A birthday trip to Padstein Padstow
Padstow is a beautiful little town and despite all my ravings about how much I like Cornwall I had never actually been there. Once I finally twigged our destination on the magical mystery weekend I automatically assumed we would be taking in one of the venues in the Stein enterprise. What I didn’t know was just how many there are! There is even a gift shop! There is talk that locals’ aren’t too happy with the monopoly the celebrity chef has on the town but then again I’m sure the steady stream of income from tourists is welcome. Much has been written about the influence of Rick Stein on the little seaside town and its easier just to say, I’m not planning to cover it.
In true foodie-tourist style we went for dinner there as part of our stay. I had expected it to be busy given its stature but I was a little surprised to see how many tables were wedged into the dining space, our table of two felt a little overlooked by our neighbours and it took some rejigging to be able to fit everything on it once food and drink arrived.
The menu is printed daily and has a wide range of choices, certainly it there were plenty of dishes I would have happily ordered, nothing seemed over complicated or fussy and options like the Singapore Chilli Crab are good choices for those that haven’t had it before. We ordered and had a small sampler arrive before our starters arrived, I went for the fairly straightforward option of Grilled Scallops with hazelnut and coriander butter. My theory was that in somewhere like this, the simple options would be the best way to experience good quality food cooked well. This approach paid off as my scallops were well sized, well cooked and well…. tasty! A touch of peppery herbs and the crunch of hazelnuts from the butter were all that was needed to highlight their sweetness and delicate texture. It says a lot that this was the first time I’ve ever eaten the coral and enjoyed it.
Jordan ordered deep-fried prawns in a coconut batter with papaya, orange and habanero, it’s almost like we ordered for each other as this would certainly be where my interests would normally lie. Obviously we shared both plates and whilst the habanero sauce was a touch too spicy for me, the prawns themselves were well cooked and the batter had just a hint of coconut so it wasn’t too sweet. A good start.
Main courses followed and I ordered the seared Ray as I’d not tried it before, it was served with prawns (another reason for choosing it), courgettes and minted potatoes on the side. The ray wing was large and it took me a while to work out how I was supposed to eat it. The meat itself was tender, doused in a brown butter and well-seasoned but it’s not the prettiest of dishes. Having not eaten it before I have nothing to compare it to but found it pleasant enough with a mild, unobtrusive flavour. The prawns were closer to the small brown shrimp you would expect to find potted and revelled as a being part of our British culinary heritage. They were nice enough but not quite what I was expecting. I ate the potatoes mostly because they came with them meal but would probably have been happier with some vegetables instead.
Jordan’s main was similar to the ‘Jungle Curry’ on the menu at Sabai Sabai and in this instance was just as hot. I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to chilli heat but he can normally handle more than I can so for him to declare it was ‘a bit too hot’ was a pretty unusual statement. I tried it and was somewhat dismayed because the combination of sea bass, hake, prawns and squid mixed with coconut and crispy shallots and a pungent aroma is rather enticing. The miniscule amount I tried was too hot for me and I ate some of the pilau rice to try to disperse the heat radiating from my tongue.
In addition to this, we failed at the game of ‘Padron roulette’ as several of our peppers were also unbearably hot and provoked memories of cartoon characters breathing fire.
It was at this point that the meal took a different turn, we waited some time for our table to be cleared and had to pester staff for some more drinks despite having empty glasses on our table for some time. We were already pretty convinced that the double G&T’s we had ordered were actually singles but the half empty bottles of tonic were also whisked off the table although we didn’t realise instantly what they had done. We discussed our dessert choices before discovering we both had different menus and having to get them replaced. Another lengthy wait and we called someone over to take our order.
My crème brulee arrived with a homemade biscotti and topped with a raspberry sorbet. It also had a happy birthday message piped on the plate. Concealed under the layer of cream and cracked sugar were a cluster of soft squidgy raspberries, overall I was quite pleased with it and the biscotti in particular was very good.
Jordan on the other hand ordered Poached peaches with redcurrants and lemongrass ice cream. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him look so bemused by a dish but after trying it I quickly understood why. The peaches had lost their texture and tasted syrupy and sickly, whilst denied by the staff when we asked, they really did look and taste like they had come straight out of a tin. The ice cream was equally disappointing with no defining flavour and no even the slightest whiff of lemongrass.
This marks the first (and currently last) time I have ever seen Jordan send a dish back. It just wasn’t good enough especially for £9. We didn’t get an apology but were told that the peaches certainly didn’t come from a tin and that the ice cream was made in-house. Regardless of whether that is or isn’t true it was still substandard. He was asked if he wanted to order something else but by this point we had faffed about for long enough waiting to get served and didn’t feel particularly enamoured by the service.
The bill arrived, minus the peaches and we waved our arms around until someone paid enough attention to us to take our payment so we could make a sharp exit.
Good Seafood. Average service. Incorrect drinks orders. Poor service….
We didn’t tip.
Riverside, Padstow PL28 8BY