Our local blogger Sara reviewed the world-famous Magpie Cafe in Whitby. Here’s what she thought…
It’s a clear indicator that the tourist season has changed in Whitby from low to high when the pavement outside 14 Pier Road has disappeared and is covered by an orderly queue that is formed of local people and visitors from all over the world.
A brief history of the Magpie Cafe…
Even in the winter at weekends these queues form along the pier for people to taste the famous fish and chips of the Magpie Cafe. The Magpie Cafe building is a known landmark in the harbour area of Whitby, this area is known by locals as ‘down the pier’. The actual building dates to 1750; this is where the Magpie Cafes’ roots in the town began to grow within the fishing and shipping industry.
It originally began as a Merchants’ House and then would be owned by a member of the Scoresby Whaling family and would become a base for the pilotage, where pilots would wait for orders to bring vessels into the harbour. The building then became host to the Harrowings shipping office where the tale of the Magpie ghost began; legend has it that ‘Albert’ haunts the four floors of this Whitby landmark – ask a member of staff for the full story while you’re waiting for a delicious plate of the UK’s finest fish and chips.
The white painted building with its windows outlined in black give the property its famous ‘Magpie’ look. The Magpie Cafe was established in 1939, with the present family connection, that makes this Whitby business so special, beginning in 1954. Originally owned by Clifford and Gladys Barker and then their children and now their granddaughter Alison Mckenzie Slater; Alison took over the business with Ian Robinson in 1990. The workforce of the Magpie comes from a collective of family members; from management to chefs; as well as local Whitby folk.
Head chef, Paul Gildroy, writes for the Whitby Gazette each week with recipes created in his kitchen. The brand of the Magpie Cafe is famous worldwide, and has been endorsed with visits from celebrity chefs such as Rick Stein, who stated that the Magpie Cafes’ fish and chips are “the best fish and chips in the country”, and James Martin also recently agreed with Rick on his Saturday Kitchen programme explaining that Whitby cod is the best in the land. Get ready to catch some celebrity names that I am going to drop that have tucked into some Magpie fish and chips… Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Winner, Julie Walters, Brian May, many of the Emmerdale cast, Middlesbrough football players and managers…the list goes on!
In May 2017, two fires within 24 hours ripped through the building and closed the Magpie Cafe for seven months. It was devastating for all the owners and staff alike, but Team Magpie got through this and is now back, open for business and better than ever.
A local’s Magpie Cafe review
The Magpie Cafe business supports the local economy by working closely with local Whitby trawler company, Lockers Fish, to source a big majority of the fish served in the restaurant and take away directly from Whitby fishermen. Much of the fare served at the Magpie is locally sourced; Radfords’ butcher’s supply for meat, Masons and Billy Wilson’s for vegetables and Beacon Farm for their delicious ice cream. The Magpie Cafe even makes handmade chocolate truffles on site and the menu has over 100 dishes to choose from. An extensive menu to peruse whilst you take in the stunning aspect of Whitby Abbey that stands over the harbour, like a great Gothic ghost-ship silhouetted by the sea.
So being the kind of person that I am, I took one for The Whitby Guide Team and went for a family meal to review the Magpie Cafe. It is a hard job, but someone had to do it!
The Magpie Cafe has such a welcoming atmosphere; I was greeted by the friendly staff (growing up in Whitby, I have known many of them for years). We were shown to our table on the top floor, seated next to the window, with a dramatic view overlooking the harbour and in the distance, St Mary’s Church.
I chose a prawn cocktail and mussels with chips. My husband ordered Yorkshire gammon for his main. The kids had a garlic ciabatta from the nibbles menu to start and my daughter chose a jumbo takeaway style battered sausage with chips. My son had a child’s cod and chips from the children’s section of the menu.
The order arrived quickly; I could not fault the service whilst taking in the new surroundings. The refurbishment has stripped back the building, but the décor has been kept in the original style that customers love. We had good-sized portions and the finishing touches such as Magpie newspaper for the chips just adds to the fun of the Magpie brand.
I could not fault anything; the food was delicious and even my fussy teenager was pleased! My daughter having the WiFi code for the Magpie Cafe couldn’t resist a quick browse of the internet, to help her avoid having to socialise too much with her parents! The prawn cocktail was filled full of lush prawns with a huge king prawn resting on the top of it all. My mussels came in a huge pot with a portion of chips and my pint of lager helped wash it all down. My son devoured his mini fish and chips, proving that The Magpie is a hit with fish and chip lovers of all ages!
We had a fantastic family meal at the Magpie Cafe and I would recommend any visitor to Whitby to visit when you are here. The restaurant caters for any taste since the menu is not just fish and chips; there are extensive options to suit all appetites. Your visit to Whitby will not be complete without queueing up on the pavement outside 14 Pier Road for the whole Magpie Cafe experience.
Want to try it out for yourself?