I’ve been SO excited about telling you about this one. I’ve warbled on before about how much I love Padstow – it’s got a special place in mine and Jamie’s hearts. We go back whenever we can, always looking out for a new place to dine, whether it’s one of good old Rick’s places, or nearby Nathan Outlaw’s establishments.
But while I love Padstow, and love seafood, I have to confess I thought I’d tried it all. Not so folks. Not so.
You see, the good thing about going back to a place is getting to see it change. Each time we go back to Padstow there’s a new little find. I know some people think it’s a town dominated by a few big names, mainly Mr Stein, and they do play a fairly big role but there’s other places to go to as well.
You might remember I checked out Cherry Trees a few years ago when we were there. And this time back with our friends we tried out one of the latest additions to Padstow’s picturesque little streets – Prawn on the Lawn. Owners Katie and Rick opened their first seafood bar and fishmonger in Islington, turning into a restaurant, then went on to open a second place in Padstow. Where better!
First things first – Prawn on the Lawn in Padstow is TINY. There are literally a few tables down one side, a bar down the other, and that’s about it. But, marvellously, they do take dogs. You’ve got to book first and they only allow two in at a time, but that was fine and we managed to go in for dinner complete with the pooches in tow. Hats off to the staff who I’m pretty sure must be given dancing lessons to equip them for evenings of dancing around in such a confined space with the added obstacles of dogs to negotiate.
It’s a restaurant with a difference, serving simple small plates that encourage tapas-style social dining with a thoroughly fishy theme, as well as ginormous creatures from the deep, from spider crab to lobster and various fish – all caught locally of course.
There’s no paper menus for the food, it’s all written up on blackboards on the walls, adding to the casual, fresh feeling of the place. There’s wine lists though, and cocktails too, so we started with a few glasses of local bubbly while Mr M had to go the whole hog and have a Bloody Mary that came complete with its own oysters.
Oh yeah, did I mention the oysters? A seafood bar wouldn’t be a seafood bar without a shedload of oysters, so it felt only right that we worked our way through a few. We could choose between the local Porthilly oysters, or their distant cousins from up in Lindisfarne, so went for the former. Look at them!
Now, our friend hadn’t had oysters since she had some many years ago and got horribly, horribly ill. But she decided Prawn on the Lawn would be the setting for her return to these badboys, and opted to try one of their oysters deep-fried rather than raw and served up with garlic creme fraiche.
It was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that we ordered a load more and agreed that they may just have converted us permanently to eating these marvellous molluscs fried rather than au naturel.
Warmed up for the evening, we decided to go all out with the small plates and pretty much ordered every single one on the board between us. I could give you chapter and verse, but this blog will be another of the endless ones. So instead, I’ll tell you what they are, then let the pretty pictures do the rest. Here we go:-
Trout with beetroot gnocchi and dill
Pretty on the plate, complete with pine nuts to add a bit of texture, it was unusual and subtle, and a great segue into some stronger-flavoured plates.
Scallops in Thai marinade with Thai basil
One of my personal favourites. For starters, I love scallops served in their shells, and served with their fiery red roe, but the Thai marinade did exactly what a good marinade should do – emphasising the flavours of the fish rather than shouting loudly over them.
Ray wing, chilli, olives, agridulce
I’ve never had ray wing before so was intrigued to try it. Bonus points for the staff at Prawn on the Lawn for taking the time to ask us if we’d tried it before so they could give a few helpful instructions on how to disassemble it. Definitely something a bit different, full of the taste of the Mediterranean with a bit of a punch.
Porthilly mussels, clams, manzanilla
A twist on your typical Moules Mariniere, mixing big fat mussels with slightly more delicate clams, all cooked up in fine sherry that lent a somewhat different taste.
Octopus, Romesco, Basil
Romesco – a sauce made of nuts and red peppers – is from Catalonia and you really can imagine having this dish out in Spain. Mr M is a huge fan of octopus so has it wherever he goes and it really was cooked to perfection – with the romesco balancing out the bitterness from its slight charring.
Prawn on the Lawn
The namesake of our home for the night, Prawn on the Lawn is a simple dish that you could probably eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Soda bread topped with smashed, ripe, creamy avocado with prawns and sweet chilli on top. Fresh, pretty and full of flavour.
Courgette flower filled with Padstow crab
I’ve been fascinated by courgette flowers since I watched Marcus Wareing get some aspiring chefs to stuff them with a similar fishy filling on a skills test in Masterchef, The Professionals. Gorgeously delicate, they’re the perfect house for a rich filling of Padstow crab.
A hefty portion of pretty much every dish Prawn on the Lawn do, plus a few bottles of rather nice wine from their list, and we had embraced the bijou, familiar feel of this wonderful little find. We probably could have stopped there, but after seeing a couple right next to us work their way through an epic Fruits de Mer, we couldn’t resist some of the huge shellfish on offer.
Yes, you’re right, we got carried away, but where else are you going to be able to smash your way through fish that’s pretty much as fresh as the clothes you’re wearing, in some of the more relaxing surroundings I’ve enjoyed, yet fine food, cooked brilliantly and served to you by waiting staff at the top of their game?
To that end, we ordered a Padstow Lobster as well as a spider crab and took great delight in trying to devour them without firing shards of shell across the tiny restaurant and coating ourselves in all the gooey meat that hid inside.
They were two pretty impressive guys. Tasty as hell, a bit of an effort to get into, entirely unnecessary after the amount we’d already eaten, and wonderfully divine. I’ve always been an advocate of food being the haven of memories and good times and this, my friends, certainly was one of those moments.
Hands and faces covered in all manner of fishy goodness, dogs tucked under the table, wine flowing, laughter echoing. The kind of experience you want to bottle up and get out on a grey, miserable day when you’re feeling low.
If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I always say a good dining experience isn’t just about the food and Prawn on the Lawn was another great example. Yes, the food is great. I’d love to say it’s just a simple seafood bar, but it’s far more than that with each dish bringing with it a creative flair that you can imagine is a twinkle in owner Rick’s eye.
But on top of that, they’ve managed to create an environment that I’m sure every restaurateur hopes they’ll achieve – one of fun familiarity, where diners laugh and break bread (or shells) together and make memories. I’m told that one night when a bunch of some of the country’s best chefs were in Padstow, they chose Prawn on the Lawn for their dinner.
I’m not surprised.
We paid in full for our meal at Prawn on the Lawn. They didn’t know I was a blogger.