I like to think of myself as relatively unaffected by the cult of celebrity. Buying in on celebrity endorsements more often than not leads to disappointment. Frankie’s springs to mind. Why I thought that an Italian restaurant owned by a Jockey and keffiyeh sporting Yorkshireman would be much cop is anyone’s guess. It is however nigh on impossible (perhaps even illegal) to visit Padstow and not some how add to the coffers of Rick Stein. I will confess upfront that I am Stein fan. I’d much rather watch Rick, with his affable charm and reverent enthusiasm, than most of his contemporaries. You wouldn’t find Rick launching a four letter tirade against an artisan cheesemaker or calling everyone he meets Brother.
So, I was looking forward to a Christmas trip to Padstow, but at the same time hoping that I wouldn’t go away disappointed. With a mix of eateries, deli’s and a pub operating in or around Padstow, pretty much any culinary mood or wallet is catered for. We decide to keep it simple and head down to Padstow’s South Quay and Stein’s Fish & Chips. It’s the week of Christmas and although Padstow itself is showing little signs of life we join a short queue on the quayside.
The windows are slightly steamed but as we are buffeted by the Atlantic wind we can make out white tiled walls and rows of shared tables. A family seated on stools facing out look slightly bemused as the queue gawp at their food. I would imagine that having a cagouled pensioner pointing at your Hake isn’t that conducive to a great dining experience; but then this isn’t fine dining. It’s fish & chips, as it should be and in fact used to be. Battered fish is fried in beef dripping and there is a good selection of fish on offer. Battered oyster, scallop and squid makes for a nice starter before digging into the main. Not a hint of pea puree pervades the menu with chip shop staples of mushy peas, bread & butter, curry and tartare sauce.
To wash it down there’s Chalky’s Bark and Bite, named after Stein’s famous terrier and brewed at Sharp‘s. I’ve had Chalky’s Bark in the past but this was a first opportunity to be Bitten. Chalky, as he did on occasion, stole the show. At 6.8% it lives up to its name. Maturation of 3 months, use of Cornish wild fennel and 3 hop varieties make for a great beer to compliment the best fish and chips I’ve had in years.
Stein’s Fish & Chips, South Quay, Padstow, Cornwall