While Monica Shaw was covering blog posts on Great British Menu for us, she became a big fan of Nathan Outlaw. She recently went on a foodie holiday to Cornwall and luckily had the opportunity to have lunch at Nathan’s Seafood Bar & Grill at the St Endoc Hotel at Rock. Find out what she ate and how she coped meeting one of her food heroes.
Photography & blog post by Monica Shaw
When I found out I was going on a seafood-focused holiday with The Food Travel Company, I wrote the company and asked (insert kiddish-sounding voice here): “Can we go to Nathan Outlaw’s?” I didn’t think they’d say yes, but they did, and I had no idea what a treat I was in for.
I’d become a fan of Nathan (who is also amongst our Great British Chefs) while covering Great British Menu over the last few months. Nathan showed up in the Southwest Heats and I was super impressed with his simple, classic approach to preparing seafood.
Furthermore, he stuck to his guns - while other chefs were doing crazy things with foams and smears, Nathan kicked out simple but elegant dishes like seared mackerel and barbecue monkfish. This was totally my style.
But it left me wondering: how does a guy who makes such simple food raise it to heights worthy of two Michelin stars?
My trip to Cornwall was my opportunity to find out.
Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant is part of The St. Enodoc Hotel in Rock, Cornwall, and is accompanied by the more casual Seafood & Grill on the same premises. For lack of tables in his main restaurant (I should have known that to get a table at Nathan Outlaw’s, one must book well in advance), we had lunch at the grill.
As his Great British Menu performance foreshadowed, the menu was simple: you’re given a list of fish, a list of sauces, and a list of sides. No bells and whistles here: think fish like grilled whole plaice and pan-fried cod, and sauces like tartare and parsley with lemon and garlic.
I went for the oven roasted turbot on the bone with tartare sauce (as recommended by the server), along with sides of heritage carrots with caraway seeds and hand cut chips.
It was here I began to discover what makes the food so special: yes, this is simple food, but the ingredients are beautiful and the preparation is second to none. Still, there’s more to the story, and I discovered this when Nathan graciously came around to my table for a chat.
“It’s about the hard arduous search for the best ingredients,” said Nathan. And those ingredients represent the best of Britain, and particularly Cornwall. In fact, as Nathan chatted with us, he kept glancing out the window at the Camel estuary, a source of much inspiration, and indeed the mussels that Nathan uses at his restaurant.
“Rick Stein’s food is very much tied to his travels, but mine is very much a British thing,” said Nathan, who worked for Rick Stein at the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow before very much going his own way with his restaurant. But Rick’s restaurant is where Nathan’s passion for seafood began. Other chefs Nathan admires are Mark Hix for the way he writes his menus, and Mitch Tonks, Nathan’s favourite restaurant of all time: “it’s got body and soul”.
Massive thank you to Nathan for the chat and the fabulous lunch (and for entertaining my photographic spontaneity). I’m still thinking about that wonderfully gherkiny / capery tartare and perfect turbot. It’s what Nathan Outlaw’s style is all about: simple, British food, done to the highest standard one can achieve.
My trip to Nathan Outlaw’s was arranged and provided by The Food Travel Company as part of their South West England holiday, for more information follow them on Twitter at @foodtravelco. Visit Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant at www.nathan-outlaw.com.
You can find some of Nathan Outlaw’s fantastic dishes to make at home on Great British Chefs website.