For four days in December you can find pretty much any celeb chef worth their salt in Padstow, Cornwall. Often referred to as ‘Padstein’ due to Rick Stein’s prevalence, for the four days of the Padstow Christmas Festival the rest of them also get to have their share of the limelight. As a regular visitor to this foodie haunt of the South West, this was the first time we had ventured down for the Christmas Festival. The weather wasn’t quite what we had ordered, but despite the high winds and torrential rain that buffered the marquees, the festival lived up to the hype with an incredible line-up of chefs and local suppliers in attendance, not to mention the fireworks, live music, Santa fun run and cycle, lantern procession, Christmas market and the Just Add Beer Cook Book from Sharps Brewery in aid of one of our favourite charities Hospitality Action.
In its eleventh year, it has grown from humble beginnings and now takes over the town in totality with thousands descending on this picture-perfect fishing village (come tourist Mecca) nestled on the north coast of Cornwall. This year the chef line-up included Brian Turner (who we saw enjoying lunch at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant), Nathan Outlaw (who we saw outside the demo tent), Paul Ainsworth (also spotted around town), Phil Vickery (and wife Fern Britton, who we spied escaping the rain in The Old Ship after the Santa run), Angela Hartnett MBE (also spotted about town) Michael Caines MBE, Mark Hix, Reza Mahammad and many, many more!
So with so many chefs and foodies in town you can imagine it might be a battle to get a table for dinner, but we had come prepared and pre-booked for our favourites. The festival has been championed from the outset by South West Chefs – Rick Stein, Paul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw, and I am happy to say we managed to eat in all three establishments. Our first night saw us stay at award winning pub, hotel and restaurant, Port Gaverne and dine at Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen in Port Isaac. We had an amazing meal of small plates of fish heaven in the tiny restaurant which has just eight tables and the most relaxed and friendly atmosphere you will ever experience. The little sister restaurant to Nathan Outlaws’ fine dining establishment ‘Restaurant Nathan Outlaw’ it sits right on the harbour-side and is well worth a visit should you be in that neck of the woods. On the second day we had lunch at Paul Ainsworth’s No. 6 which was simply stunning, little wonder it was awarded a Michelin star this year, it has to be hands down our favourite Padstow restaurant and it did not disappoint! Then on our third day we dined at Rick Stein’s Café (a couple of doors down from No. 6) which was a more informal affair with definite Asian and South American influences, picked up from his foodie travelogues. Our last night saw us wind down with a sourdough pizza from Paul Ainsworth’s pizzeria Rojano’s in the Square – delicious!
You’ll be pleased to hear we interspersed our culinary adventure with lots of long dog walks to work off the calories and a fair few visits to the festival program of talks and artisan stalls. As we headed back to sunny Surrey at the end of our adventure, the car laden down with craft gin, artisan fudge, locally roasted and ground coffee, gourmet chocolate, Cornish cider and even a locally made bobble hat, it is fair to say we did our bit to keep this staycation destination going. It was indeed a great first Christmas Festival and I’m sure it won’t be our last.