Rick Stein is a well-known and extremely popular chef, best known for his love of seafood. Thousands of visitors flock each year to the small town of Padstow, to sample his style of food. Whether it be a Homemade Fish Finger sandwich at Stein’s Fish & Chips or a luxurious Lobster Thermidor at his flagship The Seafood Restaurant, everybody seems to be talking about it.
Padstow is a beautiful seaside town on the north coast of Cornwall. You can take a very leisurely journey along the winding A Roads of South Western England. However, even from London you are looking at a 6 hour journey by car each way. So what does the seafood enthusiast do if it is not practical to take a trip to Cornwall?
Well, you are in luck. Rick has opened three restaurants outside of Cornwall. The first was in the Hampshire city of Winchester and another recently in Sandbanks, near Poole. The third open recently Marlborough, Wiltshire.
I was recently invited, along with my girlfriend, to try out their Winchester restaurant. Rick Stein Winchester is located on the high street in the city centre. The interior is delicately furnished, predominately in the colours of white and blue, which give a Mediterranean type of feel and a cooling effect, or maybe that was just the air conditioning. A few paintings obtained from overseas travels hang on the walls and on the cabinets; pots of herbs reinforce the Mediterranean feel.
We arrived at 7pm and were greeted by a friendly waitress with a welcoming smile. There was a reasonable number of people already dining and the call of “Service” coming across from the open-plan kitchen, suggested an efficiently run pass. We were given menus and our drinks order was taken. Along with our wines came an Amuse Bouche of Maryland Crab Cakes, served with a Tarragon and Butter sauce.
The menu was made up of a choice of starters and mains, some seafood classics and a few inspired by his travels around the world. Starters including XO Clams which were served in a spicy seafood sauce, Pad Thai noodles with king prawns or La Mouclade – Mussels in a saffron and parsley sauce with a pinch of curry spice. There was also a choice of Oysters or Langoustines on ice. Everything sounded so good!
I opted for a Ceviche of Sea Bass with Lime & Avocado. The tangy lime helped cut through the oiliness of the generously sliced sea bass, whilst the rich creaminess of the avocado helped balance the lime, so it did not over power the fish. A pop of heat came from the finely diced red chilli. A very moreish plate of food.
My girlfriend decided to go for the Pumpkin Risotto. The pumpkin reflecting the fact we have just entered autumn. It was a fitting nod to Rick’s passion for using seasonal ingredients. The rice had bite and the whole dish was rich from burnt butter and a liberal covering of fried speck and sage.
For the main course, choices included Hake alla Carlina, a recipe from one of Rick’s favourite cities, Venice. It was fillets of pan fried hake, with a tomato and caper sauce. Singapore Chilli Crab, stir-fried in the shell with garlic, ginger, coriander and chilli. Or you could have a Pan Fried Ray, with black butter, parsley and capers.
I decided to have the Dover Sole a la Meunière. I was asked if I wanted it filleted or on the bone. Without hesitation I decided for it to be one the bone, as I didn’t want to miss out of the extra nuggets of flesh that can be found in the fish head – pure indulgence on my part! However, if you did decide for it to be filleted, it would still be cooked on the bone, but the filleting would be done at your table in front of you for an extra bit of added theatre.
Regardless of how you decide to have your sole, it will have bags of flavour, and the butter and lemon worked so well, it didn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
For her main, my girlfriend chose Turbot Hollandaise. It came cooked on the bone and rare. This to some may sound underdone, but it wasn’t. Firmer flakes of flesh on the outside became more translucent as you got closer to the bone. Again the simple classic hollandaise was all that was needed.
For dessert I had the Chocolate Pavé with Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Peanut Crumb. A ganache of rich dark chocolate was topped with crunchy sugar coated peanuts. The salted caramel ice cream was one of the best I have ever eaten. The caramel was nearer the sweet side of bitter and the salt just lifted the flavours to a totally different level, which was needed to round off the richness of the chocolate.
Rick Stein in Winchester is definitely a place to try if you enjoy seafood. All their food, whether it be fish, meat or vegetable are all treated with the utmost respect and cooked in a style that champions the product. The front of house team were all very friendly. Service was attentive without being overbearing and done with a smile.
All in all, an extremely enjoyable experience and with such a great choice of dishes that I still want to try, it gives the perfect excuse for a visit in the not too distant future.
I wish every success to Rick Stein in his restaurant ventures outside of Padstow. Keep up the good work!
Rick Stein, 7 High Street, Winchester SO23 9JX
We dined as guests of Rick Stein in Winchester, but all editorial content is my own.