Colorfully painted houses in Padstow, Cornwall.
Having watched a few of his cooking shows over the years, it was quite a treat to spend time in the village and taste a sample 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.
Our first stop was Stein’s Deli, stocking pastries, chocolates, biscuits, baked goods, cheeses, loads of pantry items and a good selection of crockery and kitchen tools. Most of them are sold under the brand Rick Stein, while some candles and soaps are branded under Jill Stein, his ex-wife. I visited the deli around 5 pm, just in time to get leftover pastries and bread at half price. The haddock pastry was delicious, and I also stocked up on some Cornish sea salt and some local chili sauces.
“It has been worth noting the strong sense of support for local artisans and farmers in all the products carried here”
Next to the deli is Stein’s Fish & Chips. A queue was building for the 5 pm opening time. All the items on the menu are grilled or fried in beef drippings (so good!), and it is also possible to order a meal cooked with gluten-free batter. The batter on our goujons was super crisp, the onion rings were top notch and the Rick Stein-labeled wine paired perfectly.
A walk through the village the next morning led us to Stein’s Bakery, brimming with bakes, pasties, pastries and mountains of meringues. Not far away is Stein’s Gift Shop, a retail outlet for all things Rick Stein: crockery, kitchenware, souvenirs, gadgets and Rick Stein cookbooks. Nearby is the Cookery School, which offers courses between several hours long to some 4-day extravaganzas. We walked away with a beautiful serving bowl that I can not wait to use – and photograph.
Next to the deli is Rick Stein’s Fishmongers, where you can purchase a range of fish and shellfish to cook at home. Adjacent to the fishmonger is a small oyster bar where you can taste some delicious moules marinière, cooked in front of you while you sit at the counter. There are various options from seafood platters to champagne and oysters, to satisfy all appetites and budgets.
“The service made us feel walking into a business where people enjoy what they do, with gracious hospitality at each of these establishments”
Our last Rick Stein taster was a prix fixe lunch at St Petroc’s, a bistro with ten bedrooms decorated by Jill, where we had a starter of fish cakes with a tartare sauce that was really superb. The hake main course was perfectly cooked, and the melanzane was packed with rich tomato flavors.
There have been lots said about the massive presence Rick Stein has in the town. As an outsider who only spent three days in the area, I can’t really have an opinion, but it has been worth noting the strong sense of support for local artisans and farmers in all the products carried here. The service made us feel walking into a business where people enjoy what they do, and the hospitality experienced at each of his establishments was gracious and friendly, with each member of staff committed to assisting at all times.
But Padstow has much more on offer than just Rick Stein’s establishments. We also had a fantastic lunch at Barnaby’s, sister restaurant to Prawn on the Lawn, featuring wood-fired sharing plates with a strong emphasis on Middle Eastern and Northern African flavors, which we love. The dessert was so good too - a spiced quince cheesecake made with thick, delicious Cornish cream, for a rich and memorable ending. It’s also available as an ice cream, so make sure you get a scoop or two when you visit!