The very likeable Rick Stein gave the UK a culinary shake-up when he burst onto our TV screens two-decades ago with an eat--from-the-sea cookery concept. His newest seafood restaurant is due to open this winter in Sandbanks on the Dorset coast.
With his baggy jumper and beloved canine companion, Stein journeyed the coast in his boat, met the fishermen whose lives depended on their daily haul and cooked fish on fires in the sand. Today Stein’s life continues to revolve around the sea – in the South West of England and in Australia.
With his self-deprecating demeanor, Rick Stein is one of those likeable TV personalities who feels so familiar that viewers think they know him, personally. For more than 20 years, Stein – often with his faithful hound Chalky – has encouraged us to be more enthusiastic about the great-tasting array of fish that live in the seas around our coastline. It is with Stein’s help through his TV series and books that millions of us have rediscovered seafood cooking. With his simple recipes, we felt brave enough to buy, prepare and cook it for ourselves. He has guided self-confessed fish-cooking-phobics through scaling, gutting, skinning with plenty of tips (clearly supplied first-hand) on how to open oysters, tenderise octopus and navigate the workings of large, fresh lobster.
A quick tally of his most popular fish dishes runs to over 1000 tried-and-tested recipes in 11 books. His TV shows - Rick Taste of the Sea, Fruits of the Sea, Seafood Odyssey, Fresh Food, Seafood Lovers’ Guide, Food Heroes and Spain: My Journey off the Beaten Track – are aired in dozens of different countries, across four continents while his books sell in millions all over the globe. The secret to his ongoing success? Well, he communicates simply yet doesn’t dumb down. Stein is an Oxford University graduate who doesn’t favour the often elitist language of foodies. He speaks like we do. He cooks like we should. And we admire his evangelical celebration of the sea.
On all things fish he is passionate – we admire this. His cheeks glow pinker when urging us to try long forgotten species – it’s an honest frustration that resonates with the recalcitrant British public. I mean, surely we can be a lot more adventurous than cod?!
Stein isn’t just a talented cook and all-round personality; he is also a shrewd businessman who juggles an impressive array of commercial enterprises. With his restaurants, cafes, seafood delicatessen, bistro – as well as a famous fish & chip shop - and a cooking school to run, he admits to having less time to chug round on boats up and down the south west coast these days. Now dividing his time between Cornwall and New South Wales, Australia where he also has a restaurant (Rick Stein at Bannisters in Mollymook), Stein spends a lot of time travelling backwards and forwards from Sydney to the harbour town of Padstow.
But Rick Stein’s heart really lies with the British coast - it is where he raised his children (in Padstow) and where he still feels most at home. In 2003, he was awarded an OBE for services to West Country Tourism – thousands of people visit Padstow each year to eat a Rick Stein seafood dish and mess about in the water as Stein so often did with Chalky. News of his plans to open an eatery in Sandbanks spread like wildfire throughout Britain’s south coast and the Channel Islands where food lovers received the news with ecstatic glee. Offering views overlooking the water, the Rick Stein restaurant will seat around 200 and specialise in the simple, beautifully cooked classic seafood dishes that is Stein’s trademark style. So expect Dover sole meunière, turbot hollandaise and fruits de mer on the menu, alongside more casual lunch favourites, such as a crab salad and moules frites.
With its lengthy sea-faring tradition and maritime history, the Sandbanks peninsula would seem the perfect location for a really good fish restaurant. Set at the mouth of Poole Harbour in Dorset, Sandbanks Beach and the area around Canford Cliffs is dubbed as “Britain’s Palm Beach’ by the media on account of its A-list residents and high property values. Yet Rick Stein’s newest restaurant promises to be less about ritzy razzle-dazzle and big buck price-tags and all about excellent food using the finest, well-sourced produce. With the renovation work completed on the former Cafe Shore building, the interior decor on the restaurant is starting to take shape – a project led by Stein’s ex-wife Jill with son Ed and daughter-in-law, Kate. Colours will be muted, taking inspiration from the local coast and landscape. The Stein’s have already handpicked marble from Carrara for a beautifully-crafted bespoke bar where diners will be able to eat shellfish and drink cocktails. Will the Rick Stein name do for Poole tourism what it has done for Padstow since his flagship restaurant opened there in 1975? Only time will tell. Padstow is nicknamed Padstein by the locals. Steinbanks could well be next.
For details on the launch of the new Rick Stein restaurant in Sandbanks this winter
visit: www.rickstein.com. Twitter updates at @SteinSandbanks or call 01841 532700.