Dining Out: The Magpie Cafe, Whitby

The newly restored Magpie Cafe, Whitby.
The newly restored Magpie Cafe, Whitby.
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After a turbulent year which saw a devastating fire in the spring lead to its closure throughout the main tourism season, the iconic Magpie Cafe in Whitby finally reopened its doors shortly before Christmas.

After an extensive and costly renovation, there was immense relief from owner Ian Robson and chef Paul Gildroy and staff when the Pier Road restaurant declared itself back open for business again – and it seemed a natural choice for a Friday night family meal.

The business certainly attracts the high and mighty, with celebrity chef James Martin and ex-England Test cricketer David Lloyd both recent visitors.

We were shown to our table and immediately attended to by our friendly and chatty waitress for the evening, Audrey.

The first thing to mention about the food is the sheer variety. It offers a huge array of fish alone – try John Dory instead of the more traditional cod – plus plenty for those who are less keen on fish dishes.

I kicked off the evening with Whitby kipper, served with brown bread and a good dollop of strawberry jam in a fish-shaped dish. It was a generous portion for a starter and went well with the jam. Incidentally, for those who like Whitby kippers, these can be sent out by subscription! My wife Emma had the prawn cocktail which went down well.

I decided to try something a little different for mains. Having recently tried sea bass for the first time ever – and liking it – this time, I plumped for the pan-roasted hake (pictured), on samphire with Béarnaise sauce and chips. The fish was delightfully light and accompanied the thick, flavoursome chips well.

Emma was pleased with her haddock and salmon gratin in Thermidor sauce, topped with breadcrumbs, parmesan and basil. She said the haddock was the stand-out flavour and the dish beautifully creamy.

These were from the winter menu and set us back £16 for two courses.

We were both on the full side but managed to share a dessert, the rhubarb and white chocolate cheesecake which was light and tasty.

The kids both chose from the special meals, for 10 and unders. Jordan had the sausage and beans with chips while our youngest, Ashleigh, had mini fish, peas, or at least the ones that didn’t roll on to the carpet, and chips, followed by Jelly babies, jelly and ice cream.

Both of them were delighted to also be presented with a bag of sweets to take home with them, which was a nice touch.

The overall bill arrived and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it only came to just over £57, which is excellent for a family of four and the volume of food consumed.

The staff at the Magpie have worked hard over the years to gain a strong reputation – it has certainly been well earned!