Progress being made at historic Kendal restaurant

After more than a year of enforced closure due to Storm Desmond, 2017 will bring some light at the end of the tunnel for the historic Castle Dairy restaurant in Kendal.

The age and status of the building has meant that the work to dry it out and then refurbish needs to be a much longer process, however a brand new state-of-the-art kitchen is now fully fitted. The new kitchen will include a chef’s table, giving diners a special close up experience of new Head Chef Chris O’Callaghan and his team at work.

With work on the kitchen about to be underway, the next step for Chris, who took over as Head Chef in August, is to build up his team of apprentices.

The Castle Dairy works in a unique way as it is run by catering apprentices under the eye of Head Chef, Chris and Restaurant Manager, Darryn Van der Merwe. All of the apprentices receive training and will gain valuable qualifications at Kendal College.

Chris said: “The Castle Dairy offers a really exciting opportunity for any young chef or anyone interested in developing or furthering a career in hospitality. Honestly, I wish there had been something like this on offer for me when I was first starting out. There can be no better learning experience than first hand in a busy, working restaurant where expectations and ambitions are high.

“The Castle Dairy has a strong reputation in Kendal and, because it has been closed for such a prolonged period of time, there will be a lot of pressure on us to make sure everything is running like clockwork in time for the reopening.

“We’re all looking forward to building a brand new team and ensuring that both loyal and new customers enjoy first class contemporary food and service in this historic setting.”

During the renovation process, a medieval doorway was uncovered. It is hoped this can be knocked through – subject to building control approval – to the College’s new Art Gallery in the Wildman Street Studios next door to the Castle Dairy. This will provide guests and diners with an opportunity to view original artwork as well as using the space for special receptions and launches.

The Grade I listed building, which houses the Castle Dairy Restaurant and Art Gallery, was beseiged by flood water from Storm Desmond on Saturday 5th December 2015. The kitchen and bar area have been redesigned, a new staircase is being fitted in the restaurant, the toilets are being modernised, and there will be a new open fire added to the ‘Roman Road’ room. The new-look Castle Dairy is expected to open in March 2017 with Kendal College and South Lakeland District Council doing everything possible to finish the building work as quickly as possible whilst preserving the history of the building.

For more information on the Castle Dairy, visit For more information and to apply for apprenticeships at the Castle Dairy, visit




New chef takes charge at Castle Dairy

A new Head Chef has been appointed at Kendal’s historic Castle Dairy – the innovative fine dining restaurant and art gallery run by apprentices from Kendal College.

Thirty four year-old Chris O’Callaghan from Kendal has taken over the reigns and is working with the College’s Head of School for Hospitality, Robert Marshall-Slater to oversee the redevelopment of the Grade 1 listed building after it was flooded last December.

Chris has been cooking professionally at an exceptionally high standard for over 18 years and joins the Castle Dairy after four years as Head Chef at the 4-star Linthwaite House in Windermere where he achieved 3AA rosettes.

He has also spent time at The 10 in 8 Fine Dining Group’s Michelin-starred restaurants, Paris House in Bedfordshire and L’ortolan near Reading, as well as the Michelin-starred Gravetye Manor Hotel in Sussex.

One of the new developments planned at the Castle Dairy is the introduction of a chefs table and Chris is relishing the opportunity to get stuck into creating enticing new tasting menus to cook up in front of guests.

He said: “Its an exciting position to be in and I can’t wait to get into the new kitchen and start doing what I do best – cooking excellent quality food whilst training the next generation of young chefs.

“People dining at the new-look Castle Dairy can expect to enjoy contemporary food and service in a historic setting.”

Robert Marshall-Slater, Head of School for Hospitality at Kendal College, said: “Its quite an unusual position for a new Head Chef to find himself in with the Castle Dairy still being closed after the dreadful floods last December.  However, getting Chris in place was a real coup for us and we’re delighted that he’s got this opportunity to build up his team of young chefs and front of house staff before we reopen.

“The Castle Dairy has established a strong reputation in Kendal in the last few years and we know that having Chris in place will take it to the next level, so we’re all excited to see what the future holds for this unique restaurant.”

The Grade I listed building, which houses the Castle Dairy Restaurant and Art Gallery, was beseiged by flood water from Storm Desmond on Saturday 5th December 2015. Both the kitchen, which was less than a year old, and the bar area have been ripped out and redesigned and work is expected to start on fitting in the coming weeks. It is hoped that the new-look Castle Dairy will reopen before the end of the year with Kendal College and South Lakeland District Council doing everything possible to get the building open in time for the festive season.

Flood Update 8th January 2016

By Darryn Van Der Merwe

Castle Dairy Flood

Our last evening service was on the Friday 4th December 2015. The weather was quite horrific that evening. I recall almost being defeated by the wind and rain cycling home. I did think that the weather would calm down overnight, but it didn’t. The rain continued throughout the night.

The next morning at 10am, the River Kent was extremely high. Head Chef Robert Stacey (and our friends and neighbours on Wildman Street) battled the elements to sandbag the building following local authority warnings. We did everything we could to keep the rising waters out with sand bags, but we were fighting a losing battle.

As the water levels continued to rise, myself and the team agreed that things were going to get worse before they got better and we moved what furniture we could upstairs and propped up tables and other large furniture on breeze blocks as high as possible.

By 4.30pm the water in the restaurant was knee high and started entering the restaurant through the walls and up through the floor into our Roman Road Room and kitchen. It was devastating to watch. Particularly as our recently refurbished kitchen submerge into the flood waters and every single piece of equipment became ruined. Conscious that there was little more that we could do, we evacuated the restaurant following the polices advice in the hope that the rain would stop sometime soon. Unfortunately it didn’t!

It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the amount of devastation caused by the floods and the team is still in shock. We were all stocked up and ready to serve our Christmas and New Year menus in the weeks ahead. Head Chef Robert and his team had put a lot of work and effort in to the menus and we were looking forward to welcoming our guests over the festive period.

The Castle Dairy is currently in the process of drying out, which is going to take a considerable amount of time.  Due to the nature of the building, we are restricted from using mechanical heaters to dry out the restaurant. The building was built using lime plaster to the walls and the oak beams would suffer if dried out rapidly. Furthermore, the safety of the building could be compromised if guidelines are not followed due to the age of the property.

In the meantime, the kitchen (which was flooded with contaminated water) and bar have both been ripped out and are in the process of being redesigned. We are hoping to install new lavatories too. Despite the damage, we remain optimistic and are looking forward to reopening our newly refreshed restaurant  – that will hopefully be equally, if not more, successful than ever before!

Whilst the restaurant remains closed, the Castle Dairy team is planning lots of training and development activity to further improve our skills and knowledge. We shall also be holding a calendar of charity events at Kendal College to raise money for the Cumbria Flood Recovery Fund. Keep an eye on our website for details. We hope to see you there.

Thank you for your continued support. I will update you again soon.

Darryn Van Der Merwe
Restaurant Manager
Castle Dairy Restaurant & Art Gallery

Fine Dining in Kendal at the Castle Dairy