowing in the UK and descends more than 2000 feet in just 20 miles from its source in Kentmere, through Kendal to the sea near Levens Hall
John Cunliffe created Postman Pat while he was living in Kendal. Greendale, Pats home village, is based on Longsleddale in the hills to the north of Kendal
Kendals famous mintcake was supposedly created by accident in the 1860s by Joseph Wiper who was trying to make glacier mints but left the pan for too long and the mixture turned cloudy.
Kendal Tourist Information Centre is based in the town hall. Contact them on 01539 797516
Where it is: Kendal stands on the south eastern fringe of the Lake District National Park, about six miles from junction 36 on the M6. If you have a sat nav, LA9 4PU should take you to the town centre. The railway station is near the centre of town, on the branch line from Oxenholme to Windermere.
Where to park: There are pay and display car parks around the town centre, but you need to be there early to guarantee a place in a long-stay car park. Some on-street parking can be found away from the centre, but avoid residents only areas.
What to do: Take your walking gear (or buy some from one of the many outdoors shops). Stroll by the river or up to the ruined castle, enjoy the shops, explore the museums and galleries, then take in a show at the Brewery Arts Centre.
Where to eat: Going hungry is not an option in Kendal. There is a good mix of cafes, delis and plenty of traditional Lakeland tearooms as well as pubs serving food and restaurants offering fine dining.
The print version of this article appeared in the April 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life
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