One of life’s more stressful events is meeting the girlfriend’s family for the first time, but when the in-laws live in Cornwall visiting them is always a joy. Since I’ve been with Kat, I’ve made several trips down the M5 to Padstow – a town I’ve fallen in love with almost as much as Rick Stein has.
When I think of Padstow, I think of three things – food, drink and festivals.
For such a small town (population just over 3,000), Padstow has a fearsome reputation for food. Rick Stein has a fine dining seafood restaurant, a traditional fish and chip shop and a bakery here, as well as a delicatessen and a catering college. Pasties at his patisserie are good (but not as good as those at Choughs or Barnecutts), but his fish and chip shop takes some beating.
Last time we ate there, I had cod and chips which was superb. I did say next time I go there, I’d try something different – maybe the mackerel. But I’m hoping Kat’s forgotten I said that, as I really want the cod again.
Rock, the posh resort across the River Camel estuary from Padstow, is home to Sharp’s brewery – makers of three of my favourite drinks. Doom Bar, a 4% ale named after a sandbank in the estuary, is now available at pubs all over the country.
Sharp’s Cornish Orchard Cider has not made the transition from Cornwall to the rest of the UK, and was only available in a handful of pubs down there last time I was in town, despite being the fruitiest and most refreshing cider I have ever tried. Frustratingly it’s not sold in off-licences either, so I’ll be looking forward to necking a few pints over the next week.
Sharp’s also produce bottled “Chalky’s Bite” and “Chalky’s Bark” Belgian-style beers named after Rick Stein’s dead dog – one is nicer than the other but I can never remember which one I prefer, so no doubt I’ll be bringing bottles of both home with me.
Padstow is also home to the most bonkers tradition in the country – the Mayday Obby Oss festivities. You can read a guide I wrote on Simonseeks about it here, but basically someone puts a big bin lid on their head and a horse’s tail on their bum, pretends they’re a horse and locals and tourists follow it around town, playing accordions and beating drums.
Another Padstow tradition I’ve never been to is Darkie Day, where locals put boot polish on their faces, dance around town and sing songs. Shocked at suggestions this pagan tradition could be seen as racist, Padstonians now refer to it as Mummers Day. It’s held on Boxing Day, so I’ll try to see what all the fuss is about.