In what feels like another life, I celebrated my birthday in a restaurant in Sandsend with my best chums. It was March 14 2020. Four days later the world changed forever as the country closed down as the pandemic hit home.
It was the last time any of us went out to celebrate anything. Back then it was Bridge Cottage Bistro and the talented young chef was Alex Perkins whose cooking is the kind you remember. I can reel off everything I ate. He had to give the place up after 10 glorious years because his landlord, Constantine Phipps, 5th Marquess of Normanby, declined to give him a concession on the rent during lockdown.
It was the end of an enjoyable era and I’m glad to have spent a lot of time there. Lord Normanby is the current incumbent of the 15,000-acre Mulgrave Estate and there’s talk of supermodels and movie stars fetching up for shooting parties. Kate Moss and Elle McPherson have been spotted buying the Whitby Gazette. I might be making the last bit up.
Bridge Cottage is now Fish Cottage and it calls itself “The first fish and chip restaurant in Sandsend, est 2020”. You couldn’t get much closer to the sea. They’re keen to tell you “We pride ourselves in serving the finest, locally caught sustainable fish and seafood.” Drawn by Instagram photos of lobster and nduja fries and skate wing with brown butter, I attempted to go a couple of times in the summer.
But the pretty garden was rammed with staycationers – they’re a takeaway as well – and families had flocked from the beach. It looked like fun but too busy for me. My codburger and chips would have to wait.
It’s a different place in November, of course, and while they’re still doing take-outs (large cod and chips £9.95, Doreen’s black pudding fritters £2.50) it’s a seat inside for us.
The dining room is marine themed but mercifully they’ve stopped short of artfully distressed driftwood. It’s a pleasant space but for ear-splitting music from tinny speakers threatening to spoil the seaside vibe. It’s turned down on request.
Salt cod fishcakes (Portuguese-style salt cod with potato, parsley and lemon aioli) are a couple of good-looking cakes with exceptional crumb coating – they’re softly fresh and crunchy but lack, of all things, salt.
The king prawns in the pil pil are indeed huge – and sweet and juicy – and there might be an entire bulb of garlic in the nicely spiky but lava-hot sauce. North Sea red bream with mango salsa is the best value of the night at £8.50 and it’s a perfectly seared piece of fish, the salsa a well-thought-out counterpoint.
From the specials sheet we’ve eschewed seafood platter for two (seafood kebab, mussels with chorizo, oysters, langoustine, battered king prawns: £59) and a tuna steak for £26 and gone instead for the sea bass – two precisely cooked, meaty fillets draped over brown shrimps, gherkins with a shallot and wine sauce, dotted with peas. It’s a joyful slap of the sea at £24.
In the summer, photos of Our Famous Fish Cottage Tacos had my stomach rumbling and they’re still on the menu.
They’re a jumble – leaves, peppers and onions, bursting with more fat, juicy prawns. Messy, but tasty and fun. Though “famous” is stretching it when you’ve only been open five minutes.
Gone are the days when Sandsend was a bucket-and-spade holiday spot. It’s become a rather glamorous playground for the well heeled. Holiday accommodation is among the most expensive on the Yorkshire coast and house prices have gone through the roof. Just along from Fish Cottage is Raithwaite Village, a vast new development with lodges, cottages and “coastal villas”. A dozen properties, worth a total of £6m, were reserved or sold overnight as the
98-acre development was launched.
Never a finer time to open a posh chippy.
Fish Cottage, Sandsend, Whitby, YO21 3SU tel: 01947 899342. Email: [email protected] https://www.fishcottage.co.uk/ Kitchen hours: Wednesday to Sunday 12-9, closed Monday/Tuesday. Takeaway seven days a week 12-9. Dinner for two with a bottle of wine, £90.