Star Inn the Harbour

It’s Wednesday lunchtime and chef Andrew Pern is sitting in his whites at a table in his own Star Inn at Harome but there’s no food in sight and the cutlery and napkins have been pushed aside to make way for a large ‘mood board’ of magazine cuttings with ideas for his next big venture.

Rockpool of shellfish with oyster ice cream and seaweed velouté

The Star Inn the Harbour is his latest project. A 160 cover fish restaurant to be housed in the former Tourist Information Centre in the heart of Whitby. The plan is to open in May with a dining area, bar, ice cream parlour and outdoor seating. It’s a plum location in the heart of the town right by the harbour. No wonder the local competition are a little jumpy.

A preliminary menu (which he warns is bound to change) majors on fish and seafood (£5-£15 starters/£15-£22 mains). Naturally they’ll be doing fish and chips: ‘We’d be stupid not to,’ he says, but also Dover sole; monkfish ‘scampi’; halibut and lobster thermidor. On ice: oysters, langoustines, lobster, crevettes then maybe deep fried calamari, fish soup and his fabulous posh prawn cocktail served with a Bloody Mary sorbet.

There will be Rockpool, a Star Inn favourite. He dashes to the kitchen: ‘I’ll get them to make you one’. What comes out is a wooden box filled with pebbles and seaweed: ‘a bit of theatre’ he says and in a hand thrown pot (100 newly commissioned from a local potter) come scallops, prawns, oyster and mussels topped with oyster ice cream and in another pot, a seaweed velouté to pour over.

You will thank me for trying it so that I can confirm it’s absolutely terrific.

It’s also the reason why Pern has a Michelin star and why in January, the Star won Best Gastropub in Britain. Me, I’m counting down to May when the Star rises over the harbour and Andrew Pern, (he was born here) comes home.

Fishing Remembered

A rather heart-warming event was held last week at Whitby’s ‘Fisherman’s Wife’ fish and chip restaurant, the one on Khyber pass with the fabulous views over Whitby beach.

The restaurant invited a group of retired fishermen and their wives for a special fish lunch and a chance to share photographs and memories of their days at sea. The guests had between them fishing experience of 500 years. Ronnie Frampton, 83, who fished out of Whitby for over 60 years said: ‘This has been a brilliant day to meet everyone who’s been at sea for a long time. Our fishing days were tough at sea, but it’s in our blood…I’ve had a fantastic time.’

Ronnie Frampton at the Fishermans Wife lunch

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Say Cheese

So what do you do when the kids have left home and you find yourself with time on your hands? Bridge? Pilates? Knitting? No such gentle pastimes for Elizabeth Snowdon. She arrived home one day and announced she was going to start looking for premises and make a dairy. As you do. ‘My husband wasn’t altogether shocked’ she says ‘I’ve made cheese for family and friends for years, and I’ve always had the thought that one day I’d like to do it properly’. After some hunting she found a small corner at St Hilda’s in Whitby and set to.

Staithes Jan 2015 015

She’s working in a space about the size of a bathroom, and the ‘shop’ at the front is even smaller – but as we know, size isn’t everything, and the half dozen cheeses she’s making are fabulous. She’s using milk from a Jersey herd from Sleights; Whitby Jet is a smooth, rich and creamy cheddar whilst Endeavour is sweet and milky, with earthy tones. My favourite though is Sandsend which is suffused with a subtle umami flavour provided by gold Kelp and green Pepper Dulse seaweed. I know! Elizabeth exhibits the zeal of a woman who’s found her stride and will happily give you one tasting after another. If you don’t take a piece of all of them home you’re made of sterner stuff than me.

The shop is open Thursday to Saturday, or head for stockists Bothams on Skinner Street in town. The Whitby Cheese Co. The Dairy, St Hilda’s Centre,Whitby YO22 4ET. 074777 08777

 

Is it Goodbye to Our Favourite Restaurant?

Fox_and_HoundsEvery time I eat at the Fox & Hounds at Goldsborough, I re-remember just how good it is and want to let you know. If you haven’t been, go now before it’s too late, because they are moving. They can’t afford the new rental deal imposed by their landlords the Mulgrave Estate and so they are reluctantly packing up and looking for new premises. You’d think the fabulously wealthy Mulgrave Estate – they own great tracts of this bit of Yorkshire – would bend over backwards to keep such a highly regarded restaurant on their patch but apparently not.

