The Orlop - the restaurant on board the HM Bark Endeavour replica in Whitby
PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 January 2019
A restaurant opens on the replica of a historic research ship with rather more sophisticated rations than its crew enjoyed
When Whitby businessman Andrew Fiddler learned that the only full-sized replica of Captain Cook’s famous HM Bark Endeavour in the Northern Hemisphere was for sale it was, he says, a ‘no-brainer’. He bought the replica (there’s another in Australia) at auction, bidding against some pretty fierce competition.
‘There were eight other serious bids,’ he says. ‘The Royal Navy wanted it, but were going to take it to Portsmouth. Someone else wanted to moor it on the Thames, and there were a couple of other bidders who were planning to take it to the Caribbean and to Dubai.
‘I genuinely didn’t want it to leave the area – I was determined to do everything I could to keep something so iconic in the North East. It cost £2.3million to build in 1993, so the likelihood of anyone making another in the near future seems pretty remote!’
The original Endeavour only sailed for 14 years. Built in 1764, she spent the first four years of her life as a collier called the Earl of Pembroke before the navy bought and transformed her into the pioneering research ship which, under Cook’s command, explored the virtually uncharted waters of the Pacific between 1768 and 1771.
In 1778, by now a troop transport ship, she was scuttled off Rhode Island during the American War of Independence; in September last year, it was announced that the wreck might have been finally identified.
Her 21st-century lookalike headed regally into Whitby (she was towed – she’s not built for seagoing) last summer after a year of refurbishment in Stockton-on-Tees, just in time for the hoop-la surrounding the 250th anniversary of Cook’s legendary first voyage to the South Seas.
She was an instant hit with visitors who enjoyed learning about the original ship and its epic voyage in a fun environment. ‘It’s all interactive,’ says Andrew. ‘It has to be to engage kids these days!’
And now he has enhanced the ship with a new on-board restaurant, The Orlop, which opened last autumn. Named for the mess deck of the original ship, where Cook’s crew would both sleep in swinging hammocks and eat, The Orlop’s walls are garlanded with wooden barrel lids stencilled with the names of some of the foods that the sailors could expect as part of their daily diet – again and again and again – during their three-year expedition.
But today’s diners can expect rather more variety and sophistication than sauerkraut, salt pork and oatmeal. Andrew has installed as his head chef Matt Baxter, who started his career at one of Andrew’s other venues, the Victoria Hotel in Robin Hood’s Bay, before becoming head chef at the Dunsley Hall Country House Hotel between Whitby and Sandsend.
A café by day, The Orlop transforms into a fine dining restaurant by night, with a menu which, while far from being exclusively seafood, pays proper tribute to the North Sea’s bounty with dishes such as pan-fried seabass with spring onion and chive croquettes, wilted spinach and fish velouté, and fillet of halibut with a potato crust on a bed of cockle risotto.
Those who don’t like fish can enjoy meat dishes including a mature sirloin steak from the excellent nearby butcher Radford’s of Sleights, served with a Stilton-stuffed flat mushroom, hand-cut chunky chips and balsamic-dressed salad or a vegetarian option like baked polenta rounds with wilted spinach, garlic-roast mushrooms and port sauce. The selection of puddings includes a cheeseboard with locally-made port jelly.
Andrew is also keen to have regular evening special events, different each month, including at the end of January something Captain Cook and his crew could never have imagined when they first set sail to the Pacific – an Australia Day party with themed buffet and, for the brave, a ‘bushtucker trial’. ‘This is a great area, and I want to attract international as well as domestic visitors,’ he says. ‘We’ve got it – so let’s flaunt it!’
For more information, go to hmbarkendeavor/dine