“I ate a two course meal at the famous Magpie Cafe in Whitby and was left dumbfounded” – Charles Gray

The Magpie Cafe in Whitby has become something of a local institution. And, having recently been named one of the top 20 seaside cafes in the UK, we naturally wanted to know more.

While the Yorkshire coastal town – especially near the pier – is virtually awash with great chip and fish restaurants, none attracts as much devotion as this unassuming monochrome cafe.

The fresh fish dishes draw astonished responses from anyone who passes through the simply decorated setting of the four-story restaurant, where they can dine while overlooking the abbey, harbor and St. Mary’s Church.

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Visitors to the city will often notice the queue exiting the cafe, past its bay windows and along the pier, and this was the case when we visited to try their dishes for the first time earlier this week.

Luckily it was during the recent heat wave so being outside for 25 minutes amidst the distinctive Yorkshire sea air wasn’t too much of a chore. It was then that I received the perfect welcome from the place when I saw a couple walking up the stairs and past the queue to be greeted by one of the no frills staff members who after which the couple told her they hadn’t booked, just pointed and said, “Queue back.”

There is a constant queue outside the Magpie Cafe in Whitby

Having recently vacationed in Spain, it was like the antithesis of everything I had experienced there and couldn’t have felt more at home. I was given a comfortable table for one near the entrance to the kitchen, and with a lot of time already gone, I asked the waitress for her recommendations rather than wading through the seemingly unremarkable menu. end.

While some of the dishes looked superb both in the fine print and in the kitchen transfer (salmon with garlic potatoes, Whitby crab and lobster thermidor), I opted for a small portion of the Pot of seafood highly recommended for starters and, inevitably, a dose of the café’s famous fish and chips.

The traditional interior of the Magpie Cafe in Whitby
The traditional interior of the Magpie Cafe in Whitby

I wandered around the establishment, which was built in 1750 as a merchant’s house before becoming a restaurant around 1939. Its old world charm has been impeccably preserved – even the TV screens with their messages having an out of sync feel well executed. for them, and the tight tangle of dining rooms across the floors resembling an old relative’s front room.

I returned to my seat to find that my pot of seafood had arrived and was greeted with a simple white bowl containing a generous array of fresh fish in a sumptuous garlic and white wine sauce. The sauce had a subtle but delicious balance of garlic and pepper to interest the taste buds and the servings of salmon, cod, mussels, scallops and clams were all wonderfully done and prepared for a satisfying sample of the mix of dishes of the restaurant.

The starter-sized seafood pot at the Magpie Cafe in Whitby
The starter-sized seafood pot at the Magpie Cafe in Whitby

Shortly after my plate disappeared, my cod and chips landed, which – after asking for the smallest portion – was the perfect size for the diminutive sized hole in my stomach. I proceeded to prep my plate to include the homemade tartar sauce and ketchup before dipping some firm fries in to get ready.

A little absent-mindedly, I had my first bite of fish and was stunned by its glorious texture and fresh taste. I was glad it caught me off guard. The tender flakes of fish and the delicate, golden, crisp batter all fell apart beautifully with the slightest effort of the fork and the weight of flavor never got overwhelming.

You can see some Whitby landmarks from The Magpie Cafe in Whitby
You can see some Whitby landmarks from The Magpie Cafe in Whitby

The tartar sauce was also a lovely accompaniment with its fresh pickle taste and with a few breaks in between I was able to devour it all and leave a satisfied man. The waitress was attentive throughout and at 24.75 for the two courses and a glass of Coca Cola seemed like a very reasonable amount to pay.

Some of the other dishes such as the lobster and the crab caught my eye and made me wonder if I hadn’t made it too simple, making me want to have an empty stomach so I could walk away, which couldn’t be just a good thing.

To visit The Magpie Cafe website, click here.


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