wetherby_whalerI grew up in Yorkshire where frying great fish and chips is an art form stretching back over one hundred years. It’s in my blood – we have relatives that owned a shop in Leeds around fifty years ago. If you find yourself in Yorkshire and are looking for a great meal, give the Wetherby Whaler a go.

Not only can you get take away at each venue, they also have restaurants. You will find them at Guiseley, York, Pudsey, Wakefield and of course, Wetherby. While the take away service offers everything you would expect, the restaurants also have a range of starters, mains, kids meals and deserts. Remember, this is a fish and chip shop so it’s great simple food served in a pleasant atmosphere.

I must admit, most of the time we go for take away, eating our feast at Emma’s gran and grandpa’s house. It’s cheaper than the restaurant and northerners have grown up eating fish and chips for tea* at their own kitchen table or occasionally, out of the paper in front of the TV. It saves on washing up.

*tea – this is a Yorkshire phrase for what is known south of Sheffield as ‘dinner’. the meal ‘tea’ is normally served early evening. Just to confuse people further, in Yorkshire ‘dinner’ is the meal at midday.

What makes these the best fish and chips?

Fresh Haddock and maris piper potatoes are the best place to start. The chips should not be too large or too small and fried quickly in very hot oil so they are fluffy on the inside. The haddock needs to be skinned both sides  and all the bones removed. Finally, light crispy batter is what finishes it off. The Wetherby Whaler hits all these points perfectly.

The advantage of preparing fish this way is the kids will eat it without a second thought. The batter is tasty and as parents, we don’t have to worry about them complaining ‘uhh it’s got skin on’, or ‘aarrgh I’ve got a bone!’ The haddock are a great size. An eight year old would probably get through half an adult portion of fish. By the time they reach eleven, it wouldn’t surprise me if the gobbled the lot down.

Added extras

The curry sauce comes in two flavours, traditional chip shop style and Chinese curry. The mushy peas are delicious but Emma and Josh initially turned their noses up at them . Once they did try them though, they were hooked. If you have not had this great northern tradition give them a whirl. The taste is nothing like squashed up boiled peas. They have a unique flavour that works with fish and chips perfectly.

If you want a butty (sandwich) all the rolls in a northern chippy (fish and chip shop) are soft and white. Don’t be surprised if you hear someone ask for a breadcake. This is a what Yorkshire folk call bread rolls. Honestly, they don’t make cake out of bread.

Once and a bag of scraps please

Roughly translated, this is ‘fish and chips’with a sprinkling of the small pieces of fried batter that have come away from the fish during cooking. Because the batter is so good, the ‘scraps’ are really tasty on their own. If you want to two fish and two portions of chips just ask for ‘twice please’. ‘Thrice’ is a little oldie-worldie even for ‘up north’ these days. ‘Three times’ will probably serve you better.

A slice of history

The Wetherby Whaler at Guiseley now occupies the original ‘Harry Ramsden’ building. This was the first of the famous chain of shops opened in 1928 by Harry and lasting 80 years before selling the venue. The inside is lavishly restored with high ceilings, stained glass, oak panelling and crystal chandeliers. It’s the only fish and chip shop I know with a baby grand piano which is played weekly as you dine. If you eat at any of the restaurants, this one is the most atmospheric.

Let us know if you have tried any of the Wetherby Whalers. Post your comments below and tell us what you think.