Whitby itself is a small but famous fishing town and there are multiple fish and chip shops on every street it seems. Outside of fishing, tourism is its main industry and with fish and chip shops able to tell you what boat and at what time the fish was landed, Whitby's fish and chips have become legendary. The classic combination here is cod/haddock and chips with mushy peas and bread & butter, usually priced around the £10 mark (cheaper if you take away). Of the fish and chip shops, about half offer an 'eat in' option.
The Magpie Cafe however is legendary even by Whitby's standards, with the result being both an entry in the Good Food Guide and a queue outside the door for the sit down restaurant, for they don't take regular bookings. At 6:30pm on an October Saturday night, the queue was about 30 deep, by 8:30pm it had fallen to about 6 people which seemed okay and we joined it: even then it took around 15 mins to get a table.
In this sense, we really can't pass comment on what Magpie's really does as the menu is pretty huge and we turned up simply for the fish and chips, and were then too full to even try pudding.
That said, I would guess that the majority of people go here for the classic fish and chips. The restaurant itself, when we went, was a boisterous affair, and on the night of our visit played host to families with loud children, a lively birthday party of young adults and what must have been a stag do (unless Whitby men usually wear grass skirts and no tops in October). With tables shoe-horned into every corner, eating there is a community experience. Against that backdrop, to order dishes like lobster thermidor, or one of the day's special such as pan roasted pancetta wrapped hake fillet would be like wearing a ball gown to the Jolly Sailor pub down the road.
As for the fish and chips, they were great. The cod was beautifully white in lovely crisp batter and the chip shop chips were chunky delicious, with nothing being at all greasy. My only complaint would be that of two identical plates ordered, one fish was twice the size of the other, mine possessing no depth so making you believe that cod might even be a flat fish. In turn, there was disproportionately too much batter; fortunately it was nice batter, but even so, can't help but feel that my cod fillet should have been for the fish pie pile rather than the deep frying pile; just a good job I wasn't that hungry.
Visit The Magpie Cafe website
Previously I visited: Raby Hunt, near Darlington
Next stop: Morston Hall, Norfolk
The Magpie Cafe location map