I recently spent a beautiful weekend in the South-West of England, an area like so many others in the UK, that I don't know well enough. Silverbrowess and I had gone in celebration of her 'special' birthday. Being the cunning sort, I realised I could tie in a few decent meals to break-up the schlep to and fro. I also realised that given our proximity to the sea down there, fish was going to play a large role in our diet. In theory, we're fortunate in the UK, according to my school geography teacher, nowhere in Britain is further than 60 miles from the coast. Consequently, there is little excuse for not being able to get decent fish wherever you are. But the South-West of England, Devon and Cornwall in particular have a strong fishing tradition. Cornwall's has been made even more world-renowned by the hard-work of Rick Stein. Rick may have come in for a bit of an (unfair) battering recently about the fish he uses, but it seems that he is widely credited for reinvigorating the British love-affair with fish.
Rick's base is Padstow, a fishing village on the north Cornish coast. It is a beautiful place, with a calm harbour (at least on the day we were there) and what seems to be a close knit community. Rick has so many restaurants and shops in Padstow that to some, it is now known as Padstein. A tag that I feel is unfair because it doesn't do justice to the other non-Rick Stein attractions of the village, such as Margot's. I found out about Margot's because the chef, Adrian Oliver, is a regular user of one of the food forums I lurk on, Opinionated About (registration required).
We only had a light lunch, without any alcohol, because although Silverbrowess loved the scenery, she was less than impressed that we'd spent over five hours in the car on her birthday. She was however significantly ameliorated by Adrian's astounding home-made bread. Things only improved with our goats-cheese salad, the most sublime smoked haddock chowder I've been fortunate enough to taste and a stunning sticky toffee pudding to finish. The chowder successfully managed the balance of being creamy but light, but not so light that you didn't know you were eating something hearty. It was a beautiful colour, a light saffron and was dotted with chunks of haddock and properly smoked salmon. The sticky toffee pudding was enormous, the size of a brick, gooey, unctuous and perfect. The truffles that came with the coffee were a perfectly rich end to the meal.
I feel we didn't do the place justice. It's the type of restaurant where you immediately feel at home. You want to sit down, mull over the wine list, have a couple of bottles, maybe a little tipple after your coffee, stagger into the street, find the nearest bed or deck chair and snooze the rest of the day away. What was clear from even our limited meal was Adrian's skill in letting fantastic ingredients speak for themselves. I'd urge you to not be tempted too much by Rick's empire and instead tuck into a feast at Margot's.
Margot's, 11 Duke Street, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8AB, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1841 533441
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