A nostalgic trip to Whitby takes Elaine Lemm back to her childhood and to the latest venture of Michelin star chef Andrew Pern. He cooks up a storm for her at The Star Inn The Harbour.
Driving from Pickering across the North York Moors, somewhere just past Fylingdales, the A169 drops away then rises steeply. At the summit, there is the first view of the sea and the seaside town of Whitby in all its glory. As kids, we would be beside ourselves in anticipation of who would see this first and today I feel just as exhilarated as if I am the one. Whitby is the seaside town of my childhood summers and its promise of delicious ice cream.
I remember mum buying me cockles doused in vinegar served in little pots on the harbour side, while I gazed longingly at the clairvoyant’s beach hut hoping we might go in. How well I remember the quiver of fear at the mention of Dracula and the darker, mythical side of the otherwise bright and breezy town. Little has changed. There’s the usual coastal kitsch but also so much fun to be had from bracing walks on the pier, to penny arcades and the glorious sandy beaches.
Whitby is still a working town with a strong sense of itself and its traditions and there is none greater than the fishing industry, the harbour and shoals of fabulous seafood it lands each year. Whitby managed another major catch recently as renowned Yorkshire chef, Andrew Pern, returned to his roots and opened The Star Inn The Harbour, a 160-seater restaurant complete with bar and the cutest ice cream parlour. He is already chef/patron of the Michelin-starred The Star Inn at Harome, North Yorkshire. His championing of local suppliers and producers on his menus has helped win many awards. Andrew brings his impressive reputation and a considerable following to Whitby. This might have sent a shudder through the independent restaurants and chippies worrying this behemoth would pull diners away from them.
I can say, the sunny midweek afternoon I strolled through the town heading for the harbour, that is not the case. There is something for everyone here. Queues continue to snake outside the chip shops with cafés and bars packed to the gunnels; there’s a pleasant sunny-seaside-holiday feeling in the air and even the gulls looked happy.
The Star Inn The Harbour is a busy and buzzy place at lunchtime; it is not full, but numbers swell as the day progresses and continue long after the day-trippers have left. I have the best seat in the house, I feel, with a magnificent view over the fishing boats, up and over the seeming piles of higgledy-piggledy houses to the ruins of the abbey. It would be hard to find a better view from a restaurant that so well sums up its location and all that is wonderful about it.
Dragging my eyes back into the Star, I see kitsch was indeed left outside. There are light nautical touches everywhere including a gigantic lobster from Whitby sculptor Emma Stothard. Local designer Rachel McClane may be responsible for putting all of this together, but it is the magpie-like collector in Andrew Pern that we have to thank for the rest of the charming and sometimes-whacky ephemera scattered about the place.
Andrew comes from Whitby and, like a stick of rock, has Yorkshire running through him. His menus are the same, they groan under the weight of local provenance. Andrew has been buying from the boats, fish merchants and markets up and down the coast for years and they know he demands the best. So, it is no surprise that the menu teems with fresh fish, lobster and seafood as well as local rare breed meats made into pies, roasts and even a Schnitzel.
Andrew is cooking today and I happily tuck into a chunk of fresh lobster nestled into a pool of seafood and bathed in velvety bisque. A special of the day brought a meaty halibut steak landed just that morning from The Victory Rose trawler in Whitby and showed freshness at its best. The precision of the dish was as thorough as the cooking with tiny potato scales lined up neatly on the top of the Halibut and topped off by delicious aromas of herbs, garlic and butter wafting from the plate. Dessert has to be a Knickerbocker Glory and this one is a thing of beauty to behold and to eat - layers of cream, fruit and mousse - heaven in a glass.
Meandering back through the town that seems just as busy as when I arrived several hours ago, I thought my love of Whitby could not grow anymore, but it has. I will still come for those cockles, to wander the tiny streets, wrap up on a chilly day and battle the winds out on the pier. I will climb the steps to the abbey, sit on a bench and eat fish and chips or snuggle up in a cosy pub. Who knows, I may even make it into the clairvoyant. What Andrew and his team have added to the delights of this lovely town is another layer of deliciousness and a breath of fresh air to the food. We should all be happy.
This article was taken from This is Y 2018.