I spent a weekend in Cornwall in the lead up to this year’s Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards event, where the image below was awarded Highly Commended in the Bringing Home the Harvest Category. It is the world’s most important food photography competition and with more than 9000 entries from 77 countries, it was a thrill to have made the finals for the 5th time. We spent most of our time in the historical harbour town of Padstow, well known for the many establishments of celebrity chef and restaurateur, Rick Stein
Having watched a few of his cooking shows over the years it was quite a treat to spend time in the village and sample a taste of his restaurants, deli and bakery. From what I have read his presence has not been without controversy, with the town now often referred to as Padstein. There have also been incidents of damage to his establishments, often thought to have been caused by disgruntled residents.
I have to say that the service and hospitality experienced at each of his establishments were gracious and friendly, each member of staff committed to assisting at all times.
Our first stop was Stein’s Deli, stocking pasties, chocolates, biscuits, baked goods, cheeses, loads of pantry items and a good selection of crockery and kitchen tools. Most of the items branded under Rick Stein with the candles and soaps branded under Jill Stein (his ex wife). Off course all his recipe books are available too. A good tip is to visit the deli around 5pm, just in time to get leftover pasties and breads at half price. The haddock pasty was delicious. I also stocked up on some Cornish sea salt, spices you can’t always find and some local chili sauces.
Next to the delhi is Stein’s Fish & Chips. A queue was waiting for the 5pm opening time but we easily found a spot when we walked in around 5:30. All the items on the menu is grilled or fried in beef dripping (so good!) and customers have an option to ask for gluten free batter. The batter on our goujons was super crisp and the fish well cooked. The onion rings were top notch and the Rick Stein labeled wine paired well as did the local beer. The service was fast and friendly.
A walk through the village the next morning led us to Stein’s bakery, brimming with bakes, pasties, pastries, and mountainous meringues. Not far away, next to Rick Stein’s Cafe is the Rick Stein gift shop. A retail outlet for all things Rick Stein. Crockery, kitchenware, souvenirs and gadgets. And of course all the Rick Stein cookbooks. We walked away with a beautiful serving bowl that I can not wait to use and photograph.
Behind the deli is the Rick Stein cooking school offering various courses that are a few hours long to 4 day extravaganzas. Most of the courses cover recipes and techniques from his various books.
Next to the deli is the Rick Stein fishmonger where you can purchase a range of fish and shellfish to cook at home. Adjacent to the fishmonger is a small oyster bar where we sat down and ordered moules mariniere that was cooked in front of us as we sat at the counter. Super fresh and washed down with some Rick Stein wine and a local cider. There are various options from seafood platters to champagne and oysters to satisfy all appetites and budgets.
The Harbour Hotel is the location for his fine dining seafood restaurant called The Seafood Restaurant. A currency exchange rate that is never favourable when you are South African, did not allow us to get a table there but from what I have read it is pretty good.
Our last Rick Stein taster was a prix fixe lunch at St Petroc’s, a bistro with 10 bedrooms, decorated by Jill. We had a starter of fish cakes with an extra order of tartare sauce. It really was superb. We added a starter of Haloumi which was good but not really spectacular. It lacked a bit of flavour and I thought it could have done with more honey and some acidity.
The hake main course was perfectly cooked and the melanzane was packed with rich & comforting tomato flavours. A shared dessert of pavlova was just ok – it could easily have had a bit of wow. Again the service was friendly and efficient.
There has been lots said about the massive presence he has in the town and as an outsider who only spent three days in the area, I can’t really have an opinion. But it is worth noting the strong sense of supporting local artisans and farmers in all the products carried. The service we received makes you feel that you walk into a business where people are happy and enjoy what they do. The only thing I found missing was a focus that the seafood comes from sustainable sources. Perhaps they do but nowhere was any attention drawn to it.
Padstow has much more on offer than just Rick Stein establishments and we had a fantastic lunch at Barnaby’s, sister restaurant to Prawn on the Lawn. Wood fired sharing plates with a strong emphasis on Middle Eastern and Northern African flavours which we love. The dessert was so good too. Spiced quince cheesecake made with thick, delicious Cornish cream was a rich and memorable ending.
One more thing, Cornish ice cream is good. Make sure you get a scoop or two when you visit.
One of my most favourite places in the world is Beirut. Read more about this wonderful city here :