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.


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 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',

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before