Food & Drink: Whitby’s Fish and Chips,

Cod, chips and peas at Whitby's Fish and Chips, Poplar Way, Catcliffe. Picture: Andrew Roe
Cod, chips and peas at Whitby's Fish and Chips, Poplar Way, Catcliffe. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Poplar Way, Catcliffe, Rotherham S60 5TR, 01709 838000, Takeaway and restaurant open seven days a week from 11.30am, last orders taken 9pm.

At its best, there’s nothing better. Crisp golden chips, beautifully cooked flaky white fish in a crunchy billowing batter.

Scampi at Whitby's

Scampi at Whitby's

Splash on just a little too much vinegar, top with salt and enjoy THE meal that’s sustained we Brits since 1870.

No chef in the world would find fault with good fish and chips and if they do I’m afraid that’s their problem.

It has everything, complementary flavours, contrasting textures and a smell to get your mouth watering from 100 yards.

But, of course, for every top class chippy in Britain there are five average or worse ones.

We’ve all stood in chip shop queues knowing from the sights and smells and standards around us that we are going to be disappointed

And we usually are.

It’s not easy to get it right because we are a nation of experts. Everyone has their favourite chippy. Some buy their chips from one place and their fish from another.
I know I have.

So when a place like Whitby’s comes around, as it did almost exactly three years ago, they’ve got to get it right.

The last time I sat down for fish and chips in Sheffield we were three generations of Smith males on a lunch break from the snooker at the Crucible.

Up the narrow staircase to our table in the legendarily old fashioned chippy that was the Harlequin on Howard Street, we had one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten, fit for such a memorable lads and dads occasion. So no pressure then on Whitby’s to deliver, though of course it’s in Rotherham rather then Sheffield, just over the border off the Parkway in Catcliffe.

And we’re starving.

First impressions are good. It’s not the kind of area you would expect to find a traditional chippy, more a spot for a McDonald’s or Pizza Hut but all the more refreshing for that.

We are greeted and asked which table we’d like to sit at – nice touch.

The place is modern and cheerful, though like others before me, I’m puzzled by the choice of pop art portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy on the walls. But the Whitby’s branding on glass door panels adds a nicely liveried touch and the toilets are immaculate. The menu is also bright and not overfussy as you’d expect from a chippy, or a super-chippy in this case, seating 160 with a takeaway side too.

For starters we order Whitby prawn cocktail and a Scampi.

The prawn cocktail comes in a massive cocktail glass with what seems like an entire shoal of prawns, pink and beautifully tender in a decent sauce with salad leaves and tiny triangles of fresh brown bread – crust off – and butter. Can’t fault it.

The scampi comes on a bed of salad, eight pieces of crispy breadcrumbed delight, hot and subtle with a good, and what looks and tastes like, home-made tartare sauce.

For our main course I ordered the haddock and chips and a pot of tea and my partner had the cod salad, both with a side order of mushy peas.

You can have your fish portion with or without skin, battered, floured or poached and there is a gluten-free option and all cooked, says the menu, in beef dripping.

For me a haddock should hang over both sides of the plate and sizzle when you put vinegar on it. This one was not quite that big and a section of it was missing its batter but it was delicious.

Batter just right, fish flaky, tasty and perfectly cooked, it fell apart under the fork. Top marks.

The tea was good too. A gutsy builders’ brown with a pot of hot water to top up – seaside style.

The chips are generously cut without being too fat and were crisp and golden. If I had to find fault I would say that they were slightly dry, as though they’d been waiting a while but this is Sunday night. At busier times that might not be an issue.

The salad with the cod was generous and varied and the fish again perfect.

As for the peas, as good as any I’ve had. Right texture, distinct flavour, the right colour and no soda aftertaste.

For dessert I had the sticky toffee pudding, my partner chose the brownie and ice-cream and we had a rice pudding to try because neither of us could remember the last time we ate rice pudding in a restaurant.

The sticky toffee pudding came in a sea of treacly toffee sauce with a side pot of excellent custard. The sauce was great, the pudding itself was a little chewy, as was the brownie, but both more than acceptable.

The rice pudding came with a blob of seedless jam and was rich and creamy and a reminder of puddings from another age.

In all a very good attempt, with the fish, as it should be, the star of the show.

We paid £36.55 for three courses with a tea and a Pepsi plus £3.95 for the rice pudding taster.

Star ratings out of five:

Food 4

Atmosphere 4

Service 5

Value 4