Padstow favourite seafood restaurant pops up for the summer
PUBLISHED: 14:22 14 July 2020
Prawn on the Lawn has become one of Cornwall’s best loved seafood restaurants will be relocating to the Padstow Kitchen Garden for the summer
Rick Toogood was born on the Channel Islands, surrounded by fish. His mother trained at Cordon Bleu and her enthusiasm for food – particularly fish – was passed onto Rick. With a passion for sea-fare ingrained his blood, Rick went on to manage various different sites for Fishworks, before realising his and wife Katie’s, joint dream of owning their own restaurant.
“I grew up in Guernsey, and as a kid was obsessed with going to the fish-market with my mum and grandmother, I was like a kid in a sweet-shop,” says Rick.
Despite not having any formal training to speak of, founder Rick, along with his wife Katie, attained their dish-inspiration from all avenues; travelling the globe, visiting diverse restaurants and, spending days working free-of-charge at various fishmongers before opening their first Prawn on the Lawn in Islington in 2013. Rick and Katie have since opened two further restaurants in Padstow, another Prawn on the Lawn in 2015, followed by Barnaby’s in 2018 – a cosy relaxed restaurant, in a former tearoom, serving local seafood with the addition meat dishes, cooked over a wood-fired oven. The inspiring husband and wife duo also launched their debut cookbook, Fish and Seafood to Share, in March 2018.
Having sourced a lot of their produce from Cornwall, it made sense to be closer to the source. Rick and Katie also realised there was no other restaurant offering their style of sharing plates and varied cuisine, so in May 2015, made the bold decision to move to Cornwall to set up Prawn on the Lawn, Padstow, leaving their Islington offering in the capable hands of their dedicated team, whilst still being very much involved with the menu and its general operation.
Prawn on the Lawn, Padstow opened just a few months later, following a similar format to Islington; being a fully-licensed fishmonger and seafood-restaurant. Prawn on the Lawn, Padstow will be relocating to Padstow Kitchen Garden for the summer - sitting one mile outside of Padstow - and a fishmonger and takeaway service will operate from the original site on Duke Street.
“Prawn on the Lawn was one of those ventures that grew organically; we started out predominantly as a fishmonger with eight bar-seats where you could eat fresh-oysters, a whole crab or lobster with a glass of fizz whilst you waited. Quickly the food offering became super-popular, developing into a restaurant. With a wide variety of sea fare available, sharing dishes was a natural route to take,” enthuses Rick.
The seafood-loving duo have kept to the principle that motivated them in starting their own business; to create a place where they and their staff enjoyed working in, and customers loved coming to.
“If any of these things aren’t apparent, we know there’s an issue and we quickly resolve it,” adds Rick.
Both Prawn on the Lawn restaurants have been originally designed to reflect eating in a fishmonger; think white metro tiles, exposed bricks, informal bar-seating, white marble fish-slab and a nod towards industrial décor, the overall aesthetic lending itself to a more informal restaurant vibe.
Moving to Padstow has enabled Rick and Katie to form even greater relationships with the local fishermen and fishmongers, allowing them to celebrate the freshest Cornish seafood, mostly cooking the fish over a charcoal grill.
“I’m in awe of the fishermen, and how they fuse the roots of their ancestors traditional fishing-custom, with new innovative methods. It feels like home to be based in Padstow as we are at the heart of a historic fishing-port, with a community who are invested in the trade. We’re also lucky enough to have the connection with our producers. Above all, its an absolutely stunning place to live,” Rick enthuses.
Still a small operation with only 24 covers, the daily-changing menu is all about sustainability, working with local suppliers in Padstow and the surrounding area. Menus are built on a daily basis, depending on the fish brought to shore from the day-boats, with the possibility of changing up to six or seven times a day.
“We truly support local producers – you can’t miss the fisherman and farmers walking into the restaurant throughout the day. Our menus are very much led by the producers we work with; different ingredients are available throughout the year, with fish and seafood being seasonal too,” explains Rick.
Rick and Katie ensure they source only the freshest local seafood for each of their restaurants – with the help of their legendary Padstow fisherman, Johnny Murt – sometimes venturing out on Johnny’s trawler, before cooking up the day’s-catch, back in the kitchen.
Rick is meticulous about his plates, ensuring that the flavours of the seafood are well balanced, whilst also packing a punch.
