The plan to eat at Rick Stein’s most famous and prestigious restaurant, in the place where his empire was born, Padstow in Cornwall, began with my birthday. Nicola and Rachael gave me a lovely card, a print of a view of Padstow harbour, and promised me a trip there to eat at The Seafood Restaurant. The fact that my birthday is in April and it took us six months to get here isn’t important – a special and good thing is always worth waiting for. And of course one can’t spend 5 or so hours driving across the country for one meal, however good it is, so the meal turned into a weekend away.
Nicola and Rachael had eaten at the restaurant before, being regular visitors to the area, and had decided it would be nice to arrive early so we could have an aperitif in the glasshouse at the front. They ordered a bottle of Camel Valley ‘champagne’, made from Pinot Noir grapes in nearby Bodmin.
I can tell you that Cornish sparkling wine is excellent. Some complimentary little mackerel appetisers came too and very good Kalamata olives.
When we moved through into the dining room, it was a large open space with white walls and an eclectic selection of paintings on the wall. In the centre is a bar area – apparently a no-booking seafood bar. It’s an attractive mix of informal and sophisticated with a nice atmosphere, making it a relaxing place to eat.
We had different starters. Nicola chose Lobster & Fennel Risotto which was delicious (she gave me a taste), with a lovely creaminess, rich flavour and the rice perfectly al dente, just as you’d find in Italy.
Rachael chose Langoustines served simply on ice.
My choice was Seared Scallops with Salt Baked Celeriac, Apple Purée au beurre de Cidre.
These were gorgeous: sweet and perfectly cooked so still tender.
Nicola and I chose the same main: Grilled Whole Boned Red Mullet, Stuffed with Crab Meat, Chilli and Basil, served with chargrilled fennel.
I chose this partly because Rick Stein often says red mullet is his favourite – or one of his favourites – fish, so it seemed appropriate. It’s also a fish I like but rarely think to buy. It was a lovely combination of flavours. Rachael had opted for Fillet of Hake Goan Curry.
She said it was delicious and offered me a taste, but I didn’t think it would go well with what I was eating so took her word for its excellence. We drank some Gewürztraminer with our meal. The waiter had been very helpful about recommending wine to match our food, and as each dish had some spiciness to it, this was a perfect choice and really delicious.
Even when you’ve eaten well and are quite full, a special meal can’t end without dessert – or as the girls decided, cheese, for they shared a plate of local cheeses.
I took the sweet option and ordered chocolate fondant that came with coffee creme Anglaise and ice cream. I asked to swap the Bailey’s ice cream (because I would never eat anything flavoured with Bailey’s – not my thing) to simple vanilla, which I thought would go better. This was no problem.
It was one of the best chocolate fondants I’ve ever eaten: gorgeously soft and gooey inside and a wonderfully light sponge outside. The staff (who were throughout friendly and efficient) picked up this was a birthday celebration (they didn’t know how late!) and we were delighted when a little celebration plate arrived for me.
It was definitely worth waiting six months for such a lovely present. I’ve wanted to go to The Seafood Restaurant for such a long time and had a wonderful evening of great food with two of my favourite people.