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Andrew Pern looks forward to opening the The Star Inn the Harbour in Whitby

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 May 2017

Andrew adds lobster claw to a gourmet rockpool

Andrew adds lobster claw to a gourmet rockpool

Andy Bulmer

How passionate culinary pioneers are transforming the Yorkshire coast into a delicious foodie destination.

Whitby crab stick, avaocado ice cream and seashore vegetables Whitby crab stick, avaocado ice cream and seashore vegetables

The latest culinary star (and that’s a Michelin star) to join the coast’s already twinkling firmament of foodies is Andrew Pern, the multi award-winning chef behind The Star Inn at Harome, The Star Inn the City and Mr P’s Curious Tavern, both in York.

His new venture, The Star Inn the Harbour, is almost ready for its big reveal and he couldn’t be happier, partly because it marks something of a homecoming for him. He grew up on a coastal farm by the River Esk, where local produce was always on the menu.

‘My grandad would catch salmon in the river and my dad ran shoots on our land,’ said Andrew. ‘He’d invite local butchers and fishermen and would swap a day’s shoot for meat, fish and seafood. I’d come back from school to find the bath full of lobsters. I thought everyone had fresh lobster for tea. As a kid, you think whatever your family eats is normal.’

His mum was a good cook but she developed MS when Andrew was eight and began to need an extra pair of hands in the kitchen. Her son was happy to help.

Andrew's seaside ice cream Andrew's seaside ice cream

‘My dad said I had to stay in the kitchen to help her and, to be honest, I was glad,’ he said. ‘Being in a nice warm kitchen with my mum was about a million times better than being in a cold windswept field with my arm up a sheep’s backside. I wouldn’t swap it then, and I wouldn’t swap it now.’

When it opens in early summer, Andrew’s new brasserie-style seafood restaurant in Whitby’s former tourist information office in Langborne Road will offer great views of the town, including the magnificent abbey, as well as great menus that showcase the very best produce the coast has to offer.

‘My childhood memories are all tied up with comfort food and family favourites,’ he said. ‘I had a friend who lived in Henrietta Street near Fortune’s and we could smell the kippers as they smoked. I absorbed everything around me – the sights, smells and tastes of the sea – and can still see their influence on my menus now.’

The Star Inn the Harbour looks set to make a major impact on Whitby, and not just because it’s physically imposing with 160 indoor covers and up to 60 outside. There’s already talk of the town becoming ‘the Padstow of the north’, drawing foodie tourists from across the county, country and from further afield in the same numbers as Rick Stein’s Cornish creation.

‘Whitby is certainly paving the way on the Yorkshire coast,’ said Andrew. ‘And it’s already way ahead of places like Cromer and Padstow because it’s so picturesque and full of character.

‘I can’t really say whether my name and reputation will bring more foodie tourists to town, but I’m fairly sure my regulars will travel. The restaurant will also generate a certain amount of publicity that, I hope, will be beneficial to the whole town.’

The restaurant menu is going to be 75 per cent seafood, including fresh lobster, scallops and Scarborough woof, much of it sourced straight off the harbour. The staff are also going to be locally sourced too.

‘You don’t have to travel too far to find talent,’ said Andrew. ‘Even my head chef is from Whitby. I trained with him years ago and trust him completely. He’s worked everywhere from The Magpie to the Savoy Grill and will bring all his experience and local knowledge to bear.’

Steamed mussels Steamed mussels

Andrew and his team will also be working closely with Yorkshire Coast College, offering placements to local students who want to test their mettle in a real restaurant kitchen.

‘I want local people to see us as their restaurant from day one,’ he added. ‘We’re not going to be a special occasion place, we’re going to be their place.’

Andrew is joining a long – and continually growing – list of restaurateurs, café owners, producers and artisan craftspeople working diligently to make the food scene the boast of the coast. There’s The Lanterna in Scarborough, where chef-patron Giorgio Alessio has been serving delicious Italian cuisines liberally sprinkled with warmth and hospitality for more than 40 years; The Magpie, a multi award-winning fish restaurant on Whitby harbourside, famous for its fish, chips, chowder and snaking queue; Estbek House in Sandsend, the first restaurant on the coast to achieve two AA rosettes; and The Endeavour, a luxury pop-up seafood restaurant where chef Lisa Chapman cooks up the best of the day’s catch.

‘There’s always been an amazing food offering on the Yorkshire coast but, up until now, it’s been quite understated,’ said Janet Deacon, Welcome to Yorkshire’s tourism director for North Yorkshire and the coast. ‘Typically, our local food heroes have been quietly producing outstanding food and drink and, thanks to them, the region is now starting to achieve national and international accolades for its food and drink.

‘There’s no doubt that the increase in the number of television programmes about food, like Saturday Kitchen and the Great British Bake Off, has got people more interested in food, and the Yorkshire coast has seized on that opportunity to promote what’s already here and what’s naturally emerging.’

Our coastal producers and makers undoubtedly benefit from the region’s unique microclimate and unusually varied topography, which helps to support an extraordinary wealth of local produce. But it takes innovative foodie mavericks rebelling against fast-paced, low taste, mass produced mediocrity to transform the county’s natural larder into something truly outstanding.

Like Andrew, many of our leading mavericks have emerged from humble origins, like the award-winning breweries that started life in garages, and lauded pickle producers who began selling in a quiet corner at a village fete, but all share a love of fresh local produce, treated respectfully but with flair to defy and redefine contemporary trends.

It shouldn’t be any surprise then that the Yorkshire coast is increasingly being seen as a foodie destination, offering menus as impressive as its views. And, according to Janet, it’s a trend that looks set to continue, with increased investment and enthusiasm ensuring the region’s reputation keeps on rising (like an artisan sourdough loaf from Botham’s of Whitby).

‘Not only does the Yorkshire coast attract great chefs, it produces them too,’ said Janet. ‘James Martin and Andrew Pern both trained at Scarborough Technical College and now the top chefs of tomorrow are being taught in the new state-of-the-art Chef Academy at Yorkshire Coast College.

‘There’s a strong desire to invest in the future of food and drink. There are visible signs everywhere, from the £3m facelift of Scarborough’s ancient market hall, opening this year as the Covent Garden of the north, to a new food festival planned for the Yorkshire coast in early September. It feels as if we’re on the cusp of a very exciting time.’

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