* Prices may differ from that shown
Rick Stein - The Seafood Restaurant
On a recent trip to Padstow, Cornwall we decided to go to Rick Steins famous fish restaurant, The Seafood Restaurant. Rick Stein is an English chef, restauranter and television presenter. He now specialises in fish cookery. He opened his first restaurant in Padstow in 1974 and now runs quite a few businesses in the town including a cake shop, cookery school and a fish and chip shop.
The Seafood Restaurant is his upper class restaurant in the town and is known for it's fabulous fish. It really is in the best location for fish. Padstow is a historic fishing port and so receives fresh fish every day. The restaurant is right at one end of town by the harbour and so is perfectly place to recieve all the best catches of the day.
It's quite hard to get a reservation in the restaurant. I think I booked about three months before we wanted to go and even then it was a bit hit and miss to if I would get a table or not. The first couple of dates I suggested I was given a table time of 10pm which was way to late but eventually I got a table on a Monday night out of season. The restaurant has its own dedicated telephone reservation line and details of this and all his businesses can be found at http://www.rickstein.com/Restaurants-and-Shops.html.
Even though the restaurant is right by the harbour it doesn't have spectacular views over the water which is quite disappointing. It actually overlooks the car park. It's a shame because there are a few tables around the side of the restaurant with nice glass floor to ceiling windows that you can have a drinka t before your dinner and it would be lovely if you ahd a nice view of the boats etc, but oh well. Once inside the restaurant there is a bar in the middle and then tables along the walls of the restaurant as well as some tables in the middle. The restaurant is very light and airy with off white colouring and quite modern with some really interesting paintings, vases with great flowers etc. The toilets were nice too, clean and also quite funky in design so I would recommend that you check those out too.
The menu is printed each day as ours had the date on it. I assume this is becasue the fresh fish can vary from day to day. They offer a taster menu for £64 per person which I think had about 6 or 7 courses on it or you can just order off the regular menu. Mains are approximately £20-25 each but are more if you order Lobster which I think was about £45. We just ordered off the regular menu.
The food was absolutely amazing without being pretentious and also the portions were very big too. We started with bread and olives which they gave to every table. Then we were given a little bit of cooked sushi to taste that was lovely. The great thing is that the fish offered if different that what you usually get, for example he offered talbot, monkfish as well as salmon, haddock, etc. I am not a fan of Fruit de la Mer but the couple next to us ordered it and it did look amazing. THe bowl was overflowing with shell fish and I think if you do like it its probably the best you can buy. I asked the waitress and it included everything you can think off, cockles, mussels, etc.
Desserts were great too and not to be missed. With wine and starters, main and desserts I think the whole meal cost us about £150-£200 which for a special meal out was not that expensive and well worth it if you are a fish lover
"Hi, Rick. We were in the area so we thought we'd drop in. I'm sure you can fit us in can't you, there's a good lad". Actually, since we live in Surrey, over 200 miles away, Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow is hardly somewhere we could visit for a night out. The visit needed to be planned and, in order to justify the visit, would need to be combined with something else. The "something else" was a visit to the World-famous Eden Project and an overnight stay or two was essential as well. The occasion was our Wedding Anniversary.
We were staying on the other side of the Cornwall peninsular and so to reach Padstow was a 40 minute run in the car along little country lanes that, in the dark, definitely needed careful navigation, not just of inconveniently placed buildings but also of inconveniently placed foxes. But, we arrived safely and then all we needed was somewhere to park.
Padstow is quite simply a major tourist trap in the region. Even with the weather hovering between mediocre and foul, the tiny seaside town was bursting at the seams. We bypassed the first car park we came to, at the top of the town, which is served by a Park and Ride scheme. We assumed that by the time we would be leaving, around 10pm, the buses would probably have stopped running.
We bypassed the next one, at the bottom of the hill, just as you reach the harbour as well, and swung around the hairpin bend in the hopes that we would be able to park in the car park literally just across the road from the restaurant. No such luck. Still full even at the end of the day. As a result we were forced to navigate the one-way system through the town to get back to the second car park. It took ages as most of the tourists seemed to consider the town their personal pedestrian precinct (it isn't) and felt no need to get out of the way, even with a ton and a quarter of MG ZT up their arses!
Take my advice, park in the park at the bottom of the hill. It's only another couple of hundred metres away. They're all Pay and Show and you need a ticket 24 hours a day. Clearly Padstow knows when it's on to a good thing. Four hour's parking will cost you £3.
