Firstly let's get the issue of the queues out of the way. Padstow is busy and it is probable that at peak times you will have to queue at Stein's; accept this as a fact and tell yourself it will be worth it (I assure you it is).
You can choose to eat in the white-tiled restaurant, sat at the long wooden communal benches, or you can grab a takeaway to eat on the quay side. Watch out for the seagulls though; they’re bullies and will take off with the whole box given half a chance.
There is an amazing selection of spankingly fresh fish on offer - from the usual suspects such as cod, haddock and plaice to species more unfamiliar to the fish fryer such as mackerel, squid, skate, sea bream, monkfish and lemon sole. You can choose to have it grilled, fried or more traditionally battered and deep fried in beef dripping.
This time we went for battered Hake, as a more sustainable alternative to cod or haddock. Hake is a deep-sea fish from the cod family but with a more subtle flavour than that of its relative. It is quite a mild fish, with a white flaky texture. The batter was amazingly crunchy and the fish was good, although for some reason I found the texture a little "woolly".
On a second visit later in the week I went for the scampi and Dave had battered monkfish. Maybe my expectations were too high and I was slightly disappointed with what seemed to be standard, bought in breaded scampi. I wanted proper homemade battered scampi, made with big chunky langoustine tails but it wasn't to be. Don't get me wrong the scampi was okay, but nothing exceptional. The monkfish on the other hand was a revelation; the big meaty chunks of fish worked exceptionally well encased in crisp batter.
The fish is always served with some of the most gloriously hot and crispy chips I have ever eaten and they are presented together in a neat box with a wedge of lemon and spring of parsley. They are never soggy or overly greasy and taste divine, the flavour only dripping can bring. All the usual trimmings are available too - mushy peas, homemade tartar sauce, and even aioli and curry sauce. We opted for some pleasingly green mush peas and a portion of tartare sauce. The tartar sauce is rich and creamy. It is good - definitely beating anything that comes in a sachet - but could do with a little more piquancy to contrast with the fried food. It doesn't have that essential sharpness to cut through the richness and therefore I feel the point is somewhat lost.
We washed our meals down with a pint of Chalky's Bark, a beer created by the Sharp's brewery over the estuary in Rock in honour of Rick's late dog. At 4.5% and lightly flavoured with fresh ginger, it's very refreshing and makes a perfect accompaniment to fish and chips.
Stein’s fish and chip shop is definitely worth more than just a look-in, especially if you can't get in at his restaurant which is always booked up months in advance. As a northern lass I take my fish and chips seriously and in my opinion, despite the occasional minor gripe, they dish up an outstanding portion at Stein's.
Stein's Fish & chips
South Quay, Padstow, Cornwall
This post forms part of a series about our 2010 gastro camping trip in Cornwall.