A FLOOD-struck restaurant has opened its doors in a South Lakeland town after Storm Desmond wreaked havoc and forced its closure.

The Castle Dairy restaurant and Art Gallery in Kendal was back in business again after 18 months yesterday and is once again ready to welcome those who appreciate fine dining.

Graham Wilkinson, principal of Kendal College, which owns the building, said: "We are very excited for the Castle Dairy to re-open. It has been a long wait, and it has been difficult keeping everyone motivated while the restaurant has been closed.

"Still it hasn't been all doom and gloom, I think there has also been positive outcome. For example, some of the members of staff have completed different qualifications during the wait."

The Castle Dairy occupies one of Kendal’s oldest inhabited buildings, dating back to the 14th century.

When Storm Desmond hit Cumbria in December 2015, the restaurant was deluged by flood water.

For the next 18 months, a long drying out process and a complete refurbishment followed, including the laying of a new floor, installation of heating, a new staircase and a re-designed kitchen.

If history were to repeat itself, the Castle Dairy is prepared.

"We learnt our lesson from last time," Mr Wilkinson said. "The stove was one of the most expensive items to replace, and now we're able to lift it off the ground, move the fridges out and let everything dry out naturally if we were to be flooded again."

Head chef Chris O’Callaghan, 35, who leads a team of five within the Castle Dairy’s kitchen – three of whom are catering apprentices at different levels - said: "These students and apprentices will hopefully to go on to work at Michelin star and rosette restaurants, and here they are equipped to take that step. "I have been very lucky with the support from the college with the re-design of the kitchen. They have given me everything I wanted."

One of the apprentices, 17-year-old Ryan Baron, who was working on the day the floods hit, said: "People here are excited. It's good to have her back open. I really like working here. We have a great team that has been really supportive of me."