The Magpie Cafe, Whitby

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More than a Fish & Chip shop, The Magpie Café has been described as a national institution that attracts loyal customers from all over the world and even the occasional celebrity chef. Located in Whitby, a very busy tourist destination, the Magpie Café is a famous landmark and unique. There can’t be many Fish & Chips shops that have had a piece of Lilliput Lane pottery created in honour of them.

Magpie Café Whitby
The Magpie Cafe in Whitby on a cold wet day.

The Magpie Café has been in the same family since 1954 and for thirty of those years, Paul Gildroy has been heavily involved. Paul started work at the Magpie Café at the age of twelve buttering bread, then he progressed to peeling potatoes, left school and went on to catering college still helping out at the Magpie Café. After a stint in a bakery, Paul went back to the Magpie Café full time and is now Head Chef working alongside owner Ian Robson.

Paul explains: “I like the fact that every day is different, I enjoy new challenges.  I might be doing the same jobs but I enjoy it.”

“Batter is a vitally important ingredient for a successful Fish & Chip restaurant. Reputations have been made or broken on the quality of batter.”

Paul Gildroy
Magpie Café Whitby
The Magpie Cafe Large Scottish Haddock

Paul explains:” When we expanded into a takeaway in 2006, we expanded our workload, and crucially we expanded the team. We noticed with more people making the batter that we needed a more consistent method and recipe.  It was very important to have a reliable batter that everyone could use because we have up to seven different friers. Stelios took our original batter mix recipe that has been in the family for 50 years and was briefed to produce a bespoke version.

“Over the years the batter recipe has evolved, perfection has always been the aim. Stelios has guided us every step of the way. If we weren’t happy during any stage of the process, he understood. Stelios worked hard to get the mix of flours right and scrutinised every detail to get it spot on. We are delighted with our own Ceres bespoke batter mix.

Scallops & Squid at The Magpie Cafe Whitby
Scallops and Cuttle Fish at The Magpie Cafe.

“Not so long after we started the batter we also instructed Ceres to create a signature curry sauce.  We previously were using an off-the-shelf curry sauce but we found it lacking somewhat and wanted to create our own signature taste. Our bespoke curry sauce has been a roaring success, we sell tons of it!  Customers love the curry sauce with fish and chips. We sell jug loads of it in the restaurant. We never rest on our laurels and last year we instructed Stelios to redevelop our iconic curry sauce to make it not only gluten free but allergen free! We were apprehensive but we wanted to push forwards and do better.

“It wasn’t too long before we instructed Ceres to develop our own bespoke pea seasoning. Our need for this product was driven by the fact we are so busy and we employ up to 100 staff. Consistency is everything. We have different chefs every day making peas, which meant we wanted to eliminate any room for error, different amounts of salt added causing the flavour to vary depending on who was making them. Since using bespoke pea seasoning we haven’t looked back!

Signature Magpie Cafe Curry Sauce at the Magpie Café in Whitby
The Magpie Cafe Curry Sauce

“The Fishcake Mix is very versatile and can also be used for Crab Cakes, Potato Croquettes and Cheese Croquettes, the list is endless really.”

“We make a lot of homemade fishcakes for the restaurant, takeaway and fishmongers. Some customers come in just for the fishcakes. They are very popular and sales are high and thanks to the Ceres Bespoke Fishcake Mix they are dead easy to make. The base mix is the right combination. We can cook fishcakes from scratch or prepare in advance. The flavour of fresh potatoes can vary throughout the year and it can be a struggle to get the consistency right. Now we use the Bespoke Fishcake Mix it means we don’t need to use potatoes, the prep is so much quicker. The flavour and consistency stay the same all year round.

“Stelios is very good to work with, he understands our business. Every fish and chip shop has their own vision of what fish and chips should be. He manages to put helpful ideas across but doesn’t push. He travels all over the country building his business on what he believes – that natural ingredients are the way forward. His philosophy is to keep things as natural and simple as possible.”

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