Rick Stein once said that The Magpie “opened his eyes to how good a fish and chip shop could be,” and as far as I can tell it seems obligatory to quote him when reviewing it. So who am I to go against the flow?
Yes, every critic who’s heard rumours of intelligent life beyond Watford Gap has eaten here. You could say that it’s the worst kept secret in Yorkshire.
If you arrive at peak times you should expect to be greeted by an intimidatingly lengthy queue – especially at peak season. Queuing though is perhaps not the ordeal that it once was. In fact the American diner ethic: “first come, first served” is something that’s become very familiar to many of us.
The menu is huge. Usually I’d be really concerned by a restaurant serving this many dishes but here it’s all fresh Whitby seafood and The Magpie undoubtedly has the footfall to support the selection. We had gone there for fish and chips though, so ordering was pretty straightforward.
First we sampled some really tasty starter plates. I went on a journey back to the 80s and ordered a Coquilles St Jacques. It was as satisfying as any I’ve had outside of Brittany but not exactly a light bite. The piggy ordered crab pate which was also very rich and plentiful (are you picking up on a theme?). Our other guest had a wheel (literally) of goats’ cheese, battered and deep fried.
There is a warning about the portion sizes on the menu “remember you are in Yorkshire.” Two of us took note and ordered a small cod and chips. Note: small is large. The cheese wheel man, however, decided to go down the regular route. What he got wasn’t so much a fish as a foot long, golden shark, comfortably protruding off each end of the plate.
As you might have guessed, we skipped dessert. Also, if you’re planning on climbing the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey, I suggest you do so before eating. If you’re a seafood lover, while you’re there you should make sure you check out Fortunes Smokehouse. Established in 1872, their kippers have been perfected over generations and are the best I’ve ever had.
Anyway, back to The Magpie. Two courses plus a pot of tea with bread, butter and mushy peas for three came to just over £60. I’m not saying that you should travel north just for the fish and chips but if you’re in the area, it’s definitely a slice of Yorkshire that you shouldn’t miss.
Address: 14 Pier Road Whitby, North Yorkshire YO21 3PU
Phone: 01947 602058