Waterside dining that combines fish and flavour with front-of-house flair.
With its ‘toes-in-the-water’ position, Rick Stein Porthleven sits right on the harbour’s edge. Part traditional building, part glass-fronted conservatory, the restaurant itself is a combination of laid-back luxury and modern chic. Opened by the Stein family in 2014, their influence is felt throughout: Rick and Jack with the menu; Charlie with the wine list; Jill and Ed with the gorgeous interiors.
We enter through a sliding glass door that reveals a double-height restaurant space with an impressive vaulted ceiling. Assistant Restaurant Manager, Claudia, meets us with a beaming smile and the offer of a seat on one of the comfortable leather sofas in the bar area, where we are invited to relax and enjoy a pre dinner drink while perusing the menu. Rick Stein’s businesses have always been a family affair and as we chat happily with Claudia it’s no surprise to hear that her sons Olly and Jack both work with her during the high season.
A Grey Goose vodka and orange for me and a Tarquin’s Cornish gin and tonic for my better half make the perfect liquid companions while we read the menu. Head Chef, Ashley Gains prides himself on presenting a vibrant menu that changes with the season, and always celebrates the freshest of seafood. Being this close to the water, why wouldn’t you? We choose the fish and shellfish soup and the moules marinière to start, followed by crab linguine and the Indonesian seafood curry.
I’ve heard from a friend that Stein’s house wine is delicious so when Claudia returns to take our order we also order a bottle of Rick Stein Spanish White. Made with virura and verdejo grapes we are promised a wine that is ‘charmingly fresh and fragrant’. We are shown to a table in the conservatory area where we have a vista across the harbour of fishing boats gently bobbing in the calm waters. You can see the reflection of the water in the crystal glassware that adorns the table. Call me old fashioned, but I do love a beautifully laid table!
Head Chef, Ashley Gains
Images by James Ramm and David Griffen
Ashley runs an open kitchen where you can see his chefs at work, and the aromas that emanate are simply mouth watering. Our starters arrive and herald the beginning of what promises to be a delicious feast. The soup is delicately flavoured so that it’s neither overpowering nor underwhelming, maintaining the perfect balance of taste. The mussels are a steaming bowl of succulent fruits of the sea, so fresh they almost melt in the mouth. Throughout, Claudia is on hand, always attentive but never intrusive. I’m glad I listened to my friend about the wine, it’s every bit as delicious as she promised and gives other, more expensive bottles a definite run for their money.
A short intermission between courses allows us to soak up the view. As the sun starts to set the lights of the harbour begin to twinkle, it’s all truly magical. Our mains are equally as delicious as our starters. The crab for the linguine is hand-picked and paired with careful touches of chilli and garlic that cut through the richness of the crab meat perfectly. The curry is fragrant and the rich sauce plays host to a combination of sea bass, hake and prawns, served with a fresh green bean and grated coconut salad that cleanses the palate.
Image courtesy of James Ram
Sadly we can’t find room for dessert – so delicious was our food that we have cleared our plates, on both courses. Claudia brings us a pair of espressos as we reflect on our evening. We agree that Rick Stein Porthleven has achieved that much sought after combination of an ambient atmosphere in which you can relax, but one that also makes you feel special. It’s not a fine-dining restaurant, but it certainly offers fine dining. It is a place for foodies that crave simplicity and informality combined with amazing flavours and incredible views. If you love seafood and excellent service, you’ll love Rick Stein Porthleven.