Restaurant review: The Seafood Restaurant, Riverside, Padstow, Cornwall

Does Rick Stein's flagship Padstow place float Amol Rajan's boat?

It's the locals rather than the tourists who refer to this curious patch of north Cornwall as "Padstein". From where I'm sitting, in a charming B'n'B, it's not as beautiful as other parts of north Cornwall (Trebarwith Strand, for instance); and the dilapidated harbour and seafront would displease discerning aesthetes. But for the gastronome, it is that sacred thing: a "destination".

The talk of "Padstein" 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 thousands of jobs, and sprinkled stardust over this place. 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. On an autumnal Monday night, it is packed by 6pm, and the waiting staff are prompt, precise and polite. You can eat at the bar without reservation.

Every seafood classic is here. In the broadest terms, the food is very good rather than excellent, slightly too pricey, not as good value as J Sheekey – still the best seafood restaurant in the country – and not worth coming to Cornwall for. But should you be in the area, you really should pay a visit.

A pair of jamon and cheese croquettes are a simple and good hors d'oeuvre, and the two breads – French sourdough and sesame and walnut – come hot, with lovely unsalted butter. If I believed in the divine, it would look and taste like elements of the hot shellfish with parsley, chilli, olive oil, garlic and lemon (£25.50). There are mussels, whelks, brown-crab claws, velvet crabs, langoustines, winkles, scallops, oysters, clams, and razor clams… the worst of which are the oysters, which are excellent, and the best of which are the juicy whelks, fetched out by a long metallic fork. I'm a sucker for scallops, and those served here with Serrano ham, salad leaves and a sherry vinegar dressing (£14.50) are firm and full of flavour. The ham is tough, dry and very salty: ideal.

All the mains come with a blurb beneath them on the menu, explaining their virtue. For the turbot with hollandaise sauce, it reads: "Turbot in the English style, simple and probably a nicer way of eating this wonderful fish than anything more elaborate". True, but paying £39 is more nasty than nice. I would rather a less elaborate price: nigh-on 40 quid is very, very expensive for a solid, safe, strong piece of fish, albeit in a magnificent hollandaise, pleasingly heavy on the lemon.

Beneath my main course, a Madras fish curry of sea bass, tomato and tamarind, the blurb is even longer. Forgive me: "A beautiful hot and sour Southern Indian curry which brings out the very best of one of my favourite fish. Don't believe it when people say spice ruins the taste of good fish, it accentuates it." Never mind that that should be a semi-colon rather than a comma in the final sentence, this dish is poor, despite the fish being tender and pungent. The problem arises because the English have yet to work out how best to deploy tamarind. The fruit from this wonderful tree should be soaked in water and squeezed into a rich pulp; here, it is mixed with tomato in a way that dilutes the flavour of both, while applying an unappealing yellow tint to the fish. It is also cold.

The Indian influence on my dessert, however – a bread-and-butter pudding with saffron, cardamom and Indian Nimish cream flavoured with saffron and rosewater (£8.90) – is perfectly absorbed, making it the highlight of the meal.

Staff say that Stein is in once or twice a week, which certainly adds to the appeal of this place for customers hoping for a lucky glimpse. Over several decades, he has given a wonderful bounty to the people of Cornwall, not the least of which is French-born Stephane Delourme, who has been head chef here for nearly 15 years. The food that comes out of his kitchen is for the most part hard to fault, and the venue's charming vibe makes it worthy of your time. But there are a few shortcomings – and at these prices, you have to be famous to get away with them.

8/10

The Seafood Restaurant, Riverside, Padstow, Cornwall, tel: 01841 532 700. £160 for two, including drinks

Three more seafood selections

La Lanterna

Excellent fish in a friendly environment have kept this trattoria in business for nearly two decades.

33 Queen Street, Scarborough, tel: 01723 363 616

Mourne Seafood Bar

Just how a seafood restaurant should be; you may have to queue for entry, but the wait is always worthwhile.

34-36 Bank Street, Belfast, tel: 028 9024 8544

One-O-One

One of Europe's best seafood restaurants, thanks to the genuine joy of Pascal Proyart's inspired cuisine.

101 Knightsbridge, London SW1, tel: 020 7290 7101

'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2013', www.hardens.com

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine