Since moving to Cornwall when he was a teenager (he might like to pretend he’s a local), celebrity chef Rick Stein has made the seaside town of Padstow his own. It’s the perfect getaway for foodies, so for Cornish pasties, fish ‘n’ chips and high-end seafood dining, proceed dreckly to Padstein.
Stein’s most popular venture is Stein’s Fish & Chips (South Quay; www.rickstein.com/Steins-Fish-and-Chips) where you’re guaranteed to get the nicest fish and chips you will ever try. You can either take away a crispy piece of battered fish with proper golden chips in a box and eat them as you walk along the gorgeous Camel Estuary, or you could eat in (but the queue for tables is usually monstrous). Either way, you’ll not get a lot of change from a tenner.
The Padstow shop has proved so popular, Stein has opened a branch in the town of Falmouth in the far south of Cornwall.
I recently wrote about Frites in Belgium, but Stein has mastered the art of the chipped potato and his cannot be beaten in my view. Just watch out for the brave and greedy seagulls who will swoop down to steal any you don’t eat.
Next door is Stein’s Deli selling ingredients, cookbooks, booze and kitchen utensils. Oh yes, he’s not content with selling just meals. He also has a cookery school, hotel rooms and a gift shop. Rick Stein’s businesses in Padstow employ around 450 people (an impressive 15% of the town’s 3,000 population).
There is another chippy in Padstow – the brilliantly named Chip Ahoy (8 Broad Street) which markets itself as “the locals’ favourite chip shop”. Unfortunately the products cannot match the name and I can’t see why anyone would choose this ahead of Stein’s Fish & Chips.
Stein has entered the market for the local delicacy, the Cornish pasty. Stein’s Patisserie (Lanadwell Street) sells traditional pasties as well as steak and cheese and onion varieties, breads and cakes.
They’re very good, if very peppery, but are perhaps not quite as nice as those sold at the non-Stein affiliated Chough Bakery (3 The Strand) – pronounced Chuff, not Choo – which also has a superb web address (www.cornishpasty.com).
The Seafood Restaurant (Riverside, www.rickstein.com/The-Seafood-Restaurant is a fine dining experience I have not yet been lucky enough to enjoy, despite a few hints to the wife. With starters around £15 and mains around £30, the three course set menu lunch for £29.95 may be our best bet.
One day, Stein decided he wanted to sell food from a traditional English pub, so he went and bought The Cornish Arms (www.rickstein.com/The-Cornish-Arms) off St. Austell Brewery in the village of St. Merryn on the outskirts of Padstow.
As well as an excellent range of Cornish ales, it serves quality pub grub at reasonable prices. Like a typical Brit, every time I go there I have the same thing – a big bowl of mussels with chips and fresh bread to soak all the juice up (£12.95). The burgers look pretty good too, so next time…
In summer you can get one of the many tables outside, but in winter the pub’s a victim of its own success – with few tables inside, and every man and his dog wanting to eat here (literally – dogs are welcome), be prepared to wait a long time for a table to become available.
It isn’t all about the savoury in Padstow. Cherry Trees (West Quay) is quite possibly the best café I have ever been to in my life. Nothing to do with the Stein empire, this harbour-facing place serves up huge slices of homemade cake such as the Victoria Sponge and the Triple Decker Chocolate cake below, as well as milkshakes to die for.