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Padstow, Cornwall


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Padstow is probably one of the major tourist towns in Cornwall, and in particular I guess it caters for a high proportion of day visitors since local accommodation is very limited. Padstow used to be a "typical" fishing village, but there is clearly very little fishing done there any more. The local quayside fish market, which 20 years ago used to be open every day, wasn't open at all in the four days I spent there with my wife. The market hall has been turned into a "fish school", presumably to cater for the restaurateurs allegedly flocking to the village in the wake of celebrity chef Rick Stein.

We stayed at the only sizeable hotel in town, the 50-bedroom Forte Metropole. Public rooms are old-fashioned but clean and comfortable. Same for the seaview double we took at £153 per night including breakfast. The room was pretty small, and I felt it to be very over-priced.

For our first breakfast, my wife ordered smoked haddock without poached egg, I ordered kipper. The haddock came with an egg and it was "on the turn". My kipper was like salted leather. Both were uneatable, and left on the plate with one mouthful taken from each. It was clear that for the remaining 15 minutes we stayed in the restaurant, the staff studiously avoided our table, and no comment was made then or subsequently about the untouched dishes. Sadly, my wife absolutely refused to allow me to complain (she's heard too many stories about kitchen staff spitting in food and so on). The following morning, we stuck to cereal and toast. The toast was awful --- pappy supermarket sliced bread, toasted and then allowed to go "soggy". Our last morning, feeling much braver, we both ordered plain omelette. This arrived uncooked in the centre. My wife sensibly ate only the cooked exterior, I rather foolishly (well, I was hungry) ate it all and suffered for the rest of the day.

We will not be staying at the Metropole again.

Restaurants in the village fall into three categories. First, the classy joints like Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant, his Cafe, the Pescadou and of course Margot's (linkety link). These are a group because you can't get into any of them unless you've booked weeks ahead, so they're simply unavailable to the casual visitor.

Group two are the fast food joints masquerading as something else. They appear to be serving home cooked food, but in fact it's all frozen, precooked microwaved pap. There are two such establishments (The Clipper and The Foc'sle) which are owned by the same people, serving identical menus with such dishes as lasagne verde, penne all'arrabbiatta, fisherman's pie, prawns in batter, and so on. All these dishes are bought by them like TV dinners, cooked and ready in their own dish, which they pop into a microwave. We had lunch at The Clipper (both ordering pasta) and the food was appalling and not cheap. The pasta dishes cost £6 and £8 without any extras. There are other such establishments, such as Rojano's (a pizza and pasta joint) serving obviously frozen food. These places pretend, by their hand-written menus and their extravagant use of phrases such as "local produce" and "Cornish food at its best" and so on, to be serving local, freshly prepared food. They are not.

Group three seems to consist of a few pub/hotels serving decent food. We ate at The Ship Hotel which actually buys fresh fish each day and cooks it competently. They serve non-frozen steak and lamb, cooked to order in their own kitchens. The restaurant setting at The Ship is truly awful, and could easily put you off sitting down! We got chatting to the waiter at the Ship, who told me there were a few similar places which did the same, but that most of the eateries in town were like the Clipper --- clip-joints !

Padstow is not a place to go to eat unless you have a prior booking at one of the quality restaurants (I assume that Stein's place and the Pescadou are OK). But if you do find yourself there, keep away from busy places with long, hand-written menus.

PS: The best ice cream in town is to be found at The Chough Bakery (yes, bakery). Simply superb, and a huge contrast to the "famous Cornish ice creams" and "made with local farm cream" rubbish.

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Yep. Shame, but unbookable. But I did get to observe some interesting things about the day-to-day workings of the place, as we walked past it about 30 times in 4 days :smile:

Incidentally, "all the way to Padstow" was a 4-hour drive. I'll do it again off-season, after pre-booking Stein's and Margot :raz:

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Incidentally, "all the way to Padstow" was a 4-hour drive. I'll do it again off-season, after pre-booking Stein's and Margot  :raz:

Were you riding an exocet missile? by my reckoning, nearly 300 miles to Padstow. I've done it before and it took me around 6 hours (off season)!

It took me 90 minutes to drive to Padstow from Ilfracombe.

Other Egulleteers be warned, I think Macrosan is Michael Schumacher! :biggrin:

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Macrosan.interesting that you feel Padstow has limited accomodation.We have loads of B+Bs, cottages to rent, nice hotels.(Metropole excepted, its a bloody disgrace).I think maybe as it was a Bank Holiday , you saw more trippers than " normal".

