The seaside towns along the Yorkshire coast divide, almost, neatly into two types. Staithes, Runswick Bay, Sandsend and Robin Hood’s Bay are fashionable, charming reminders of times gone by when you could park your deckchairs, smooth out a rug, perhaps erect the windbreak and watch Henry and Amelia build sandcastles whilst you ate tomato sandwiches and drink still lemonade. Let’s face it, they haven’t really changed.
At the other end are the large towns – Scarborough, Filey and Brid [you know, Bridlington…Ed]. They’re not quite so fashionable now and serve a mixture of clientele – yes, the Alan Ayckbourne theatre is still going strong and cricket still played at Scarborough, but many of the ‘hotels’ are given over to cheap winter residences. Their shops are closing, the restaurants more like 1950s Wimpey Bars [without trying too be retro], and the streets overwhelmed with fish’n’chips and candy floss. There are still some good places to eat, but you really have to seek them out.
So Whitby straddles the two camps. Atmospheric certainly, and with more than its fair share of history. The harbour is still working, even if most of the boats are trips [£3]. The Abbey towers over the east side, accessed by those notorious 199 steps from the kipper factory below; the whalebone still stands and they have their own well-developed selection of candy floss, arcades, ‘crab’ sandwich shacks and burger bars. Whitby has cashed in very successfully on Darcula and the Goths. Weekends with black clad figures, tattoos and piercings – all very friendly – characterise the town. We, being snobs, [true…Ed] tend to walk from Sandsend to Whitby [45 minutes with a tail wind], have lunch and then walk back [usually 60 minutes with a roaring head wind – true today as every other time. Lunch is usually a choice between two relatively good but unreliable places – the Magpie and the eastern outpost of the Pern empire, the Star Inn the Harbour. We don’t quite look forward to either in the way we should, so it was lucky we ‘discovered’ Mademoiselles on Skinner Street. Of course we usually find that our ‘discoveries’ are well known to Jay Rayner and Marina and, smug though we were, we find William Sitwell had been and it’s in the 2020 Good Food Guide. Typical.
…if you’re looking to escape fish and chips and want a little taste of France I recommend it [WS]
The Yorkshire Post also went to town, reminding us of those great Yorkshire chefs…
There must be something in the water in Scarborough. The catering department at the college has produced a slew of fantastic chefs, including Michelin-starred Andrew Pern and James Mackenzie, Debbie Raw (the lovely “maid” on the BBC’s Further Back in Time for Dinner, and now teaching at Malton Cookery School), Alex Perkins, from the fabulous Bridge Cottage Bistro in Sandsend [alas permanently closed], and some dude called James Martin. No idea what became of him. Add to the list of alumni Wayne Gildroy, who opened Star Inn the Harbour for Andrew Pern but is now head chef at this rather sophisticated French restaurant in Whitby
Proper, proper french onion soup, moules frites, a glass of Pinot Noir and Viognier, two proper coffees. Nice antique glasses and great service. Perfect. We’ll be back. Most def.
Bistro Mademoiselles Whitby
They also have a couple of very nice rooms above the shop, as it were. With room service from the bistro.
Across the road you’ll find a very stylish B&B [without the &B though] – Highgate House. It looks very smart, but a shame they’ve opted to offer a breakfast basket, as the comments from previous years praise the cooking.