Why “Yorkshire” fish & chips?
When this is a meal found all over the country?
Well .. the actual recipe and style of the meal varies significantly by region. And you can get something that varies greatly in taste depending upon location. Clearly the biggest variable is the actual type of fish - cod, haddock, etc. But the type of batter, method of preparation and cooking fat / oil used are all important to the final result.
Even within Yorkshire there are variations .. but for me the only true fish and chip meal in Yorkshire is a skinless haddock fillet cooked in light but crispy batter that sticks to the fish and cooks all the way through. Anything made with cod, with skin or that rock hard batter with a soggy inside that has separated from the fillet is a reject. And the establishment that supplies it is forever removed from the eating-out shortlist. In fact such fish would put the fish & chip reputation of the whole town in doubt!
Once the fish is right then the chips should be easy - so the venue comes next. By volume the vast majority of fish & chips are supplied as takeaway meals - but Yorkshire is a “hot spot” for fish restaurants. Not ones selling exotic seafood flown in from the Indian Ocean or the Pacific but serving the same basic takeaway meal - only in a more comfortable setting.
The most famous of the Yorkshire fish & chip restaurants is, of course, Harry Ramsden’s at White Cross, Guiseley. And even though the Ramsden family sold the business years ago - and the brand name has been applied all over the country - it still draws many to the site of the original restaurant. At its peak there were queues every Sunday and the site once had both a souvenir shop - and an amusement arcade. It was reputed to be the largest fish and chip shop in the world.
Sadly over the years this popularity seems to rely more on tradition than on the quality of the meals being provided. Perhaps my last visit was not typical but I’m pretty sure that Harry would not have been happy with result. So a great location and impressive interior but could do better with the fish frying - in my humble opinion. Update: My opinion seems to be shared by others; since in November 2011 the latest owner of the Harry Ramsden chain announced that this flagship restaurant would be closing due to poor sales. This was followed in February 2012 by the news that the Wetherby Whaler group would make this their latest restaurant. So now the iconic Guiseley restaurant is open again.
However if you cannot get to Guiseley don’t despair - there are other top quality Yorkshire fish & chips and interesting restaurants to try. Many even have other dishes on the menu even though these extras are often completely ignored by the locals.
Some of our favourite spots are- Bizzie Lizzies in Skipton, Websters in Baildon, Wetherby Whaler at Pudsey, York, Wakefield and Wetherby or Murgatroyds in Yeadon (not far from Harry Ramden’s). But that’s not all - there is also more fine and interesting fish & chip dining at -
- The Empire, a former cinema just north of Wakefield, at 550 Leeds Road, Outwood
- Kingfishers Fish & Chip Restaurant at 597 Denby Dale Road, Calder Grove, Wakefield WF4 3DA
- Nash’s Fish & Chip Restaurant at 17 Merrion Street, Leeds LS2 8JE
- Mermaid Fish Restaurant at Britannia Road, Morley LS27 0BA
- Thompsons Fish and Chips Restaurant at Hazelbush, Malton Road, York YO32 9TW
- Wackers Fish & Chips at 45-49 Gillygate, York YO31 7EA (there is also a Wackers Scarborough but untried as yet)
- Whitby’s Fish & Chip Restaurant at Poplar Way, Catcliffe, Rotherham and The Old Fire Station, Leicester Avenue, Doncaster DN2 6DR
- One of several claims to the “Oldest Fish & Chip Shop in the World” is the one at The Steep (Sandy Way) in Yeadon (but it’s just for takeways)
Please send in your favourites!
The list also included Bryan’s in Headingley - but when last checked, in Feb 2012, their web site seemed to have closed down. Also there were customer feedback reports that the latest owners have not maintained the high standards of the past - so no longer on my recommended list.