Padstow brims with restaurants, cafes and bistros to fill your stomach up on. A good handful of these places belong to Rick Stein who put Padstow on the map with his love and obsession for good quality, locally sourced food. But Stein isn’t alone in his passion for quality local produce. Custard opened its doors to Padstow’s discerning diners in August, and has been hard pushed to keep a table free since.
Tucked away on the curve of The Strand, its stair-led narrow entrance ushers you into a mix of American diner meets quintessentially English eatery. An odd combination you might think, but one that works, with kitsch floral lampshades and crystal cut chandeliers cutting a contrast against the leather seating and the lit-up jukebox beefing things up in the corner.
Custard’s menu changes daily, featuring dishes such as grilled haddock with Cornish ale, colcannon, cockles and bacon, and breast of lamb with creamed cabbage, rosemary and baby onions. We started things off with smoked eel, served with pork belly and salad, and the tasting platter of marinated fish. The platter was meaty and sharp with the herring cutting through on the flavour front, and the swirls of mackerel pate and mustard mayonnaise making welcome partners. Meanwhile, the eel was delectable – a little like mackerel in texture, but lighter and subtler on the taste buds, with the honeyed slice of crispy pork belly, softening the saltiness of the eel beautifully.
Our main dishes came in the shape of a whole plaice, cooked in a shrimp, caper and butter sauce, and Cornish partridge on a bed of creamed cabbage, with a cheeky little helping of bubble and squeak. The plaice was fresh, flavoursome and very, very good. The partridge also made a wonderful dish, let down only by the infiltration of some sly carrots which cropped up unmentioned in the creamed cabbage. Nothing wrong with carrots of course, it’s just that for me, they conjure up memories of school dinners if they’re mixed with another perfectly good vegetable, and I would rather know they are there, so I can make a decision, in my adult life, to avoid them. But enough of the carrots, and onto the bubble and squeak which was very good and added a comforting texture to the meal.
All of this was washed down with a bottle of Gavi 2006, La Battistina – a formidable accompaniment to our meal, with a slatey, mineral finish that fitted it’s description on the wine list as “reminiscent of water over stone”. The service at Custard strikes that sought after balance of warmth and efficiency with just the right-sized helping of understated affability. The waitress took us through the wine list knowledgably and chuckled fondly at the recollection of the wine and coffee tastings the staff had undertaken, the week before Custard opened. Most of Custard’s fare is sourced locally, with the wine list including a sparkling white from Cornwall’s own Camel Valley.
Having made a concerted effort to restrict our bread intake throughout the meal, so as to leave a good-sized gap for pudding, we made our decisions and went for sticky toffee pudding and custard…with apple crumble. The crumble sat triumphantly in a pure white dish, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream teetering on top. Custard, dispensed from the accompanying jug, reinforced the notion of dessert-induced excess. With a crumbly crust a generous inch-thick, this comforting autumnal pudding filled in the gaps with ease. The sticky toffee pudding was uncommonly good and I knew this before I had even had a mouthful, as the waitress that took our order and the waitress that set it down on the table, both nodded their approval at the choice. I suspect that the staff hound the chef for any leftovers of sticky toffee pudding on a regular basis - his fault really for making it so damn good.
We finished off with coffee and petit fours and for a minute we didn’t need to think of food – perfectly satisfied with the evening’s offerings. Once that feeling begins to fade, and your hunger pangs return, it’s worth noting that besides being a great place to take friends and loved ones for a seriously good English dinner, Custard is open for breakfast, lunch and lighter bites. If you’ve just got room enough for a mid-morning treat or an afternoon nibble, the snacks menu has plenty to satisfy: Cornish cream tea, jam doughnuts, hot buttered crumpets and treacle flapjack all jostle for attention. Kids get a look-in too with a children’s menu boasting grilled haddock, steak and chips, and of course…custard.
Custard: 1A The Strand, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8BS
Reviewed by: Helenka Bednar
Custard: 1A The Strand, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8BS For more information, visit: http://www.custarddiner.com/
Accomodation: Woodlands Country House Hotel
For more information on Woodlands Country House Hotel, visit:
Woodlands Country House Hotel: Treator, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8RU.
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