Padstow feels like the town that Rick built.

From his fish and chip shop, to his patisserie, to his gift shop, to his shiny flagship Seafood Restaurant that overlooks the bobbing boats in the harbour…

 
The presence of Mr Rick Stein is keenly felt in this small village on the Cornish coast.
We’ve come to Padstow with two of our nearest and dearest over here in the UK.  Cornwall is a perfect long weekend out of London. There’s the novelty value of a swing past Stonehenge on the  drive down. There’s the lure of clotted cream, scones and rolling green hills. There’s the prospect of smelling  the ocean and the feeling sand beneath our toes. For those of us who miss the fine grain of Sydney beaches with a twisting ache, it’s seen as a welcome chance to find our feet again.

So on a sunny Saturday morning we pile into a car and  wind our way  from the16th century cottage in Boscastle that we’ve made our temporary home and up and over the craggy coast to the other side of Cornwall.

As a town, Padstow reminds a few of us of Honfleur. There’s the same muddled smells of salt and diesel. The intimate pedestrian streets. The jumbled mix of tourist schlock and things that are sweet and intriguing. And the promise of some very good things to eat.

We’ve already had breakfast of scrambled eggs, local butter and cream, but it’s hard to say no in these circumstances.  It’s a Cornish pastie (now an AOC protected foodstuff) and a passable coffee from Rick’s patisserie. Then it’s a wander up and over towards the beach to try and generate more of an appetite.  While The Hungry One goes for a solitary walk up the beach, I get a phone call with good news from Sydney. If anyone wants to know what I look like when one of my oldest friends tells me she’s getting married to a very lovely lad, this is it:

And then it’s time for lunch.

We choose St Petroc’s; the Mediterranean bistro in Rick’s restaurant fleet. For one, the price tag was friendlier than at the Seafood Restaurant with its supplement of  harbourside views. For two, a member of our party is allergic to shellfish.  The bistro seemed like the safer option (and besides, The Hungry One and I are quite nostalgic for Rick Stein’s French Odyssey. When it first screened on television we would dash home from work on a Wednesday evening, pour a glass of wine and pretend that we were lazily floating along the canals right with him).

St Petroc’s is tucked up one of the side streets back from the marina. It’s in one of the hotels also owned by the consortium and from the outside it looks like a rather grand mansion.  Inside it’s all wood panelled floors and cream walls, with bare wooden tables and chairs that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1960’s classroom.

There’s a set lunch of three courses, with three choices in each for just shy of 18 pounds. Yet today we’re up for something much more casual. The boys start with a house ale, flavoured with fennel and named in homage to Rick’s dearly departed dog and frequent television co-star ‘Chalky’.

For the ladies it’s glasses of the house white, which we learn has remained the same for 30 odd years. It’s a crisp and light Haut Pouitou Sauvingon Blanc. To go with it there’s warm bread in a rustic basket and a generous portion of butter.

Instead of a heavy lunch we’re opting to share a selection of starters.

 
Squid fried in olive oil with smoked pimenton and garlic mayonnaise is a little distorted in its proportions. It’s light on the sections of squid and thumpingly heavy with condiments. A few slices of fresh tomato with floating sprigs of dill add extra colour and movement.

Gremolata prawns are five sturdy specimens that come still dressed in their shells. The Italian flavours of gremolata come out to play with long ribbons of lemon rind, tufts of flat leaf parsley and the bite of garlic nudging through the crevices. To me it’s perfect food for a light lunch. But then, I don’t mind having to work a little for my food.

The boys are happier with the scallops on the half shell.

There are three of them in a serving and they come with their coral roes still attached. They’re sitting on a good pool of butter. Over the top there’s a verdant puree of coriander and pumpkin seeds, which, when accented by a squeeze of lime brings an almost Mexican sheen.

The frites are slightly soggy and a salad is a simple collection of leafy greens, neatly dressed.

On another day, when I hadn’t indulged quite so much with local clotted cream on my breakfast and pasties for elevenses I may have been tempted by a whole grilled lemon sole with bernaise, or a piece of bavette steak from the grill.  I could have even had a serve of sticky toffee pudding with more clotted cream for dessert.

Instead we choose a restrained path of fresh air and a second amble by the seaside.

When your diet for the weekend consists mainly of chips, pastry wrapped stodge, clotted cream and the occasional piece of fish, it’s not a bad choice.
(Though The Hungry One did make time for one last portion of take away fish and chips and a scoop of local Cornish ice cream before we left.)

St Petroc’s Bistro

New Street, Padstow, Cornwall
Reservations: 01841 532700

Hours:
Open every day
Lunch: 12pm – 2pm
Dinner: 6.30pm – 9.30pm