Rick Stein’s Fish & Chips, Local Fudge & Cornish Ice Cream in Padstow
While we enjoyed some pretty big hitters as far as fine dining reservations were concerned during our very food-heavy trip to North Cornwall, there was something a bit more casual I wanted one lunchtime way more than I wanted a Cornish pasty: fish and chips from Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop on Padstow Harbour. I’d heard excellent things about the fresh fish and out of this world chips, but I did wonder if it would really live up to all the hype – and the price tag that comes much steeper than your usual chippy!
Rick Stein’s fish and chip shop is part of a custom built complex on the harbour, in the middle of the two main car parks (get there early for a meal, as they get very full, especially during the holiday season!) which is basically Rick Stein land; this is where his cookery school is based, as well as a shop and deli, fishmonger, seafood bar and of course the chippy. You can eat in in, of course, but its a bit dark so I’d only recommend it on a rainy day. Get your fish from the takeaway side and head around the back where you think there would be bins, but there are instead a load of blue picnic tables in the sunshine by the cookery school entrance.
So how were the fish and chips? Well, we went down a bit of a less traditional route. With her chips my Mum had some birthday scallops – simply grilled (but you can also choose to have them battered) and served with lots of lemon, parsley and an Asian dressing on the side. They were a pretty generous portion at £9.95 for four, and she enjoyed them immensely. Now my Dad and I had planned on battered fish, but walking past the fishmonger to get into the chippy, we saw a sign in the window advertising a special offer, 2 for £14 on dressed crabs. It was a no brainer, really; I popped next door for the crabs while he waited for the chips and scallops. It was one of the best food ideas we’ve ever had. It was easily one of the best dressed crabs we’ve ever encountered, generously packed with white and brown meat, claws, and not leaving you feeling like a lot of the good stuff had been stolen out to be sold off elsewhere. The meat was also beautifully light, fresh, clean and sweet.
And what about those chips? It seems that cooking chippy chips in beef dripping (you can ask for a veggie option) is the answer. Crisp, tasty and tender in the middle, these were not anything posh or fancy, they were traditional chip shop chips (obviously doused in malt vinegar with a generous amount of salt) but they were just better.
After lunch we walked down the the main harbour. Padstow is very much a small fishing town that, thanks to Rick Stein tourists have discovered. (Seriously, the ‘Padstein’ thing is not a joke, it is like his name is on everything!) There is not much there that is not to do with tourism or eating out unless you’re a local fisherman, so while I’d say it would be a great place to stay if you want to get out in the car during the day, but have somewhere great each night to walk to for dinner, but if like us you’re staying elsewhere, just a lunchtime pitstop is enough.
However, it was the perfect place to hunt down some Cornish fudge, a bringing back fond memories of our first family trip to the very tip of Cornwall when I was ten. After peering into a few shop windows that seemed to go down the mass production route, we found Buttermilk, a local fudge business with a pretty shop front and a glass covered counter full of traditional – and a few less traditional – flavours, all sold by the chunk and expertly sliced for you into a paper bag to enjoy. I went for strawberries and cream, my childhood favourite, and it was beautifully rich and creamy, the strawberry bright and zingy, and the fudge itself beautifully tender and fresh, with just the right amount of crumble.
Stashing our fudge in my Mum’s Barbour pockets (my handbag had something of a mishap earlier in the afternoon that meant that the inside needed to try out a bit before I could put anything susceptible to water inside!) we went in search for something else we’d not had yet but was absolutely essential for a trip to the seaside: ice cream! My parents went for Mr. Whippy’s from the ice cream van, but I, both motivated by the wish to have something made with Cornish cream, and remembering the childhood trauma of having a seagull dive bomb my ice cream for my flake on a Cornish harbour some sixteen years ago, headed to Roskilly‘s, who make a variety of traditional flavours with their organic Cornish cream for a truly excellent mint chocolate chip in a waffle cone, which I enjoyed walking back along the harbour to the car.
All three foodie addresses we visited that afternoon in Padstow I’d greatly recommend.