Now, after months of hard work and a major rebuilding job, the Whitby Gazette can exclusively reveal that the world-famous eatery will be back open for business next Thursday.
The restaurant, labelled as offering “the best fish and chips in the world” by the late restaurant critic, AA Gill, has undergone a stunning transformation to restructure the listed building, which suffered major structural damage.
Owner, Ian Robson said: “It’s been a summer to forget, but we’re delighted to be reopening. We have had a few setbacks along the way and missed some deadlines, but I would just like to say a big thank you to everybody for their support, patience, understanding and continued messages and enquiries about when we are going to reopen, and thankfully we are now at that stage.”
“We have had a complete rebuild,” said Paul Gildroy. “At one point it was just like an open barn, but we had tonnes of steel put in. It has been a major, major rebuilding job.”
The team was left “heartbroken” and “gutted” when a bank holiday weekend saw the chippy engulfed in flames, which caused major damage to the building’s roof, along with all the floors which were destroyed by the fire along with water damage.
The first blaze, on the night of May 1 was relatively small, but it was the inferno that followed the next day that did the bulk of the damage.
“The first fire was superficial,” Paul said. “In two or three weeks we would’ve been back open, but it reignited.”
And the damage was devastating.
Much of the roof had been engulfed by the flames, with interior walls also in a bad way. The sheer level of water used by the fire brigade to douse the flames also meant the lower levels of the building were drenched, with an estimated six to eight inches of water sitting in the kitchen at the bottom of the restaurant.
Despite there still being a lot of work to do, Paul added that they are “confident” they will get opened as planned. He said: “There will be a few long days ahead, a few more sleepless nights, but we’re eager to get back to normality.
“We have retained a lot of the key staff and they are chomping at the bit to get to take the restaurant on further, and hopefully we can be back bigger, stronger and better.”
Paul and Ian are also keen to extend their thanks to the staff at the restaurant for their dedication and support. The staff also clubbed together to commission a painting of the Cafe, done by Paul’s auntie, Valerie Gildroy. Paul added: “It was so heartwarming for the staff to do something like that.”
Many of the original features remain in place, including paintings of Magpies on interior walls dating back to the 1960s.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to it,” said Ian.
The building was constructed in 1750 as a merchant’s house, and was owned by a member of the Scoresby whaling family. It was for a time the pilotage where the pilots would wait for orders to bring vessels into the harbour.
The building later became Harrowing’s shipping office before the premises were converted into a cafe in 1939.