On location: where to eat in Padstow

This Cornish town may have been made famous by Rick Stein, but recent years have brought openings from equally ambitious chefs.Monday, 16 March 2020

Padstow, on the north Cornwall coast, has long been a food-lover’s haunt. And that’s largely thanks to Rick Stein, who opened The Seafood Restaurant here more than 40 years ago, and has since added a host of other fish-related businesses. Yet, despite the fishing town’s nickname of ‘Padstein’, it’s come a long way in the past few years. A new generation of chefs are hot on Stein’s heels — and he’s no longer the only Rick in town. 

Husband-and-wife team Rick and Katie Toogood opened Prawn on the Lawn here in 2015, having racked up rave reviews and a devoted fan base at their original London location. This fishmonger and seafood restaurant displays the day’s catch in the window, while diners share plates of seared tuna, or oysters from Porthilly, just across the estuary in Rock. 

“Until fairly recently, there weren’t that many options for eating out in Padstow,” says Katie. “It was mainly traditional pubs or a Rick Stein restaurant. There’s a lot more choice now. Padstow’s food scene is on the up.”

A few doors away, the Toogoods’ latest venture is Barnaby’s, a cosy small-plates restaurant set inside a former Victorian tearoom. Opened in 2018 and named after Rick’s grandfather, Barnaby’s serves meat and veg dishes as well as seafood, many of them cooked inside ‘Bertha’, the wood-fired oven. Beer from Padstow Brewing Co is on tap and the cocktails are also excellent. Try the espresso martini, which has an added kick from a dash of Pedro Ximénez.

Chef Paul Ainsworth has also been making a name for himself. He and his wife Emma have been quietly building their own empire in Paul Ainsworth at No6, a Michelin-starred restaurant with a modern British menu that may include, say, Cornish hogget or sweetbread from the Tamar Valley. 

Budding cooks can learn to recreate some of the dishes at recently opened Mahé, a boutique cookery school and chef’s table just upstairs. Under the experienced eye of head chef Chris McClurg — who’s worked alongside Ainsworth for nine years — small groups of up to five can learn how to make egg ravioli, spatchcock a chicken and produce a crowd-pleasing chocolate fondant, before tucking into a sit-down lunch.

A stroll around the picturesque harbour, with its bobbing fishing boats and pleasure yachts, will bring you to more great places to eat. Cherry Trees is owned by Emma Winkle, a New Zealander who came to Padstow to set up shop within view of where her grandfather once ran a cafe, just across the bay. Emma’s husband, Richard, masterminded the menu, while her mother, Cherry, helps out with service. Expect locally sourced produce, such as Padstow crab, but with a Kiwi slant — try the Afghan biscuits (a traditional New Zealand snack) or a slice of the legendary lemon meringue pie.

Two doors down is Chough Bakery, which has been run by Elaine and Robert Ead for nearly three decades. Artisan breads jostle for space with warm scones and that most Cornish of snacks: the pasty. These particular pasties have scooped numerous awards and are made with locally sourced meat and vegetables — and a dollop of clotted cream. 

How to do it
Trains from London Paddington will take you to Bodmin Parkway, where the 11A bus connects to Padstow. Padstow Townhouse has B&B doubles from £280. 

Published in issue 8 of National Geographic Traveller Food

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