“ South Quay / Padstow / Cornwall. „
I've been to Padstow twice now and it's a lovely little village. Most people will know it for Rick Stein and when you get there you cannot escape him for the amount of business in the place with his name on them. The most famous of these is 'The Seafood Restuarant,' his main seafood eatery. The menu looks divine but the freshest seafood cooked by a celebrity chef (or his team at least) has a price tag to match and, alas, we couldn't quite stretch to eat there, this time.
For those with a fewer spare pennies but still dying to try the fresh Padstow fish that Mr. Stein has made so famous might want to opt for his Fish and Chip shop instead. This is just round the corner from the main restaurant, situated overlooking the harbour. There are two parts to it, the part where you can sit inside and have your order brought to your table, or the other side which is the take away part.
It was a fairly chilly day so we opted to sit inside. The amount of seating is limited and it was busy. The only seats we were offered were sitting next to each other on these long canteen style tables. Sitting opposite us was a man who'd taken over two seats for himself and just had a bottle of wine and was doing the whole swiiling it around and tasting it bit! Fine, but in a Fish and Chip shop? Plus I didn't particularly want to sit and watch him, I wanted to talk to the person I was with, but it was difficult considering the seating setup. Behind us was a table of very loud children that seemed to be taking two waitresses attention. After sitting for about 10 minutes with no one noticing us, I was about to tell the guy what to do with his wine so we opted to go to the take away next door and eat on the windy harbour.
The menu for the sit-in part and the take way part was the same, except for the prices. All the take away fish was £1-£2 cheaper than next door. They do all the usual Battered Cod, Haddock, Plaice etc that you would get from your local chippy but also Lemon Sole, John Dory and Monkfish. All of the fish you could have battered or grilled. I thought this would good for the health concious, but we went for battered anyway! All of the prices of the fish include chips with them which I though was good. Every other Fish and Chips shop I've been to you order them separately and it's a good portion to. Neither of us could finish them all.
My partner was ever so adventurous and went for Cod, I opted for Monkfish. The portions of fish we got were very generous too, and beautifully cooked. The Monkfish was meaty and delicious and the batter was fairly light and not too greasy. We both remarked on how little grease was in the bottom of our boxes when we'd finshed compared to the usual amount left on the wrappings from our local shop. I was expecting to pay around £8-£12 for Fish with Chips on top before we got there, being Rick Stien's chippy after all. In fact I was very plesantly surprised. The prices were pretty normal. My partners Cod was £6.40, remember that's chips included. My Monkfish was £10.75, ok that's a lot for Fish and Chips, but conisering it was Monkfish, I still think this is reasonable.
Overall, I was very impressed with the food and the prices. It is probably the best Fish and Chips I've ever had. Well if Rick Stein can't do the best fish and Chips, who can? I wish he'd sort out his horrible little sit-in part of the Chip shop though, it was much nicer sitting by the harbour, even if a hungry seagull did have his eye on my lunch!
Stein's Fish and Chips
Celebrity chef Rick Stein is so prevalent in Padstow, and brings so much custom into the pretty harbour town, that it can only be a matter of time before the local dignitaries approve changing its name to Stein's Padstow. At the time of writing Stein has four restaurants and two deli / gift shops all within a hundred yards or so of the harbour front. At the top of the tree is his flagship Seafood Restaurant, opened in 1975 and offering an excellent choice of mainly fish dishes with prices you'd expect from such a famous chef. Next on the list is St. Petroc's Bistro, a more relaxed place that also offers very good food at prices that are slightly more reasonable than the Seafood Restaurant but still not for the faint hearted. Further down the food chain there is Rick Stein's Café, a place where you can drop in for a coffee and a slice of cake or a three course meal. The final piece of the jigsaw is Stein's Fish and Chips, situated on the South Quay.
