LUNCH AT PRAWN ON THE LAWN
Rick and Katie Toogood’s Padstow restaurant Prawn on the Lawn has received numerous accolades since opening in summer 2015. It has quickly built up a reputation for serving super fresh fish dishes, and is popular with locals and holidaymakers alike.
The fresh fish counter sits in the window, behind which is the tiny restaurant, with just 24 covers on tables and bar stools.
Menus are on blackboards on the restaurant walls, and they change daily, depending on which fish has come in that morning. As well as a lovely selection of tapas style dishes, there are whole fish to share (diners can choose their fish from the fresh fish display), oysters (raw or deep fried), shellfish stew, and fruits de mer platters.
There are Mediterranean and Asian influences on the cuisine, which blend well with the finest of Cornish produce, notably fish from Johnny Murt and Wild Harbour, Porthilly oysters and mussels, and veg and salad from Padstow Kitchen Garden.
Our lovely waitress suggested three dishes per person to share, so we pretty much ordered all the small plates on the menu.
Dishes came out of the kitchen, two or three at a time, in a logical progression from cold to warm, and light to hearty.
First out was the restaurant’s signature dish – Prawn on the Lawn. Juicy king prawns sat upon smashed avocado on soda bread, zingy with heaps of lime, coriander and chilli, and definitely whet our appetite.
This was closely followed by sashimi-grade tuna, which had literally touched the heat for a few seconds to sear the edges. The meaty fish was sliced fairly thickly, and topped with coriander, spring onions and chilli. The little bowl of soy and mirin made for the perfect dipping sauce in this mouthwatering dish.
The soda bread was warm and delicious, slathered with soft, salty butter.
The mussels and clams were steamed in Manzanilla sherry. I’m allergic to bi-valves but by the way everyone devoured them, I’m convinced they were very tasty.
Our Szechuan prawns were incredible (we ordered more as they were so good). The large tiger prawns were fried in olive oil, then sprinkled with a mix of Szechuan pepper, salt and Chinese five spice. With a squirt of fresh lime juice, this is one of those dishes where the sum is more than its parts.
The pollock dish was one of my favourites; the fish was immaculately cooked, with soft, flaky flesh and crispy skin. You wouldn’t think that feta would go with fish, but it worked really well. The fish was sprinkled with basil, dill, mint and pine nuts, and the lashings of olive oil were just asking to be mopped up with our remaining bread.
The three plump scallops were devoured in seconds. The Thai marinade was packed full of flavour, but light enough not to overpower the delicate shellfish.
Last, but not least, the pollock in light-as-air tempura batter was another amazing dish. The thick, creamy curry sauce was beautifully spiced, with lovely coconut flavours, and the crispy shallots, fresh chillies and salad onions added texture and yet more layers of flavour.
We loved the potatoes so much we ordered three (yes three) portions of them, and neglected to get a photo. They were crushed and deep-fried, and sprinkled with spiced salt. The baby gem leaves with truffle oil and shavings of Grana Padano were equally delicious, and very simple – definitely something I’ll be recreating at home.
Now I feel the need to go back and eat the other few dishes on the menu that we didn’t try, and to go back in a few weeks’ time when there is a different selection of fish, and then in a few months… Thank goodness they have a new cook book out so that I can get my POTL fix at home.
The book contains a great selection of recipes, including hot and cold tapas, larger fish dishes, sides, and desserts. Some are simple, others are more complex, but all easily achievable by the home cook.
Being restaurant dishes, lots are suitable for dinner parties as much of the prep can be done in advance. The most important thing is to buy the best quality fish from your local fishmonger.
Disclaimer: Katie kindly gave us a glass of fizz upon arrival and we paid for our lunch. Small dishes range in price from £7.50 to £10 each, with sides for £3 to £4.
Photos by Jim Michell, Barefoot.