Andrew Pern is without doubt one of Yorkshire’s finest chefs and operators. His culinary impact on not only the county but also the UK now spans decades, and he is the chef I have reviewed more than any other. So why, when Andrew could justifiably kick back and enjoy all that he has achieved does he start a new venture? I have no idea, and I for one hope that this isn’t one step too far.
Andrew returns to his roots in Whitby with the opening of The Star in the Harbour and an impressive 160+ seater restaurant in the building that once housed the Tourist Office. How easy it would have been to create a lobster pots-sea-shanties-et-al pastiche in the harbourside location, but no. Instead, there is a light nautical theme but look around carefully for all the exquisite details thanks to designer Rachel McClane. Drag your eyes, if you can, away from the stunning backdrop across the harbour and to the abbey and stop to admire the craft of the place. The giant lobster from Whitby sculptor Emma Stothard, local art from Bridget Wilkinson and Kate Smith and do not miss the tentacle door handles from James Godbold at Egton Bridge. The budget was high, and it shows.
The food has the Pern hallmark all over it with carefully crafted combinations that only Andrew can pull off, plus for those expecting a more English seaside affair, there are fish and chips cooked in beef dripping. A meat section offers rare breeds and free range in varying forms of pies, roast, Schnitzels and a ubiquitous aged steak. But my feet are all but touching the sea, and when I sniff salty air I want to eat fish and lots of it and, boy, am I in the right place.
There’s a decent wine and drinks list, and I giggled at the “Pernshire Wines by the Glass” section, no doubt a tongue-in-cheek reference to Pern’s supposed domination of North Yorkshire. These are carefully selected to work with the food, and they do so really well.
From the extensive menu, we finally arrive at Andrew’s BBC Great British Menu dish of woof (Atlantic wolffish) soup with a saffron mayo and Fortune’s kipper club sandwich, the right combination of a salty sandwich and rich, creamy soup. A beautiful looking (and even better to eat) rockpool of North Sea shellfish, salt ’n’ vinegar seaweed came served in a handcrafted ceramic bowl with a jug of thick bisque to pour over the abundant shellfish including a meaty chunk of lobster.
Surf met snout with a scrumptious piece of belly pork and, what across the table was described as soft, delicious, fresh lobster. I had a taste and had to agree plus a devilled sauce had a subtlety of flavour which crept up on me and just kept on moving. A fillet of garden thyme roasted John Dory was straightforward classical cooking at its best, and for someone who generally will only eat oysters raw, the fritters on this dish made me wonder what I had been missing.
Of course, there are great puds – if you can manage one. Someone had had their eye on a humongous knickerbocker glory but when it came to it settled on a Two Chefs Ale cake with – not enough apparently – cinder toffee and toffee sauce, as good and filling as it sounds.
The Star Inn the Harbour may be seemingly more relaxed than Andrew’s other places, but don’t be fooled, this is a massive, yet sharp, and professional operation, so service is bang-on.
There is eating and drinking inside and out, a private dining room and the cutest ever ice-cream parlour – check out the cups for the kids’ ice creams. Not even Andrew Pern could manage this and everything else. So bring on manager Stelian Cristea who has been at Andrew’s side for many years, as has Matt Lievers who heads up the kitchen with Ryan Osbourne.
I hope Whitby can embrace this place for the asset it is, it sure as hell deserves to be appreciated. Hats off to the man – he, and his team, have pulled it off again. Why did I ever think he wouldn’t?
The Star Inn the Harbour, Langborne Road, Whitby YO21 1YN Tel: 01947 821900. Open Monday to Friday, 11.30am-9pm; Saturday, 12-9.30pm; Sunday, 12-7pm (these times will change in the winter). Dinner for two with wines, water, appetisers and bread, £128.