We Grill: Millers Fish & Chips
Millers Fish & Chips in Haxby, York, North Yorkshire has been crowned the UK’s best fish and chip shop. The fourth-generation, family-owned business has been frying for 77 years, and is now run by David and his wife Lesley and their son Nick Miller. Accredited by MSC for its sustainably sourced fish, its menu has also been approved by Coeliac UK too as a safe menu option for coeliac disease sufferers. It has also been highly commended in the Welcome To Yorkshire White Rose awards and qualified for the Taste of England awards. Take Stock spoke to David Miller…
Tell us about Millers…
It was started by my grandfather Joe in the 1940s who passed it onto my father, Jim, in the late 60s. I trained as a chef and whilst working away on the QE2 I made a life-changing decision to return home to Millers and take over from my father. That was 30 years ago, so it seems very apt that we have won the ‘Oscar’ of the fish and chip world on the 30th anniversary of the National Fish & Chips Awards, organised by Seafish! Along with our fabulous team of 15, we believe in making fish and chips accessible for everyone. We operate a separate frying area to cater for allergen-free diets, and offer a range of gluten free, halal friendly and vegetarian products, all cooked using the finest, locally-sourced, sustainable ingredients.
What’s made you award winning?
Hard work, an understanding of our product and an aim to continually make it better. This job isn’t money driven, so you have to love it and be passionate about the industry and strive daily to make the product you serve the best it can be. And although we are honoured and flattered to have been crowned this year’s winners, we won’t stop trying to improve our traditional, best-loved dish by learning new techniques and keeping on the ball with our customer service. We have regular customers who have come to us for over 50 years and new ones appear all the time, so our mission is to keep flying the flag for the Great British dish for as long as we can.
What’s the secret to the best fish and chips?
The ingredients! Using the best potatoes, fish and batter is essential. We use a different variety of potatoes depending on the season and we cook them the traditional way; blanching, then finish them off in hot fat to make the outside crispy and the insides soft with a creamy-like texture. The fish is line-caught and frozen at sea, classed as fresh-frozen, and the batter should be fine but crisp. We use beef dripping and it has to be clean and not breaking.
Why do people love them?
It is a humble, honest meal that needs to be respected. Done right, it is the best comfort meal to eat and it’s delicious and nutritious! Our busiest day is still Friday; we can deliver more than 300 orders – and each order could be one portion or six. Our 22-seated restaurant is always full. In fact, the amount of customers who come through our door each week keeps increasing. I don’t know where they are all coming from, but I’m pleased they are!
D you serve a healthier option?
Our Light Bites menu was launched two years ago when we became conscious of portion sizes. The offer includes a 4oz fish instead of a usual 7oz and a 5oz instead of 10oz portion of chips. This has helped increase our lunchtime trade. Our first customer was this big bloke driving a white van. We thought he’d come back in to complain when in fact he said it was ‘incredible’ and the ‘most delicious meal he’d had’. It works well because it gives people the option to eat the meal at lunchtime without feeling too full or bloated for the rest of the day. We also get a lot of elderly customers ordering it a couple of times a week, because it suits their smaller appetites.
Your best sellers?
Our sustainable MSC haddock and cod takes some beating. We have both on our menu but sell about 80% haddock and 20% cod. We use line-caught haddock and that has seen a real growth in sales recently. No fish and chip dinner is complete without mushy peas – the Yorkshire caviar – and of course, bread and butter!
Can any outlet serve fish and chips?
I’d say yes, although they aren’t as easy to make as people think. However, as the best selling dish on a pub menu, they clearly are! As long as you source sustainable fish, have a stand alone fryer and can cope with the high numbers I’d say go for it. There are so many variables of this fine cuisine that it’s all great for the industry and something I’d definitely encourage.
What are your best selling drinks?
Dandelion and burdock without a doubt! We sell around 60 cans a week. It’s an oldie, but still a favourite! In our 22-seater restaurant, it’s Yorkshire Tea.
How important is sustainability to you?
Extremely important. We’re concerned about the future of our environment and the ocean so we work with the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) to ensure all our fish and seafood comes from sustainable sources. We are proud to be one of 90 fish and chip shops in the UK to be MSC Certified, and have the ‘blue tick’ logo in our window. It means that everyone on our team can tell you where your fish was caught and by whom. In our case it is with Norwegian vessels.
Is there a need to use other fish?
Cod and haddock are in good supply so there is no worry or urgency to source other fish at the moment in their place. However, I sometimes put plaice or hake on the menu to help raise awareness of them. I think that if a customer eats hake, for example, at my fish and chip shop then they are more likely to recognise it on a menu elsewhere and perhaps be inclined to try it. By encouraging new tastes, it is helping to spread awareness and increase sales of the variants of delicious fish and seafood available.
What packaging do you use?
Reducing the amount of plastic is a hot topic at the moment, but here at Millers we have been environment-friendly (and conscious) for a long time. All our boxes are biodegradable, our forks are made of cornstarch and we recycle everything we possibly can. We are also working on a ‘bag for life’ for our customers which they can purchase and keep for use each time they come to us. 100% of sales will be donated to The Fishermen’s Mission which helps to support fishermen and their families.
New trends in fish and chips?
Delivery is an option that some fish and chip shops are looking into. Because fish and chips is a dish that has to be eaten straight away, operators are beginning to look at ways to be able to deliver them from the fryer to the plate without jeopardising the quality of the product.