Sited in an industrial looking building overlooking the quay where the fishing fleet unload their catches, Stein's Fish and Chips sits alongside his Deli / Gift shop and various other retail outlets. It's a chippy, but not like many you'll have seen before. The décor is reminiscent of an old fashioned fish mongers with plenty of bright white tiling overlaid with pale blue fish designs and lettering, the overall impression being clean and fresh. The restaurant is split into two sections, the take-away counter and the seating area. The take-away section is based around a large serving counter, manned by several blue and white dressed staff. Service at this counter is brisk, the food being served in white cardboard boxes with all the usual condiments you'd expect close to hand.
The seating area has three long wooden benches, each capable of holding 10-12 customers. There are a small number of high chairs available.
Stein's Fish and Chips
Lunch:- 12:00 - 2:30 PM
Dinner:- 5:00 - 9:00 PM
Sunday:- 12:00 - 6:00 PM
You cannot make reservations at Stein's Fish and Chips so it is a matter of turning up and taking your chances. In high season and other busy times you will invariably have to queue, either before the restaurant opens or for seats to be made available if you wish to eat in. Outside, there are two cordoned off areas, one for those queuing for the take-away counter and one for those looking for seats. It is usual to see queues forming up to 30 minutes before the doors open, even for the take-away. Throughout the opening times expect to see queues for seating.
Once the doors are open things happen at a brisk pace. Within minutes the early arrivals are leaving with their take-away's and that queue quickly clears. If you are lucky enough to be at the front of the seating queue you will be shown to the benches where you are expected to find your own place. With the benches full you will be elbow to elbow with strangers but there is plenty of room. A menu will be waiting for you and within minutes a waitress will be round to take your order.
The menu lists the usual fish and chip fare of cod, haddock and plaice but there are several more exotic options as well such as john dory, gurnard and monkfish tails. There is a selection of side dishes including mushy peas and curry sauce and a children's menu is available. The fish is either deep fried in batter or griddled and all come with chips. Prices range from £5 - £10 per dish. The restaurant is licensed so there is a selection of beers and wine available as well as soft drinks.
The restaurant operates at such a pace that there is precious little time for interaction with the staff. They are, however, very efficient and courteous and despite working at a high tempo never transfer the sense of pace to the customer. Although you are not expected to linger, and the seating doesn't encourage a long sitting, you never feel rushed despite the lengthening queue outside.
Your order is taken within minutes of arrival and you can expect your food and drinks to be delivered within 5 minutes of that. Once your food has arrived you are unlikely to be bothered again unless you attract their attention. Trays are not removed as soon as you've finished the last morsel and your bill will not come until you ask for it. When you have finished your meal and been given the bill, payment is taken at a till by the take-away counter.
Now this is why you come to a Rick Stein restaurant and despite the humble roots you won't be disappointed. Stein is proud of the claim that the majority of his fish is caught off the coast of Cornwall and is brought directly to his restaurants and this is reflected in the quality of the food on offer. The food is cooked to order and there appears to be no stinting in the preparation or ingredients. The batter is a deep golden colour and flaky rather than soggy and the chips are dry and crispy and taste how you always hope chips will. The food is served in the same white cardboard boxes as are used for the take-aways but you are given real cutlery to use. On the tables are plenty of condiments.
I went for the monkfish tails in batter and these were moist and chunky and bursting with flavour. My wife had the plaice and the speed at which it disappeared is testament to its quality. Quite simply it was the best fish and chips I'd had in my life.
For a famous chef to open a fish and chip shop could be seen as a strange decision, but for Rick Stein and his passion for fish it is a natural progression and provides an excellent option alongside his more celebrated restaurants. Our meal for two came to about £20 with alcohol and although this is rather more than you'd normally expect to pay for a fish supper does represent great value for the quality of food you're eating.
You may have noticed that I've used the word 'queue' in this review an inordinate amount of times but if you want to eat in you will have to wait for anything up to 30 minutes at busy times, but that's the only negative I can come up with. Don't worry though, it's worth the wait.
The place has a great bustling feel to it and whether you're eating in or taking away you will not be disappointed. As much as I love my local Fryday's chippy, Stein's is a world away.