When historians come to trace the genesis of north Cornwall as a millionaire’s playground and food lover’s paradise, the Steins’ arrival in Padstow will be significant.
That was circa 1974 (though it would be some years before their empire swamped the town). Since then, so many more players have migrated that it is now impossible to ignore the celebrity in these parts.
Jamie Oliver brought his social enterprise, Fifteen, to Watergate Bay in 2005. There are glittery Michelin stars shining in Rock, home to chef Nathan Outlaw. And, of course, there is the aforementioned onslaught across the bay, in what is now known as ‘PadStein’.
Nevertheless, there is a wealth of fabulous food, drink and accommodation that comes, thankfully, without the celeb price supplement.
If you can fight your way past the souvenirs of Chalky the Dog and everything from facial scrubs to scones bearing Rick’s moniker, there is a real gem tucked away down Middle Street in Padstow.
Paul Ainsworth at No 6 serves modern Cornish food that manages to be both sophisticated and unpretentious at the same time. I am a little nervous, though: Paul has just made a successful appearance on Great British Menu on BBC2.
Should he succumb to fame, I still have another secret (whoops!). Though it is rare for me to eat at the same place more than once, the 15th-century St Kew Inn, just a few miles inland, keeps drawing me back.
When the weather drives you indoors, it is the perfect place to hole up by the fire with great beers, wines and pub food. Or you can hang out in the garden, should you get a glimpse of sun.
There are also couple of new kids on the block that look set to give the older names in north Cornwall a run for their money, though they have their idiosyncracies: the funkily coloured Wild Café and Herring Restaurant. (I suggest you close your eyes and ignore the hotel housing them, passable though The Bedruthan Steps Hotel is if you have a brood of young kids to entertain.)
But if you want unashamed luxury coupled with a hefty eco-tag, an Ayurvedic spa and NO kids, nip through the grounds of Bedruthan, head towards the beach, and you’ll reach the Scarlet Hotel on the way. It is gorgeous.
How about this for an afternoon? Visit the Wild Café – worth it for the view alone – and enjoy its simple and relaxed menu stacked with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The menu sometimes changes hourly, depending on what arrives in the kitchen from local suppliers.
You then have – as we managed – a two-hour lunch, grazing through taster plates served tapas-style, and a few glasses of crisp white wine. You follow this with a long snooze in the Scarlet’s spa afterwards. Heaven…
Downstairs from the Wild Café, and with similar stunning vistas, is the Herring, which is only open in the evenings. It’s more staid than upstairs, but is still an outstanding, contemporary seafood restaurant.
Chef Ryan Venning from the renowned Porthminster Beach Café is at the stove, serving plates of beautiful cooking. The fish, I am assured, comes with the highest sustainability credentials and is very well treated.
As will you be at the five-star self-catering house Treverra Farm Cottage in Rock. Every aspect of this place sets it apart from what you would traditionally expect of a holiday cottage, starting with the Jo Malone toiletries, Sophie Conran crockery and White Company linens and towels.
There is an infinity pool with views across the bay, a tennis court and vegetable garden. With a kitchen containing a Rayburn that I would be more than happy to have at home, the desire to cook takes over.
But no supermarket sweep is called for here, as within a (good) walk, there is Malcolm Barnecutt’s Bakery and Deli and Sharps Brewery to pick up a few local beers. Slightly further afield, Porthilly Farm Shop sells fresh shellfish, and there are a fair number of farm shops for everything else. It’s a wonder I ever came home.
Further reading Ethical eating: the best sites