“I make sure the seafood does the talking – you shouldn’t leave Prawn on the Lawn feeling heavy and bloated, instead content in the fact you’ve tasted some exciting plates of food,” he says.
Padstow is renowned for its density of quality restaurants, making it a great destination for foodies, but it’s the close relationships that have been built with their suppliers, to produce the freshest plates of seasonal fish and seafood, that have influenced Rick and Katie, enabling Prawn on The Lawn to stand apart.
“Certainly working so closely with our suppliers – Johnny Murt who catches our crabs, Ross Geach at Padstow Kitchen Garden, Cornish Chilli Farm, Cornish Mushroom Co, Trevibban Mill Vineyard, Padstow Brewing Co and Porthilly Shellfish – have all influenced us. It’s so refreshing to have a proper relationship with the people who are providing your produce. If there’s one piece of advice I could offer fellow restaurateurs, it would be to get stuck into the community, and support all of your local suppliers as much as possible,” says Rick.
Ultimately, Prawn on the Lawn is a fish-bar, with a foodie-experience at the heart. “The key thing is, we offer an experience, rather than just a meal,” adds Rick.
Juggling three restaurants is no easy task, and Rick and Katie rely heavily on their team as they work between the two eateries in Padstow. “We have such a great team in all of our restaurants, we work full time between the two in Padstow, and head up to London once a month to catch up with the team in Islington. We staff-split across all three, so it gives individuals a chance to learn from others,” says Katie.
I ask Rick to hit me with his favourite dishes to cook and serve. “It’s such a tough one as we’ve done over 200 different dishes over the last few years, but the simple ones are always the best, floured and deep-fried red mullet, lemon and olive oil. That’s all you need, with a glass of Muscadet, oh and some Porthilly oysters!”
Prawn on the Lawn, Padstow features in the Michelin Guide, and has been listed in The Sunday Times ‘100 Best Places to Eat in the UK’ 2018. With three restaurants to manage, it’s surprising they have time for much else, but with the north Cornish coast on their doorstep, outdoor-living beckons.
“We have two energetic dogs, so we go for long coastal walks. The scenery and beaches are breathtaking, in the summer you can mistakenly think you’re on an exotic holiday! We’re always exploring the county, finding new places and restaurants,” says Katie.
Despite their hands being full, plans for further ventures haven’t been ruled out. “When we have an idea and the right site is there, we go for it; we know when we both feel the excitement and instant passion,” says Rick.
So now that they’ve made the transition from London, could Rick and Katie ever see themselves living anywhere other than Cornwall? “Not in a million years! We’re here for long haul!”
As a seafood-lover, and small-plate obsessive, I’m pleased to hear it, Prawn on the Lawn, Padstow offers a true celebration of Cornish sea fare, in a unique industrial-modern styled seafood-bar and fishmonger, an informal environment, brimming with a lively enthusiasm for fish and seafood to share! For updates on opening and latest Covid 19 advice visit prawnonthelawn.com
Five Signature Dishes to Re-create at Home
Prawn on the Lawn: Smashed avocado with lime, cooked tiger prawns, chilli, lime and coriander dressing. It’s so easy to recreate as minimal cooking is required and you can buy-in the cooked prawns and bread. Perfect for a quick and tasty brunch.
Deep-fried oysters: Shuck, discard the liquid, next flour and deep-fry. Serve with a dip of Garlic creme fraiche; garlic, lemon juice, creme fraiche, salt and pepper.
Grey mullet, hispi cabbage and seaweed butter: Simply mix dried-seaweed with butter, sear the fish and cabbage both sides and bake in the oven with the butter on. It’s such a simple dish, and amplifies the taste of the sea.
Sea bass ceviche: Cook the raw fish using the acidity of lime, with coriander, red onion, tomato and avocado. A super fresh dish that’s perfect for the summer.
Grilled sardines with mango salsa: Get your barbecue ready and ensure these beauties are nicely charred. The mango-salsa compliments the smoky fish.
Rick’s favourite locally sourced fish to serve
Red mullet: Take the guts out, keep whole, flour and deep fry. Serve with a dressing of equal parts olive oil and lemon juice with a wedge of lemon
Spider crab: The meat is so sweet, it’s great in pasta or croquettes
Lobster: Perfect for the barbecue with wild garlic butter
Hake: Oven roasted with feta, parsley, dill, mint and olive oil