Tasting Britain caught up with Michelin star chef and author Nathan Outlaw after the first lunch service at his brand new restaurant down on the cliffs of Port Isaac. With the accolade of Best Fish Restaurant attached to his previous restaurant at the St. Enodoc Hotel, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw is one of the UK’s top 10 restaurants in the Good Food Guide and our review will follow later.
Name: Nathan Outlaw
Twitter Handle: @Nathanoutlaw
Fun Fact: Nathan’s birthday is the day after mine; which, pretty aptly for a seafood chef, makes him a Pisces!
L: So, this is your 5th restaurant in Cornwall, right?
N: Well, I have worked in a few kitchens here since I came down in the nineties. I worked with Rick (Stein) and then had the Black Pig in Rock (where he earned his first Michelin star). But, yeah, I started Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Fowey. Also I still oversee Outlaw’s at St Enodoc Hotel, which serves a seasonal fixed price menu of choice using locally sourced, highest quality ingredients. And I work with Sharp’s Brewery at the The Mariners pub in Rock.
~Whoa! That’s a lot. It’s a brilliant location here; I grew up in nearby Boscastle. Do your kids like it?
Well now I’ve got this restaurant and it’s completely mine, they’ll have a lot of fun with it. They like being able to come in and see what’s going on.
(At this point I told Nathan about my niece’s ambition to be a seafood chef; he is her seafood hero and he offered her work experience with his team when she gets older. Later, when signing her copy of the menu, he wrote
Good luck on becoming an excellent seafood chef! Best fishes, Nathan!
Needless to say Isobel is thrilled, but I was also touched that Nathan was so friendly; stopping to chat to all guests, and signing copies of his book.)
I read that your Dad was a chef, did he have much influence on your decision to come into catering?
He still is. Of course he influenced me. Although what he does is quite different to me, he caters on a much larger scale. It’s got a completely different set of challenges. But my Dad’s a chef and my mum was a teacher, so they’ve both influenced what I’m doing now.
(Nathan’s Mum is now his PA and helps take all bookings and manage press enquiries)
Of course, you have Academy Nathan Outlaw. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Yeah, well I always wanted to be involved in helping nurture chefs. I set that up, and what we do is quite different to Fifteen (Jamie Oliver‘s apprenticeship restaurant) in that we identify students who are already have completed their NVQ 2 and need that additional confidence boost and bit of training to become excellent. We’ve got one apprentice on today and she’s doing really well.
You have different restaurants in operation, which have all earned Michelin stars; what’s the secret to their success?
I’ve now got this one, and the fish kitchen down in the village. And I have the London one too. I have a great team. Also I don’t see what I do as a job: I couldn’t do it as a job. You’ve gotta love it. And that way I’m excited about it every day.
How often do you have to go to your London restaurant?
I go there once a fortnight now. It used to be once a week, but I have taken it down now to spend more time here and have some time off.
You’ve written a couple of books haven’t you?
Yeah I love writing. I plan to do this, right here in this restaurant for at least another 20 years and then I think I’ll continue to write about food.
What’s your culinary philosophy?
I like to keep the ingredients simple and seasonal. It’s all cooked using fire and brimstone here! It’s not about having fancy equipment for me.
Yeah, the way the artichokes were presented was amazing; each cooking method brought out different flavours. And I saw that you used seaweed with the brill. I’ve been mesmerised by that rock and all the red from the Dulse. Do you collect it yourself?
Sometimes, yes. But I use the Cornish Seaweed Company too. They’re amazing.
Actually, (Disclosure) I work with them, it’s great that seaweed is getting so popular. You also used purslane. Is using local ingredients important to you?
That’s exactly what I’m all about: provenance and seasonal food. There’s a lot of purslane growing around here. But everything is sourced within Cornwall. The onions you had on the starter course are from a farm in St. Endellion (which is within 5 miles of Port Isaac). Even the plates are made by Chris Prindl – a local potter, and all the artwork is local too.
He showed us the Chef’s Table downstairs, which is made from reclaimed scaffolding planks. Again, supplied by a local artisan.
N: It’s great actually because these things are really strong and sturdy. And he goes and offers builders brand new ones in exchange for the older ones, and then makes furniture out of the weathered old ones.
What’s the purpose of the chef’s table?
Well people can book it and order more sharing food – like tapas style. It’s meant to be more relaxed, like the food at the Fish Kitchen down the road and it allows me to be a bit more creative. So tomorrow’s my birthday and I’ve got a load of mates (chefs) coming down from London. So that’ll be fun – trying out new things on them.
What’s next for you?
Well I think this is where I want to be for now. This is the restaurant I want to stay in for the rest of my chefing career. And I’ve still got the others as well. Really we just want to continue what we’re doing; really well. And then, as I said, after that I’ll write some more about it.
The review of Nathan’s lunch menu will be following soon, but we can say we were very happy with everything.