Spot on about the Clipper...it has the shortest season here...this year it did not open its doors till AUGUST!. It will close again soon( oh dear what a shame etc etc)

My sinsere condolances that you ate there

edit..PS we do have a small fishing fleet.

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Were you riding an exocet missile? by my reckoning, nearly 300 miles to Padstow. I've done it before and it took me around 6 hours (off season)!

I did cheat a little. By accident, I arranged to go to Padstow on Bank Holiday Monday. OK, OK, how could that be an accident ? Well it was because I wasn't at my mental best when I booked it :blink: Anyway, when I realized what I'd done I decided we'd better drive down early so I left home at 6.08 in the morning, arrived Padstow at 10.30 after two brief pit-stops and a petrol fill-up. So I reckon I was driving for 4 hours. It was 296 miles, giving an average speed of 74mph. I have to say I was amazed, but I have never ever ever seen the roads so empty. I shall do that again. Incidentally, it took just over 5 hours for the return journey on Thursday evening..... and I don't drive a Ferrari, so I am definitely not the extremely fast shoemaking one ? :raz:

Yeah, Basildog, I know there are lots of small B&B accommodations, and a few small hotels including Rick Stein's, but after trying five of them without success (they couldn't do the days I wanted) I rang the Metropole. I should have asked myself why they had rooms when everyone else was full .....

And yes, I know there are still a few trawlers, and a few small fishing boats, but when I was last in Padstow in 1986 there were dozens of them. Ah well, I guess tourism brings in better revenue :smile:

And I wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong overall impression. We both enjoyed a great four days in a beautiful aprt of the country, among a lot of very nice, friendly people. We will do it again.

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  • 9 months later...

Just returned from another great stay in Padstow, and I want to update my comments on the Metropole Hotel. Yep, having vowed in my last post never to stay there again, I proved that a little customer service can go down well with the most hardened of eGulletarian cynics :rolleyes: After my comments last year I got a PM from the manager of The Metropole, Andrew Jenkins, apologising for the problems we'd had, chiding me gently for not complaining at the time, and emphasising that he was confident in his hotel's ability to do better next time. And indeed they did !

This time we had what I think must be the best room in the hotel, a Superior room with a four-poster bed, on the corner of the hotel with fabulous views across the town and the river estuary. We were welcomed with a bottle of local Camel sparkling wine in an ice bucket :smile: Even at the full room rate without the eGullet discount, this would have been excellent value for money. Don't tell anyone who told you, but if you book at The Metropole, ask for Room 26 :cool:

The staff throughout the hotel were as charming and smiling and helpful as before, but of course my eagle eye was particularly active at our first breakfast. I ordered poached egg on toast. It was perfect. The eggs (and the milk) seemed much more flavourful than those I get at home, and I don't know whether they use local farms, or my imagination was working overtime :unsure: Anyway, everything about my dish was perfect, and two of the waitstaff asked me if everything was OK. Day two, I went for the jugular with a request for a kipper :shock: And it passed the test, although I have to say that I think a hotel of this class should be serving "fresh" kippers, not frozen fillets. Of course I understand the demand is probably not high enough, but I guess the cost of buying in half a dozen fresh kippers each day wouldn't break the bank. Same goes, incidentally, for the fruit juices which were not fresh squeezed Anyway, as an example of its genre, the kipper was fine. And again, our server asked if it was OK. Day three went just as well.

Overall, I had the impression that there were more serving staff in the restaurant, and maybe just maybe they had been trained to ask that important "Is everything OK?" question.

For my choice, I would upgrade the breakfast at The Metropole because it would better match the general quality of the hotel, and because for some reason a holiday breakfast acquires an undue level of importance in the mind of guests. I would put fresh kippers and haddocks on the menu, fresh squeezed juices, larger variety of bread and rolls, and better quality jams. And I'd add a few pounds to the price.

But my thumbs have turned decisively up for The Metropole. It just goes to show how a small one-off problem in a service establishment can lose a customer, and how easy it is to regain that customer with a gesture of service. That's one of the burdens for hotels or restaurants, and the higher up the quality scale they purport to operate, the harder they have to strive to keep their customers. And I always like a happy ending :smile:

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<snippo>

This time we had what I think must be the best room in the hotel, a Superior room with a four-poster bed, on the corner of the hotel with fabulous views across the town and the river estuary. We were welcomed with a bottle of local Camel sparkling wine in an ice bucket

<snippo>

Did you like the wine? I have written with enthusiasm about this stuff before, and received a certain amount of scorn :shock: . But I genuinely think it's pretty good stuff, though a bit pricey for what it is.

cheers

Adam

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  • 4 weeks later...
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