For Mandy and I, this is a bit of a tragedy. The Fox and Hounds is the top rated restaurant along this coast. Mandy first told the nation about it in The Guardian. It has scored in all the national guides and more importantly has been Squidbeak’s number one restaurant ever since we started in 2011 and we’ve never had a duff meal there … ever.

The choice is limited. Just three starters, three mains and three puddings, but that’s not a problem when everything is spot on. Brilliantly so. Last night the broad bean bruschetta doused in garlic and olive oil was utterly wonderful but was trumped by a plate of Scottish, creel-caught langoustines, split and given a dose of oregano, chilli and lemon then lightly grilled. They were just the best, juicy, fat langoustines I’ve ever eaten. At mains there was pollock, fillet steak and sea trout caught just along the coast at Sandsend and to finish: strawberry sorbet, chocolate torte or grilled peaches, with vanilla, amaretto and mascarpone cream. It all looks so simple. And it is beautifully pared back,  blissfully free from drips, drizzles and foams, from slates and boards and baskets. Jason Davies cooks carefully, accurately with the best of ingredients, adds some magic of his own, and that’s it.

Nor is it just about the food. Goldsborough is an idyllic hamlet north of Whitby, south of Runswick Bay. There’s nothing there except fields, farmyards and country lanes bursting with grasses, wild geraniums, honeysuckle and away towards Whitby, a sparkling sea. The sandstone pub itself has just two rooms – about 25 covers – but Sue and Jason have created a cheery, welcoming restaurant from what was a spit and sawdust pub when they arrived 11 years ago. Now, with their two young children they are having to pack up and go not just the restaurant, but their home (they live in a tiny space above the shop).

The Fox & Hounds is a very special place as Squidbeak and anyone who has ever eaten there will know. If and when they open elsewhere we will let you know asap.  In the meantime, go now while you still can.

Farewell Shepherd’s Purse

Shepherds_purse

Walking through Whitby yesterday I was saddened to see a big notice in the window of Shepherd’s Purse saying Closing Down – Last Day. Shepherd’s Purse on Church Street – part ethnic clothes store, part wholefood shop – was established in 1975 by a bohemian couple Rosie McHugh and Pete Budd and developed down the years into a Whitby institution.

In the early days the shop stocked hand knitted sweaters, patchwork frocks and shoes and shawls inspired by Rosie and Pete’s time on the hippy trail around India and Afghanistan. But I remember it best for its wholefoods: rice, nuts, beans, lentils, wholemeal bread and spices sold loose. The shadowy interior with its rough wooden floorboards and intoxicating smells was an invitation to fill your basket with all manner of good things.

At Christmas, wooden barrels were heaped with dried fruit and if you didn’t want to make your own, there was Captain Cook fruit cake, singing with ginger and made at Great Ayton – they were supporters of local produce long before provenance became so fashionable. I remember them taking all she could make of Elizabeth Newton’s lovely fresh Grosmont Goat’s cheeses. They stocked Cheddar and Danbydale from Botton Village’s creamery and more recently the sadly extinct goat’s cheese made by Mrs Blyth of Boulby Banks Farm.

Gifts and clothes were at the back of the shop and beyond that the veggie café for delicious soups, pasta bakes and great cakes.

When Rosie died in 2004 her three children Michelle, Sophie and Kim took over and ran it with the same verve and spirit as their parents. I’m sorry to see such a precious independent shop go; now when I’m up on the coast where will I source asafoetida, harrissa, cumin, coriander and especially that throwback to my childhood liquorice root and coltsfoot rock? RIP Shepherd’s Purse.

 

Fortune’s Kippers

Not so much ‘Made in Yorkshire’ as ‘smoked in Yorkshire’. The
fabulous Fortune’s Kipper Shop in Whitby has been doing just that since 1872
and is now run by the 5th generation, Barry and Derek, with the 6th nipping
at their heels – good to know their sons and daughters are keen to keep on
kippering!

Staithes March 2014 009It’s easy to find, just follow your nose up Henrietta Street –
if you’re lucky the smoke house doors will be open and give you a glimpse
into another era, with split herring hanging in neat rows, the blackened
walls and ceiling coated with centuries of tar and the oak chippings ready
to light for the next consignment.

Good fat herrings are needed for kippering, the oil in the fish keeps them moist. Sadly, Whitby-landed herrings, once the mainstay of the town’s inshore fleet, have long since been overfished and Fortune’s now get their herrings from Iceland. Don’t let that stop you buying a good fat pair though. (EU regulations mean they can no longer post them. You have to be there).

