The Seafood Restaurant | Padstow (UK)

Rick Stein’s flagship restaurant felt more like a canteen, than a fine dining restaurant.
You have to be famous to get away with some of the prices!

On a beautiful Monday afternoon, we park our car near the harbour of the pretty fishing village of Padstow on the north coast of Cornwall (UK). We walk past Rick Stein’s Seafood Bar and Fishmongers, Stein’s Fish and Chips and Stein’s Deli, to end up at The Seafood Restaurant.

The talk of Padstow denotes a begrudging local respect and affection for a man whose fame long predates the Age of Chefs. Rick Stein has brought millions in tourism and investment, created numerous jobs, and basically turned Padstow into a touristic hotspot.
The most celebrated of his establishments, the Seafood Restaurant, has a glasshouse front and large main room with elliptical bar in the centre. It overlooks a car park and faces Rock, across the Estuary.

The Seafood Restaurant was opened in 1975 by Rick Stein and his wife Jill. Since November 1998, so for almost 19 years, the Head Chef of the restaurant is Stephane Delourme. At the age of 16, Stephane started an apprenticeship at Sully D’ Auteuil**, moved to London in 1989 where he worked at The Hilton on Park Lane amongst others. Returned to France in 1994 to work at restaurant Prunier** in Paris. Stephane also worked on the famous cruise liner QE2 and in Dublin at restaurant Patrick Guilbaud**. After a few years of traveling, Stephane and his wife moved to Cornwell to settle down. After just 6 months working with Rick Stein, Stephane was promoted to Head Chef at The Seafood Restaurant.

The Seafood Restaurant is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. The à la carte menu is quite extensive with 7 Appetisers (at £3-£7.95), 17 Starters (at £9.95-£29.50), 14 Mains (at £19.95-£65), 7 Sides (at £4.50), 7 Desserts (at £7.50-£8.90) and a Cheeseboard (at £11.50). They also offer a 3-course Set Lunch Menu (at £42.95).

We had dinner 3 weeks ago and made our selection from the à la carte menu.

Bread, Salted Butter, Brandade and Olives
Bread, Salted Butter, Brandade and Olives

White bread and nut bread, which was a bit dried out. The nut bread was quite dense as well. The brandade was fine. The last time I was served olives as an appetiser was at The French Horn in Sonning-on-Thames and before that, it was in the eighties I think….

Croquettas de Jamon Iberico de bellota
Croquettas de Jamon Iberico de bellota (£3.50)
Deep Fried Camarones with Aioli (£3.50)

The croquettas were okay. Flavoursome with a nice crunchy crust. The camarones (also known as Caridean Shrimp) were tiny and deep frying them makes them even smaller. They were fresh and tasty, but nothing special really.

Grilled Scallop with Pea Puree and Serano Ham
Grilled Scallop with Pea Puree and Serano Ham (£16.95)

The scallops were nice and fresh, but you wouldn’t expect less in a place like this. One scallop was half the size of the other, which is particularly obvious when you only serve two. Just for the record, I left the bigger one for Joanne. Pea puree and crispy Serano ham with pea shoots on top. Nothing wrong with that, just a bit boring. And there was way too much pea puree to go with the scallop.

Mussels with Yellow Kroeung, Coconut Milk and Kaffir Lime Leaves
Mussels with Yellow Kroeung, Coconut Milk and Kaffir Lime Leaves (£14.50)

Mussels with lovely curry sauce. Yellow Kroeung is a typical Cambodian curry pasta used as a base in a lot of dishes, especially soups and dips. Not to spicy but full of flavour, a tasty sauce that went really well with the mussels. Some mussels were a bit gritty, which was a shame. Also had two closed mussels on the plate. A bit more care during the cleaning and prepping of the mussels would be good I think. Mentioned it to the waiter, but no real reply. Don’t even remember hearing an apology.

Indonesian Seafood Curry with Sea Bass, Cod & Prawns
Indonesian Seafood Curry with Sea Bass, Cod & Prawns (£34)

Served with pilau rice and a green bean and grated coconut salad with crisp fried shallots. Unlike the sauce with the mussels, this curry sauce was quite spicy. Lovely with the fish and prawns, but spicy. Nice crunch from the blanched green beans and bean sprouts. Firm fish and good prawns. But spicy!!!

Padstow Lobster Risotto
Padstow Lobster Risotto (£34)

From Rick Stein latest book Secret France. Made with white wine, cognac, tarragon, tomatoes and garlic. The risotto rice had the right texture and was cooked nicely. However, the total dish lacked creaminess and was too watery. For that price I would have liked to see more lobster. I think I found 3 pieces. Nice flavours and taste, but underwhelming.

Panna Cotta with Coconut Crumble, Blackberries & Blueberries
Panna Cotta with Coconut Crumble, Blackberries & Blueberries (£8.90)

Joanne didn’t feel like dessert anymore. I had the panna cotta, just to get an idea of the pastry section. The panna cotta had a nice wobble and was okay, but lacked flavour. This was made up by the berries. So overall I liked the dessert. Funny that all the blackberries and blueberries were cut in half. That was a first for me.

I expected an evening of fine dining at Rick Stein’s flagship restaurant, but was quite disappointed. Sitting at a too small table, the packed restaurant reminded me of an all-inclusive 3-star hotel on Crete. That also goes for the staff and the way they served the food with haste, without any explanation of what is on the plate, the way they laid the cutlery the wrong way round and the way you needed to attract the attention of the staff when you need something.. It really felt more like a canteen, than a fine dining restaurant.

The food that comes out of the kitchen is simple and most of it not very special. From a chef that worked at a number of 2-starred restaurants, I really expect a lot more. But more important, some dishes really had issues, like the gritty mussels and a watery risotto. When I pay £34 for a lobster risotto it needs to be perfect and I need to see some lobster. And when you charge the same for that seafood curry, I liked it, but honestly, you have to be famous to get away with those prices!

The Seafood Restaurant may attract tourists, hoping for a lucky glimpse of Rick Stein, but next time in Padstow I will give it a miss. Maybe we try Stein’s Fish and Chips instead!