Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft, managing directors of Northcote Leisure Group, are opening a café bar in Blackburn town centre.
To be known as Café Northcote at the Cathedral, the 70-seat restaurant is expected to open in early June. It will be housed in the new refectory space at Cathedral Court, a £7m extension of cloisters to the Anglican cathedral, which includes conference facilities and an underground car park.
"We will offer modern café food with a regional twist," said Haworth, who is also the Michelin-starred chef-patron of Ribble Valley hotel Northcote. The new seven-day operation will serve breakfast, lunch, coffees, teas and cakes and hot drinks and lunches to go. The café bar, which is referred to as a partnership with the cathedral, may also host special events for the regional landmark.
The interior, designed by Haworth's wife and sustainable construction and renovation specialist Kathrine Haworth in conjunction with Simon Cooper Colley of the Cooper8 Consultancy, aims to use sustainable materials and local tradespeople. The colour scheme, in honey and orange tones, together with a three-dimensional honeycomb wall design behind the service counters, will reflect the town's economic history through its symbol, the bee.
"The Blackburn Coat of Arms shows three bees in flight," said Haworth. "The bee is an emblem of skill, perseverance and industry. ‘B' also stands for Blackburn. The coat of arms depicts the rich heritage of the textile industry and these together form the base of the design concept."
Senior staff from the football ground-based Northcote at the Rovers, general manager Claire Arnold and head chef Dave Lyons will oversee the operation. Haworth added that the new café bar concept may be rolled out to other northern towns. "We believe that the brand has the potential to evolve", he said.
Cathedral Court, which is believed to be the first group of new domestic buildings at any English cathedral for 500 years, leads on to the £34m Cathedral Quarter development. This adjacent regeneration scheme, backed by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, includes an office block, public square and 60-bed Premier Inn (opened in November 2015). The average footfall in Cathedral Quarter is said to be 250,000 a week.
Haworth added that both he and Bancroft, both recently named among the NRB's top 50 most influential operators in the north of England, are proud to be playing a part in the town's regeneration schemes. "Craig is a Blackburn boy and we both knew that we wanted to give something back to the town", he said.
Chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Edwin Booth applauded the new café. "One of Lancashire's greatest strengths is in its quality food and drink offer, and the Northcote brand is synonymous regionally and nationally with showcasing the county's produce", he said.
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