I was back in the motherland a week or so ago and one thing I’ve been meaning to tick off for a while was a visit to the Magpie Cafe for gluten free fish and chips. I have fond memories of being a small child and wolfing down fish and chips before being given a rainbow patterned Whitby rock lollipop the size of my head, the fat/sugar police would have had a field day, but I was an alarmingly thin child with a huge appetite, sadly the appetite has aged better than the metabolism.
Anyway on a slightly grey Monday lunchtime in September we thought we might beat the queues and I could finally get a taste of the good stuff.
And success! We managed to get a table albeit next to the door which meant it was a little chilly when the aforementioned queue did start to snake out the door. The Magpie is a Whitby institution, and one of the few places I’ve read AA Gill being nice about in a review, he gave them four stars, for a takeaway, which is also an option if you fancy dodging the seagulls, though I suspect the gulls steered clear of Gill.
There isn’t a specific gluten free menu, but our server went through the options for me. They offer a huge selection of locally sourced seafood, but there was really only one reason that we came here… Fish and chips! They have a separate fryer for gluten free options and their fish is super fresh, caught by Whitby-based Lockers Fish who are part of the Fully Documented Fisheries scheme, landing only the big fish you want on your plate and letting the little guys get away.
Ok so I will confess I went off-piste and had hake. I’m sorry, I can’t resist it when I see it! The Pet Finn went classic with his full gluten job and had the haddock. Mushy peas, tartare sauce and curry sauce, all gluten free here and all ordered to go on the side. And a round of big, fat Lindisfarne Oysters from up the coast, because at under a tenner for six, it would be rude not to!!
Drinks-wise, they have locally made gluten free beer, but out of concern for the integrity of the waistband of my jeans I chose a bottle of “Petticoat’s Deceit” a cider made just along the coast in Robin Hood’s Bay, a name wrapped up in local smuggling lore. As an aside if you’re staying locally Robin Hood’s Bay is a must visit, it is stunning place, breathtaking views and a breathtaking walk back up the hill afterwards!! It was a really excellent cider, fresh and crisp, a good balance of dryness and sweetness, totally on a par with the ones I had in Lappi and Juuri in Helsinki. The Pet Finn opted for his usual, if unorthodox red wine, a glass of very drinkable Italian Merlot.
The oysters arrived, plump and tasting freshly of the sea, only amplified with the harbour breeze blowing through the door, open to accommodate the growing queue.
The fish and chips soon followed, the Pet Finn’s Haddock looked amazing and he was making very agreeable noises. I was a bit disappointed to get two tail-end pieces of Hake rather than one big piece, but my worry was misplaced, it was moist and perfectly cooked. Proper mushy peas and curry sauce were a rare treat. The only real let down was the gluten free vinegar they offered, it was awesome that they have it, but there are better GF vinegars out there and I would recommend requesting a few extra lemon wedges instead.
No lollipop for clearing my plate but we got some Magpie Whitby Rock to eat while we walked off our feast along the pier and over on Sandsend beach.
It’s great to see the Magpie back up and running about a year after being gutted by fire, and some of the original painted magpies were saved and are now preserved under glass still a little stained and smudged from the smoke damage. The team there have done a wonderful job of rebuilding what has long been a Whitby institution, and for anyone wanting to eat gluten free in the true home of Fish and Chips it is a must visit!!