Chris Lloyd finds Saltburn battered by a storm surge and lacking fish and chips. What could replace them?

POST-SURGE, the sea at Saltburn was still exhilarating. Huge grey waves with foaming white tops crashed like riderless horses into the bay. They rattled along the underside of the pier with the speed and noise of a derailing steam train and then, with a great sucking of stones, flung themselves against the seawall, sending up a towering spume of spray which soaked the spectators in the car park.

The day after the tidal surge, the seafront showed the scars of its briney battering: paving stones that had been picked up and tossed aside; metal shutters on prom buildings that had been pummelled by flying pebbles; new beach-huts that had been badly bashed, and seaweedy debris strewn everywhere. It was so bad that Saturday that even the Seaview fish and chip shop was unable to open.

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This was devastating. The Seaview’s fish and chips must be the finest in the region; a pier bench with the sands and the bay stretching for miles must be the finest restaurant seat in the country.

So, with a chilling breeze cutting through our jackets, we were forced to climb the cliffs and find alternative sustenance in the town.

A blackboard at the top of Pearl Street pointed to “the best pie and mash shop in Yorkshire”. How great the competition is for such an accolade must be debatable – pie and mash is traditionally a working class London takeaway – but however many there are in Yorkshire, the Saltburn masherie would give them a run for their money.

It would also take them back in time. It has a wartime 1940s theme running through it, from the tinhat on the coatstand by the door through to the music coming out of the radiogram – “doing the Lambeth walk, oi!” – and the standard lamps illuminating the table. The windows had masking tape across them to prevent diners from being lacerated by flying glass should there be a bombing raid, the password for the wifi was a wartime leader’s surname, and grandma was given an old stoneware hot water bottle to warm her numbed joints (yes, in advising everyone else to be sensible on the beach she hadn’t spotted a fast rushing wave which had overtopped her boots).

The menu is inside a ration book and it is, frankly, limited. The Yorkshire Pie and Mash Shop serves only pie and mash.

But what else would you want in a pie and mash shop? For £7.99, there was steak pie, corned beef pie, sausage pie, minced beef pie, chicken and leek pie, or Woolton Pie (a wartime vegetable pie named after the Minister of Food). There had been a lamb special pie earlier in the day, but that had all sold out.

My cup of tea was came with a leafstrainer (I still kept forgetting to use it) and in a pot covered in a knitted potwarmer, jangling with buttons. Theo, 14, had never seen such a strange item before in his life. He was also entertained by his hot chocolate coming in a large enamel coffeepot, while grandma was delighted by the retro crockery with the Indian Tree design that her parents kept for best.

The homemade pies came extremely quickly, served on enamel dishes alongside three scoops of mash and a portion of garden peas (mushy were an alternative). In the East End of London, the pie and mash shops serve a secret recipe signature liquor – a parsley and eel water sauce – as an accompaniment but as this was the Yorkshire Pie and Mash Shop, we got a steaming jug of gravy to share.

The pastry on the pie was good. It wasn’t crispy or crusty, and neither was it soggily saggy.

The fillings were generous and juicy. Theo’s chicken and leek had big chunks of meat in a nice, creamy sauce. Grandma and I each had a steak pie that was rich and dark with a truly excellent gravy.

The mash was mash, well mashed but unseasoned. Smothered in gravy from the jug, it was a warming spacefiller on a cold January day.

Puddings (£4.50 each) are traditional – “just like grandma used to make”, says the ration book menu. In our family, Grandma still makes puddings which are, of course, far superior to anything cooked up in a restaurant.

Our puddings were served in the enamel dishes and we got a large jug of custard to pour our own (cream was an alternative). My sticky toffee pudding was a straightforward pudding (no fruit) with lashings of sticky toffee sauce, and I ate it all. Theo’s fruit crumble was packed with rhubarb and he ate it all. And Grandma’s jam roly poly didn’t stint on the filling and while she obviously could have made something better herself, she ate it all without complaint.

The bill for two courses for three came to £43.22, and the service from the men who run the front of house, and from the ladies in 1940s pinnies and headscarves in the kitchen, was friendly and fun throughout.

There were no chips, there were no waves, and there were no miles of golden sand, but the eccentricity of the place – the toilet with such a low ceiling that even I, a giant at 5ft 9ins, couldn’t stand up – and the excellence of the pie and mash made for a memorable meal.

FOOD FACTS

The Yorkshire Pie and Mash Shop, Pearl Street, Saltburn TS12 1DU

Phone: 01287-625929

Web: yorkshirepieandmash.co.uk

Hours: Weds to Fri: 11am to 5pm; Sat and Sun: 11am to 6pm. Closed on Mondays, and closed on Tuesdays during winter. High Tea is served between 3pm and 5pm.

Food quality 4/5

Surroundings 4/5

Service 4/5

Value for money 4/5