Take your newspaper-wrapped beauties home
and grill them for 10 minutes. Serve with a squirt of lemon juice and a
doorstop of brown bread and butter. There are few finer – and simpler –
things in life; the fish is sweet, moist, oakey-smoky and a pure
distillation of the sea, right there on your plate.

Fortunes, 22 Henrietta Street, Whitby, North Yorkshire T: 01947 601659

 

National Fish & Chip Awards 2012

There’s never been any doubt in our minds that Whitby is Britain’s epicentre of quality fish and chips and its status was confirmed again this week by its showing at the National Fish and Chip awards. It was a particularly good night for the Quayside, runner-up as the best independent chippie and third as the nation’s best takeaway. Trencher’s of Whitby shared the runner-up prize as best independent. And a third Whitby chippie, Royal Fisheries (in the same Fusco family as Quayside) won the staff training award.

You’ll notice that Whitby’s most famous fish and chip emporium is nowhere to be seen. Nothing against them but they get so much free publicity from journos who think they’re the only show in town that it’s good to see the accolades shared around. Just for good measure we’ve a soft spot for Mr Chips and on a summer evening as the sun goes down the sea views from Graveley’s half way up the Khyber Pass are almost tropically stunning. And while we’re at it the chippies at two Cleveland villages off the beaten track – Liverton Mines and Skinningrove – are the business.

To round off the awards, Brid’s Fish and Chips at 149 have two certificates to put on the wall; one as runner-up for staff training and, to prove it, the second went to Cori Standing, runner-up as Young Fish Frier of the Year. And, as the Dodo said in Alice in Wonderland, ‘All must have prizes’ so a final standing ovation for Morrison’s supermarkets of Bradford, runner-up in the category ‘Best Food Service Outlet Serving Fish and Chips Award.’ Must confess to never having tried them.

Fish in Yorkshire

Trawlers in Whitby harbour

There’s a long history, an enduring fascination and a rich bounty in the fish to be found in the water in and around Yorkshire.

Princess Aelfleda of Whitby Abbey put out to sea in a fishing boat in 654 AD and the last pike in the Abbey pond perished in a drought in the 1980s and there are still native white clawed crayfish – albeit protected – in the highest moorland reaches of the Rivers Wharfe, Ure and Swale.

The greatest source of Yorkshire fish is naturally to be found off Yorkshire’s east coast. A big fish angler once hooked a 700lbs tunny which took him five hours to land, and hauled his rowing boat 12 miles in the process. In the 18th century thousands of whales were harpooned among the icebergs to be landed in Yorkshire ports (along with sea horses and polar bears).

Grimsby is now the European headquarters of the fish finger and the ocean stick and holds one of the country’s biggest fish auctions, though now the fish is more likely to travel by road and container from Iceland than from UK trawlers.

Yorkshire fish is found in Yorkshire rivers. Wild salmon are present in seven rivers, including the Don, once one of the most polluted rivers in England. The return of wild salmon to our rivers is one of the best wildlife stories of the decade.

Cross's fish stall on York Market

When buying fish, markets, especially Leeds and York remain a prime source for the Yorkshire fish shopper now that most high street fishmongers have had to give way to supermarket fish counters. Inexperienced staff and slow-moving stock can make supermarket fish a hit and miss affair.

We couldn’t talk about fish and seafood without considering sustainability. According to the Marine Conservation Society, (MCS) the charity helping to protect the marine environment, we are taking fish out of the sea faster than they can be replenished. Some nets trawl the sea bed damaging the marine life and upsetting the whole eco system.

Nor is farmed fish the answer because it uses more fish to make fish food than it actually produces. How and what we fish is now an issue.

The EU Common Fisheries Policy was devised to help conserve fish stocks, but one of its most contentious aspects is the use of quotas. Quotas are limits on certain species of fish that fishermen are allowed to catch. Once they have reached their quota of, say cod, they are forced to throw back any more cod that comes up in their nets. This means that prime fish like cod, haddock, coley, whiting and plaice are being thrown back dead into the sea. It’s a situation disliked by both fishermen, conservationist and politicians. In 2011 the CFP comes under review and campaigners are pressing for a change in the quota system with the  Fish Fight Campaign

The Marine Conservation Society still urge us to eat fish but ask that we choose Yorkshire fish that comes from responsibly managed sources.

What applies to the fish shopper also applies to restaurants. It’s difficult to know where restaurants source their fish, but if you get to know what fish are endangered, you can do your bit, by not ordering from the menu and encouraging chefs to only offer fish from sustainable sources. Check out the MCS website and download their Good Fish Guide or go to www.fishonline.org for information on what fish to eat and what to avoid.

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