This summer I was bound and determined to try what are arguably reputed to be the best fish & chips in the UK. This meant persuading a family member to drive all the way to the Yorkshire coast to visit The Magpie Cafe, located in the historic fishing port of Whitby, where the fish on your plate was swimming happily that very morning – and it doesn’t get much fresher than that.
Anticipating at least a one-hour wait to be seated (we’d been warned), we stood outside on the steep little steps for only 20 minutes before we were ushered into the 260+ yr old whaling-merchant’s cottage. Not a problem on a sunny, breezy day, as we watched the trawlers and sightseeing boats make their way past the Victorian harbor wall and out to sea.
Back to fish ‘n chips; the menu listed fish I’d never heard of but to my mind, perfect fish and chips means haddock. Portions are large so I opted for the smaller size that still managed to overflow my plate. I can honestly say that this haddock was the juiciest, freshest fish I’ve ever tasted and the batter was as light, as crunchy and as golden as any batter could be. The hand-cut chips were perfect – thick as your thumb, hot, crisp and fluffy inside. My side order of mushy peas, which I know isn’t to everyone’s taste, was perfect after a good dousing with malt vinegar.
If you plan to travel around the UK, I highly recommend adding The Magpie Cafe to you list of places to eat – but be warned; it will spoil you for what passes as ‘fish & chips’ just about everywhere else.
Another restaurant I was really keen to try was Prashad, located in Drighlington near Bradford, West Yorkshire. A 100% vegetarian Indian restaurant, it came highly recommended and even received a massive thumbs-up from Gordon Ramsey when it made it to the finals on BBC Channel 4’s ‘Ramsay’s Best Restaurant 2010’. I’m no vegetarian but I can tell you that it didn’t matter one bit.
The food at Prashad is simply exquisite. When I mentioned that I planned to write about the experience, we were presented with an extra dish, ‘Special Chaat’ that we hadn’t chosen from the menu; this was after I’d ordered and eaten their wonderful ‘Thali’ (a selection of different dishes) and was completely full. ‘Special Chaat’ is described as – ‘a vibrant medley of tastes & textures, diced hot samosa, topped with pastry, potato, chickpeas, yoghurt & tamarind dressing’ – I ate the whole thing and it tasted a million times better that the description.
BTW, don’t bother ordering wine – beer is best here and their mango lassi drink was the best I’ve ever tasted. If you’re a curry-lover, Prashad is the one place you should visit before you die.
I did eat my way around the south of England (and very well indeed) but as I’ve written glowingly about The Crabmill at Preston Bagot near Stratford-Upon-Avon before, I’m skipping over it here other than to post a picture of my lunch; this time before I’d already ruined its appearance by sticking my fork into it. My roasted wild salmon with pancetta on a bed of langoustine pasta, was perfect.
Another place well worth a visit if you like touring the countryside visiting old English gastro-pubs, is The Bell at Alderminster. Quaint on the inside and with lovely gardens at the back for summer dining. English duck, crab and lamb are featured along with some creative risottos but if all you want is a sandwich for lunch, their paninis are excellent.
Finally, and because it was one of the highlights of my trip, the Leeds covered market is well worth exploring if like me you’re starved of seeing fresh fish, shellfish and crab presented as they should be. Most of the fish displayed below are unavailable where I live in Colorado, so I’m ending this week’s post with a picture or two of glorious British seafood.