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Bell End Farm - Rosedale

North York Moors, England

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

Posted by Jonathan Broom on May 25, 2018
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.

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Jonathan Broom
Author: Jonathan Broom


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