Seafood Restaurant

Riverside, Padstow, England, PL28 8BY, United Kingdom

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The pretty fishing port of Padstow is nicknamed “Padstein”,and indeed it is hard to go more than a few yards without bumping into some sort of outlet of TV chef Rick Stein, with a patisserie, café, fish and chip shop and cookery school just some of the premises that he owns. The flagship Seafood Restaurant opened in 1975, and has a light, airy dining room that would overlook the sea if the local council had not put a car-park directly in front of the place. There is a conservatory for drinks, and a central bar area around which the tables are arrayed. There is a £35 three-course lunch menu, while in the evening the a la carte offers starters in the range £10 - £26.50 and main courses £20.50 - £44. 

The wine list has a dozen or so pages and includes choices such as Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2004 at £35 for a wine that costs around £13 to buy in the shops, the basic buy enjoyable Guigal Cotes de Rhone 2005 at a hefty £27 for a wine that can be found for £7 in the shops, and Felton Road Pinot Noir 2005 for £51 compared to a retail price of perhaps £16. 

Fish soup arrived in a generous tureen, served with croutons and rouille. It was pleasantly made and properly seasoned, and had decent fish flavour, but this is a dish that can be made really striking if you are prepared to invest in enough seafood ingredients (as Nico Ladenis used to do), but this was merely pleasant bistro standard, with a slightly grainy texture (13/20). The best dish was lemon sole, a fish that can be very dull but here was clearly very fresh, grilled nicely and served with olives, capers and rosemary, a few sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies and a little parsley; simple but good (15/20). 

My sea bass was a generous fillet, again palpably fresh and cooked well, served with tomatoes and a vinaigrette flavoured with too much vanilla (14/20). On the side were some distinctly poor vegetables: carrots were seriously overcooked, fine beans barely cooked at all and hard, while new potatoes were fine. However the beans and carrots were real schoolboy errors (10/20). 

For dessert, raspberry tart suffered from rock-hard pastry, and raspberries that were merely pleasant in flavour; these were not lovingly selected as far as I could tell (11/20). Panna cotta with cherry compote involved tasteless cherries but a surprisingly delicate tuile garnish (13/20). The waiting staff, at least two of whom were students working over the summer, was well-drilled and friendly. The bill for two was £84 with just a glass of wine each without service. 

Overall, while the fish itself was clearly fresh and simply but well-prepared, but there were glaring errors in technique elsewhere that would shame a basic pub. Bearing in mind that the price of the simple lunch here was more than that at several Michelin-starred restaurants in London, it is hard not to conclude that this is a fairly cynical operation to separate tourists who enjoy Rick’s TV programme from their money. It has, in places, decent food, but represents poor value for money in my view. This seemed to trouble the other diners not one jot, so I can hardly blame the owner for cashing in.


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User comments

  • Alex Brown

    My wife and I have had the pleasure of dining here twice. The first time, was one of the best meals I have ever eaten, although this was down to the quality of the ingredients of the Fruits de Mer we shared. Our second visit, my wife discovered the amazing Oyster Charentiaise starter, my Turbot was perfectly cooked, but the side orders were poor. I think that Rick has different approach to his restaurants than tradition fine dining establishments.

  • John Eyers

    Anyone who adds mussels to a classic coquilles St. Jacques deserves the removal of any accolade. A bitter disappointment. Avoid totally and go to No. 6

  • Ross Bennett

    Oh dear Mr Stein. What a let down this turned out to be after driving all the way from Northern Ireland. Food of this standard I expect in my local pub and get. Enough said about this money making machine. Love your blog Andy. Would love your job.

  • alan fowle

    My wife and I went here 2 years ago staying at the hotel we of course ate in the restaurant and the food and service were both so very ordinary that I felt the ire rising in me I felt precisely as Andy did , that punters are lured here with the promise that the high standards of taste evinced by Rick in his many TV programmes would as it were be made flesh - they were not and after the meal I told them so -they were suitably embarrassed and did not protest when I pointed out the ordinariness of the food the amateur service and the head waiter who spent the whole time talking to the staff at the desk and ignoring the customers. The fact that when we arrived at the hotel at around 2.15pm a lot of fuss was made about cooking us a simple meal (its rather late) probably put me in a certain mood -an 8 hour journey by car does leave one with the need for a little sustenance. All in all a let down- although I love the area having been here many times on summer holidays as a child.