Rick Stein: My nightclub being shut down was one of the best things to happen

16 November 2023 by
Rick Stein: My nightclub being shut down was one of the best things to happen

Rick Stein has said the closure of his Padstow nightclub by police in the 1970s was one the "best things" that could have happened to him.

The chef, 76, and his friend Johnny converted a mobile disco into a seafront club, but it lost its drinks licence and was shut down when customers kept fighting outside.

"We were so young and so not equipped to run a nightclub with a late licence," Stein told the White Wine Question Time podcast.

"In fact, what happened looking back was the best thing that could have happened to us, being closed down."

Stein then converted the club into the Seafood Restaurant, which he opened in 1975 with his former wife Jill and has since become the flagship in his ten-strong hospitality group.

The chef said it was more difficult to open a restaurant now compared to the 1970s as customers had become more demanding about food.

"What's happened over the years is people have become much more knowledgeable about food and cooking and much more demanding about how their food is cooked," he said.

"In the early days…there were a few very well-known restaurants, but opening a restaurant was fairly easy to do. There were no health and safety regulations, and you didn't really need that much in terms of décor."

Stein said the restaurant was initially decorated with "a load of old herring nets" and red checked tables and candles in bottles.

He recalled his early PR campaigns for the opening when he would advertise by putting flyers on car windows or driving through caravan parks with a megaphone.

"It seems the most anti-social thing to do now, to go round loads of cars in a car park and put a brightly coloured sticker on their window and the megaphone thing, but, hey ho, it worked.

"This was the 70's so things were a bit sort of looser in those days, as was the cooking I have to say."

Stein added that four or five years after the nightclub was closed down, the policeman responsible invited him over for tea.

"He said, 'we felt really sorry for you boys because you were so green behind the ears but there was nothing we could do for you except make sure you were closed down'.

"By then I was starting to make a bit of a name for myself for cooking, I just said…to be honest it was the best thing that happened to us."

The Stein family's hospitality empire includes six restaurants in Cornwall and one each in London, Marlborough, Sandbanks and Winchester.

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