The other thing about this car park is that it's right by a couple of Rick's other outlets; a fish and chip shop and, next door, one of his two delis (the other one's in the middle of town). We had a rummage around in the deli but limited our purchases to a few bits and pieces. Most of his stuff is way outside my price bracket. However, it was worth a half hour or so to while away the time until our meal. Nice to see that he favours British fare and that extends to English wine as well. The restaurant operates a "shift" system for sittings. You can book for 7.00pm or 9.00pm for an evening meal. We had booked for 7.00pm, in view of our journey back to our accommodation afterwards.
The Seafood Restaurant underwent a major remodelling at the beginning of 2008 and so if you have visited in the past you will probably find it now looks very different from the last time you were there. It certainly doesn't look like the picture at the top of the page. The inside is all very clean lines and light wood finishes. White is the predominating colour but broken up with dozens of paintings on the walls, some of which are reproduced on the menus. We kept our menu as a souvenir; the restaurant was quite happy to let us. It will probably end up hanging on our wall!
The entrance area contains a few tables that are separate from the main restaurant and which run along floor to ceiling glass windows, which give great views of the car park across the road. I guess these are reserved for those lucky few who didn't book in advance! Could be that they have to wait here with their drink under the pitying gaze of passers-by whilst they wait to see if they will get fed that evening.
Rick's also offers seats at the bar in the centre of the room. We saw many contented diners there though whether their range of choice was the same as ours I'm not sure. Perhaps it was but I'm glad we had a table all the same.
We had had the forethought to book four weeks previously; two hundred miles is a long way you come when the only alternative is a cardboard carton of whelks. As it turned out though, this rainy Monday night saw Rick's not full and I'm guessing that those who took a chance got lucky. Our own experience probably confirms this; we would have been due to have been turfed out at 9.00pm to make room for the next party but in fact we stayed until nearly 10.00pm. Just as well actually, bearing in mind the menu.
As it happened, it was on this evening that Rick and his family also were dining here. Of course, with a celebrity in their midst, many people wanted a piece of his time and an autograph on the menu. Despite the fact that he was here with his family and friends, he gave over time to talk with many of his customers and seemed more than happy to take time rather than just "press the flesh".
The Seafood Restaurant has a standard menu, where you can choose each dish separately from First Courses and Main Courses. Of course, this is a seafood restaurant but, just in case there are those amongst your party who just don't eat fish, there are a couple of meat dishes, but literally only a couple. If that's a problem then why did they bother coming?
The dishes are done in all sorts of styles. For instance, amongst the First Courses you can find Sushi, pasta and French and amongst the Main Courses, traditional fish and chips and Monkfish Vindaloo! But, for those of us who like an assortment of tastes there is also available a "Tasting Menu", consisting of seven courses for £65 per person. This is what we chose.
We're having fish and a variety of different sorts and styles so we need a wine to go with this. Now, I know all about the "rules"; white wine with fish, red wine with meat. Well I'm sorry but I just think that's b******s. As long as the wine goes with the dish it really doesn't matter what colour it is. Rick's Wine Menu has just as many red wines as white and he only serves the bare minimum of meat dishes.
As it happened I spotted an absolutely superb white wine that we've had before. In fact, I've even bought it in France from where it comes from although for far less than you pay for it here in the UK, even with Rick's markup of around £10 per bottle. The wine in question is Jean-Marc Brocard's Bourgogne Vezelay. Vezelay is in L'Yonne, the department of France that is probably most famous for Chablis wine. This is the Burgundy region of France. Vezelay is a fortified town set on a hill and is probably most famous for you history buffs as being the place from which the Third Crusade set out for the Holy Land. Bourgogne Vezelay shares many characteristics with Chablis and, in my opinion, is invariably superior to it. At £26 a bottle I thought it was a snip.
The meal started with a Lobster Salad with a Chive Dressing. The lobster meat was mainly from the tastiest part of the lobster, the claws. The meat from the pincers had been extracted intact and was delicious. The chive dressing went very well with it.
The second course was Grilled Scallops with a Hazelnut and Coriander Butter dressing. Two scallops were deliver, still in and attached to their shells. These sat on what appeared to be a cooked seaweed layer. I did try a taste of the seaweed. I'm not sure if it was intended to be eaten or whether it was just for presentation but I wasn't impressed and ate no more. It was quite rubbery and relatively tasteless. The scallops, however, were superb.
