Had your chips? Not till you’ve been to Haxby!

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 25 May 2018
Related property: Bell End Farm, Rosedale
Had your chips? Not till you’ve been to Haxby!

There are many reasons why holidaymakers at Bell End Farm in Rosedale make a trip to York an integral part of their holidays: the National Railway Museum, York Castle and, of course, the famous Minster, the city’s iconic Gothic-style medieval cathedral.

Add to the above the sheer charm of the city – lots of old, higgledy-piggledy streets lined with one-off (though not necessarily expensive) boutiques; and lovely waterside pubs along the mighty River Ouse.

Of course all that sightseeing and shopping can make a person a mite peckish. Fear not – York is studded with fine eateries. But the very finest, arguably, is to be found just five miles north of the city centre.

And, in fish-and-chips terms, unarguably. Because Millers Fish & Chips in Haxby has recently been voted the best fish-and-chip shop in the UK.

The 78-year-old business spans four generations. Joe Miller had a fish stall in York market; his son, Jim, expanded the business, running several chippies in the York area during the 1960s and 1970s (including the shop in Haxby); David took over in 1987, and now runs the Haxby shop along with wife Lesley, who used to work for Jim and now oversees the shop’s adjoining restaurant; and Lesley and David’s son Nick, a former rock drummer, has given up the music industry to help run the business alongside his father. But it doesn’t sound as though he made an altogether unwilling sacrifice: “I was working in Nashville and remember being in the studio and all I could think about was the fish-and-chip shop,” Nick says.

The criteria that Millers had to satisfy were rigorous: a testing seven-month process involving ‘mystery shoppers’; judges interrogating staff on their awareness of sustainability practices; and an in-depth presentation in London. But actually the award owes less to a focused campaign, and much more to a long-standing tradition of good old-fashioned hard work, and attention to detail.

“It all starts with the fish,” explains David. “It is all line-caught which means they send out 80,000 baited hooks. They catch the fish alive, so if they are looking for haddock [for example], that is all they keep and [they] throw everything else back, which makes it more sustainable.”

So far, so good: but it’s how the fish is prepared that is key. Each piece is carefully filleted to exact weight and shape, before being coated in freshly-made batter and gently lowered into the fryer: every step of the process has to be up to David’s demanding standards.

And they’ve kept it affordable. A regular piece of haddock will set you back just £4, plus £2 for a regular portion of chips. And if you want to go exotic, salt-and-pepper squid come in at £4.10, and a ‘seafood basket’ is a mere £4.70. And you can wash it all down with a mug of the finest Yorkshire tea: yours for a quid.

Millers entered the competition for the first time in 2017, and came a creditable third; but to win the top prize is “amazing”, David says.

As for the other entrants – one can only imagine that Millers’ competitors across the UK are feeling... well... battered, basically.

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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