CORNWALL STAYS: PADSTOW
From Lobsters on a plate to lobsters in a tank - Padstow has more to offer its visitors than you might think...
Head to the Cornish foodie capital of Padstow for a spot of eating, drinking, boating and bathing, writes EWEN MACDONALD
When I first visited Cornwall almost ten years ago, I was informed by a dreadfully, obnoxious couple, during breakfast in the hotel where I was residing, that Padstow had been given the desultory moniker of Padstein’, due to the heavy presence in the fishing port of the Stein family – of TV celebrity chef Rick Stein patrimony.
It’s true that the Stein family are a clearly evident presence in Padstow, but they also employ hundreds of local people. Coming from a working class background it was always extolled upon us, by our community, that having work was a good thing.
Whatever your views may be on the Seafood Empire’, it attracts people to Cornwall on holiday. Where would we rather they went? Spain, Florida, Switzerland?
Of course, anyone spending more than five minutes walking around Padstow will realise this is all a moot point. It’s the type of idyllic little fishing port that couldn’t help being a serious tourist destination and Cornwall certainly has more than its fair share of those. With its boats and yachts bobbing up and down in the harbour, the cobbled streets filled with boutiques and impressive architecture and a wealth of eateries and places to drink, it’s almost picture perfect - even for Cornwall.
If you can drag yourself away from all this perfection, Padstow’s central Cornish location means it is ideally suited for exploring the county both north and south or west and east. Though, naturally, you needn’t go anywhere else at all and still have a truly memorable Cornish treat.
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The essence of Padstow lays in its working harbour, everything you need to find is within strolling distance of the harbour walls, the estuary and the sea.
The Lobster Hatchery is a great place to while away a couple of hours on a lazy morning. A fun and instructive visit for all the family. It is far more pleasurable to see these magnificent, if slightly alien-like creatures, in a habitat other then on a restaurant plate covered in a thoroughly retro thermidor sauce.
If it is food you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. Padstow is rightly famed for its culinary credentials. The Seafood Restaurant is the obvious place to begin. Rick Stein and his wife Jill first opened this renowned establishment in 1975 and today - 40 years later - it is one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Britain.
Not to be outdone, Paul Ainsworth at No.6 is also fine dining at its Cornish best. This Michelin-starred eaterie is in a delightful little street a stone’s throw from the harbour.
If it’s just a small snack and a glass of bubbly you’re after then the picturesque little vintners and wine bar Bin 2 will perfectly satisfy your demands. They have a well-stocked selection of wines and a few covers both indoors and outdoors with which to sample a glass of vino, a coffee, or a small bite to eat.
If you need anything at all while in town pop into the local Post Office/Aladdin’s Cave. Whatever it is you need you’ll probably find it in this wonderfully eccentric seaside shop.
For all this talk of fine dining, if you want to go old school, then grab some local fish and chips, park up on a bench and simply observe the gentle rhythms as this most Cornish of fishing villages passes you by.
Should all else fail, resign your will to that terminally clichéd, touristy thing and go for a soul cleansing walk along a strip of gorgeous sand and bask in the light and delights of the Cornish seascape.
where to go
Shopping: Head to Jo Downs Handmade Glass for some beautifully-made glass art for your walls and table. Find room for one of her wish sticks.
Art: There are no shortages of galleries to buy something to remind you of your trip but start at the Drang Gallery which boasts among other artists, YBA and Turner Prize winner Damien Hirst and 1960s legend Sir Peter Blake. thedranggallery.com
Stay: At the Old Custom House hotel with views of the harbour.
drinks: Enjoy a pre-dinner drink (or two) at the tiny Bin 2 coffee shop and wine merchants and take a bottle or two home from their incredible collection. bintwo.com
Food: Head to the imposing but very friendly Metropole Hotel for a Cornish cream tea (spoil yourself with a Taittinger Champagne afternoon tea, £37.95 for two). They also welcome well-behaved dogs to stay.
Explore: Head across the water by ferry or water taxi to Rock and discover Brea beach - for a spot of celebrity spotting (and even the ocassional Royal).