For this post we are taking a closer look at Duckies cafe. Michael Watton, known to his regulars as Mike, took over Duckies in 2015. Since then Duckies have received the kind of trip advisor reviews that might cause this modest chap from Wolverhampton to blush with pride. With a wide variety of food on offer including sandwiches, fish and of course a cream tea, even the fussiest customer is guaranteed to leave full and with a smile on their face. (It also won’t break the bank). We sat down with Michael to find out what fires his burners!
How long have you been a chef?
About seven years ago I trained as a chef. I was living in Edinburgh managing the front of house in restaurants, when I decided I wanted to be the other side of the counter. I somehow persuaded a gastro-pub in Leith to take me on for a week’s trial and three years later I left there to start my first business. That business, a gluten free bakery, was a fantastic experience. But the Farmer’s Markets in Edinburgh are a bit chillier than down here, and the wind and rain made selling soggy bread a bit of a challenge! Luckily for me, warmer climates called, and when I moved down to Cornwall I knew it was the kind of place I’d love to have my own café. After a year of working and saving, the opportunity to open Duckies came about. With a lot of hard work, late nights, help from loved ones and the change from down the back of the sofa – we’ve got where we are today.
What is Duckies like?
When I opened Duckies I wanted it to be about two things: great food and great service. We are 18 months in, and I feel that we’re achieving that. I feel part of the
local community, which is wonderful, and a lot of my customers are regulars. We have plenty of tourists visit and this summer have had people returning who came last year. That makes me feel we’re doing good things!
Everything we make is cooked fresh to order, and we use Cornish produce wherever we can. Our brunches and lunches are very popular. The Duckies’ Rarebit is probably
our most ordered dish! We try and have options for all budgets: our soups and sandwiches are under a fiver, but then I like to go to town with Newlyn lobster, or a joint of local beef, and those dishes are a little bit more. I want Duckies to be a place where people can come, feel at home, and enjoy a coffee or freshly cooked food that goes beyond their expectations. It doesn’t come naturally to sing my own praises, my family had a saying about not being a billy-bighead! But the feedback and reviews we get make me think we’re doing something right.
When not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
I try and get to the beach whenever possible, we have an amazing coast on our doorstep, so I go for an hour after work or on my precious Sunday off! I play 5-a-side football and badminton to keep active, and for my sins support Aston Villa, although I’m not sure you can describe watching that as enjoyable. As my regulars know, I do love a quiz, ( we have an impromptu quiz in the cafe!) so I try and get to the local pub quiz every now and then to test the brain matter.
Do you prefer sweet or savoury?
Savoury. I love a good, well made-sandwich. It’s all about the bread to meat to salad to condiment ratio.
What is your favourite thing to make?
If I had to choose – I’d say it’s when I get fresh fish and lobster. It’s been caught that morning and I like the fact that I’m cooking the best fish in the world in my little café. I like the challenge of making a dish that does credit to such amazing ingredients.
What do you like about shopping locally?
We have some of the best food and drink right here in Cornwall. We try and use local companies to supply the café not just to support local businesses but because it’s fantastic stuff! Cornwall has a thriving network of independent shops. I love the variety and personal service. We should all support it, it keeps money in the local economy and means it’ll still be here in ten years time.
Duckies is based in The Old Foundry Chapel in Hayle – an emporium of wonderful local shops – so we really are spoiled for choice right on our doorstep.