Okay, I feel I should write about my recent lunch at Rick Stein's The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow
The restaurant is at the edge of the village (but still in it) just in front of the harbour - there is a car park between them, but hype and expectation filters it out! The main room is not too large, nice and light with fantastic mirrors on the walls and a really interesting selection of paintings. Anyway, enough of the interior design and on to the food.
There were six of us, as Peter had very generously invited his Devon-Relatives to dine with us, which didn't score him many brownie points with me it has to be said. So, the food - it's a really good menu with masses of interesting choices, all fish.
fish & shellfish soup with rouille & parmesan £11.50
This came in a big white tureen as two others had it as well. The flavour was pretty strong, I could taste the crabs in the stock which almost makes it meaty. The rouille was delicious, quite hot and lovely and garlicky, the croutes were a good size and crispy enough so they didn't go soggy too fast (I hate wet bread, I'm not one of nature's dunkers) the parmesan was a bit mean between three of us.....and for the money.
Skate with black butter & capers £25
I had never had skate before, no particular reason, I just always thought it seemed a bit odd. But it was delicious, the flesh comes away from the cartilaginous wing really easily and was really soft and quite dense and there was plenty of it. The black butter sauce smelled totally delicious and reminded me of freshly baked biscuits for some reason. The capers were the little tiny ones, which explode with flavour and offset the sweet butteryness really well. Veg came in little dishes - potatoes, which I didn't bother with and courgettes; again I thought this was a bit mean and some more green veg would have been very welcome.
Peter had monkfish vindaloo!!
hot chocolate fondant with a melting soft centre with vanilla ice cream £8.50
When this pudding is done well, it's the nearest thing to pudding heaven. Two of us were in heaven that afternoon. It was just right with a really thin sponge outer casing and masses of really smooth, dark chocolate sauce just ready to ooze out over the vanilla ice-cream. I didn't share any at all ;-)
Fish soup - good but have had better, and hotter.
Skate - interesting and enjoyable, I'll have it again.
Pud - divine!
It's a fiercely expensive restaurant, (a recent lunch at Claridges was £450 for four of us with a bottle of champagne, a bottle of £60 wine and pudding wine) The total here for six was £350 with one (cheap) bottle of wine (chosen by Peter's mean brother!) and one glass of champagne (me, of course!). So I felt that we got much more for our dosh at Claridges, and it was more of an experience in the whole with the fantastic and friendly service and the busy buzz of a London Hotel. Stein's had no buzz, because the season had not started, the service was spot on but very impersonal so it's hard to define why it didn't feel perfect. Also the man himself wasn't there, and I imagine that the atmosphere is very different when he is! Don't get me wrong, I had a great time, really enjoyed it, I'm just pondering about the value of expensive 'destination' restaurants.
(this review has been posted in October 2007, as I thought that a visit to one of the UK's premier restaurants should be noted here.....I was in Padstow again recently and the prices are still astronomical with the average main course at £28 and the place was packed out. We ate at Rick Stein's Cafe in the back streets of the town and it was charming, excellent and very friendly service. Still not cheap, but worth every pound!)