The third course was Pan Fried Fillet of Red Mullet with Girolles and Rocket. Girolles, if you are not familiar with them, are tiny mushrooms, served whole. I am a big fan of red mullet and so I was very much looking forward to this. What the menu didn't mention was that in amongst the rocket there was some sun dried tomato. The taste of these with the mullet was a revelation. I could have done with more tomato but sadly there were only a few pieces!
The fourth course was a broth of Crab, Ginger and Coriander with Mussels, served oriental style in a Chinese soup bowl and with a Chinese china soup spoon. This was quite spicy, undoubtedly because of the ginger and made a very nice contrast with what had gone before.
The fifth course was Fillet of Sea Bass a la Plancha, served with Samphire and Beurre Blanc. I understand that this means that the fillet was cooked in a very hot skillet rather than grilled under a flame. Whatever, it tasted excellent and the samphire, which I've been wanting to try for ages but never have, was an eye-opener. I shall definitely be ordering that again.
The sixth course was our dessert. This was described as a Baked Chocolate Mousse, served with a mango and mint coulis. If no one had told me, I'm not sure I would have described it as a mousse. To my mind this was a typical soufflé but then one man's mousse is another man's soufflé. Whatever, I loved it and fortunately just about had enough room left to enjoy it.
Finally, the seventh course was the usual coffee, with Petit fours although, as I don't drink coffee, I had tea instead.
It was interesting to see that many of Rick's serving staff are quite young. The cynical might suggest that this is because he can get away with not paying them much. I have no idea how much they are paid but they all seemed very enthusiastic about their work. They were very smartly dressed and were attentive and polite with us throughout our meal. Undoubtedly working at The Seafood Restaurant would do no harm at all on your CV!
Our celebration meal at Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant was a great success. The meal was memorable and thoroughly enjoyable and it is certainly somewhere I would hope to visit again, maybe next time to sample some of the other dishes on the main menu. It is a very long way for us to travel for a meal though so I expect that we will probably combine it with a return to the Eden Project, maybe next Spring. With our first visit we get annual membership and free entry for the rest of the year so that will help to defray the costs.
The Seafood Restaurant has a well deserved reputation and if you have the chance I would strongly recommend a visit.
Life is sometimes full of interlocking events and happenings. I'm a surfer, so I like Cornwall and have a VW Beetle. Jamie Oliver is a celebrity chef who has a loveley VW and likes to surf in Cornwall. I like sea food. Rick Stein is a celebrity chef who makes great sea food recipes and has a restaurant on the sea front in Padstow Cornwall. I dont think he surfs or has a VW though and maybe that's the problem. I am lucky enough to have two lives. I live and work in the city and have an expense account lifestyle so I eat in lots of nice restaurants on the company account and know the difference between good service and snobbery. Evenings and weekends though I live in my surfing clothes and have a life. Therefore I am just as comfortable eating at Marco Pierre Whites Oak Room in Piccadily, or from a foil container from the local Chinese (which is brilliant). We had a family holiday for a week in Cornwall just prior to the eclipse, and to giev the family a break from the surfing lifestyle, I booked us into Rick Steins restaurant for lunch. There were four of us, including my wife and two young daughters. We looked forward to sampling the delights of Ricks T.V repetoire as Fiona and I love spicy sea food. First disapointment - We had booked as two adults and two children, however there was no childrens menu or alternatives to the main courses. We ended up with what the waitress described as fish and chips between them which was a small fillet of white fish (no sauce or batter, which kids tend to like) grilled in its skin and about ten chips...not inspiring or very filling. Second disapointment - A very lacklustre menu with no sign of the spicy delights from the T.V programmes. I ended up with the most exotic starter on the menu which was small smoked sausages and Scallops (ok but not mind blowing), and a Dover Sole grilled in sea salt (lacklustre). Fiona had something similar.
Third disapointment - The service. It wavered between innatentive and downright hostile and it was very clear that the children were not welcome. Fourth disapointment - The bill. We were in there for a little over an hour (and that was only because the staff ignored us for much of the time) and we only had water to drink as we had driven there. Add that to the disapointing amount and quality of food and £85.00 or thereabouts seems excessive. The decor is very light and airy, in a conservatory style and given better food and service would be an ideal backdrop for a special meal. We booked about 6 weeks in advance, and at the time we were advised that it was better to book a little further. You can stay here and have a gourmet weekend, but you had better get a bank loan first. Sorry Rick, love your programme with all the spices and exotic fish but the experience was rock bottom for me.