Ok, ok I give in. I surrender. All hail the god of Stein. Yes, I’ve arrived in Padstow and, while I’d heard it had been re-named Padstein some years back, I had no idea the extent or the level of Mr Rick’s influence. This Cornish coastal town is almost a Rick Stein theme park – even the late departed Chalky the dog lives on here, flogging his very own beer.
If you haven’t bought the T shirt, the book, the mugs, the bags, the fish and chips or the bottled mussels before you leave this town, I fear fishy suited checkpoints will have been set up to search vehicles heading north to ensure the requisite amount of merchandising has been purchased.
We arrived at lunch time and the first evidence of the great chef’s presence is the huge fish shed of a building which is home to the seafood cookery school. We could see some cheffing hopefuls hard at it through the round windows of the top level of this impressive take on a traditional fish warehouse.
Underneath is the Stein’s fish and chip shop, where queues were already forming in the rain to sample the wares, then there’s the deli with its impressive counter of fresh fish and its bottles, jars, cups, plates and of course books.
This is where you can pick up some of Chalky’s brew – in a gift presentation pack with a glass if required.
It’s all quite overwhelming. We head towards the harbour and come across the next part of the Stein empire – the seafood restaurant and bar. Prices there are steep – £65 a head for the tasting menu.
So we head off to discover an non-Stein establishment, perhaps a local enterprise looking to cash in on the success of the celebrity chef. Round the corner of the road and what do we see? The Stein patisserie with pasties and assorted loveliness.
This is getting spooky now, I’m looking over my shoulder to see if the man himself is perhaps monitoring our every move.
At last we spied a likely looking place, Pesacdou perusing the menu outside (a very reasonable £9 for mussels) and noting the Michelin’s on display we decided to throw our lot in with this as a contrary stab at a Stein avoidance tactic.
Oh no we don’t. Being one minute too late for service (having spent five outside the door) we were turned away. What is wrong with British businesses that they do this? If you’re open for business, you’re open. If you’re not open – take your menu board off the street and close the door. Don’t watch people perusing your menu until the clock ticks past your self-appointed hour.
The other explanation could be that we hadn’t paid our dues to the Stein I suppose. Perhaps there’s a pecking order here.
So we headed to yet another of his establishments – the St Petroc’s Bistro. Here I enjoyed the most generous fish pasta Provencal with linguine and heaps of that underrated fish ling cooked with fragrant fennel seeds and tomato.
He tucked into a plate of smoked Toulouse sausage, which I’m convinced featured in the boat trip through France programme, with a dressing of mustard and capers. Dodging the rain, we just about managed to eat outdoors, the service was charmingly unhurried and we did thoroughly enjoy it.
Which just goes to prove, when in Padstein….roll with Rick.
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