The UK's newest addition to Michelin's elite group of two-star restaurants, Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall, last week played host to a special Chef Eats Out event. Kerstin Kühn reports
When Nathan Outlaw closed his Michelin-starred restaurant at the Marina Villa hotel in Fowey in November 2009 and simultaneously announced that he was relocating to the St Enodoc hotel in Rock, everyone knew the 33-year-old chef would be back, stronger than ever. So it came as no surprise when Outlaw - having been publicly praised by former Michelin editor Derek Bulmer on a number of occasions - was awarded two Michelin stars earlier this year. To celebrate this success and offer our readers an exclusive opportunity to sample Outlaw's award-winning food, Caterer joined forces with Nestlé Professional's Chef for our latest Chef Eats Out event, which took place in sunny Cornwall last week.
Outlaw has worked with great British chefs including Gary Rhodes, John Campbell and Rick Stein, so inevitably his menus feature classic British fare with a focus on the finest local and seasonal produce, which in Cornwall means the freshest, best seafood available. While his dishes may appear simple to the eye, their intensity and depth of flavour quickly point to the enormous amount of work, refinement and technical brilliance involved in Outlaw's cooking. "All my food looks simple but it's bursting with flavour with a lot of technique. It surprises people," he says.
At the St Enodoc hotel, the chef operates two restaurants - his eponymous flagship, 24-seat fine-dining restaurant and the much larger, more casual Nathan Outlaw Seafood & Grill. For the Chef Eats Out event, diners were invited into the intimate fine-dining room, where the front-of-house team, led by restaurant manager Stephanie Little, was on hand to welcome guests. After a glass of Champagne upon arrival, the showcase of Outlaw's cuisine kicked off with fish cake canapés served with brown crab mayonnaise. True to Outlaw's reputation, a lot more work goes into his fish cakes than simply putting potato and fish together and deep-frying the mix. "We pan fry all the fish to give a nice roasted taste and the potatoes are cooked sous-vide to retain their flavour," he explains.
The first course on the main menu was cured bream, pan fried to crisp up the skin, served on a bed of confit fennel salad with orange, shallot, chervil and orange dressing, and topped with a smoked bream pâté. "We take all the trimmings from the bream, cure and smoke them before mixing the flakes of fish with cream cheese and yogurt to make the pâté," says the chef. The dish was a lovely, refreshing start to the meal and matched beautifully by the clean, floral aromas of the Pecorino Le Merlettaie 2009 Cui Cui from Italy.
The second course was lemon sole with oyster, horseradish and cucumber. "It's a classic dish and one of my favourites," says Outlaw. "We grill the lemon sole - which is day-caught in Looe - and serve it with a sauce essentially made from oyster mayonnaise which is let down with a cucumber and horseradish stock." The sole was accompanied by a deep-fried oyster - bringing a lovely textural contrast to the fish - and served with a lemon and cucumber sauce, which perfectly balanced the dish by cutting through the richness of the deep-fried oyster and cleansing the palate.
Next up was smoked sea bass with St Enodoc asparagus and English mustard, a unique dish Outlaw created especially for the Chef Eats Out event. Cured in piccalilli spices, half the fish is poached in a mustard sauce made with asparagus and fish stock, while the other half is pan fried. "The asparagus is indigenous to Rock and grows just behind the hotel. It's on our menu only for about eight weeks of the year," says Outlaw. It doesn't get more local than this.
The last savoury course - and a winner among the Chef Eats Out diners - was ray and lamb belly with beetroot and tarragon. "This is a dish we put on the menu to satisfy the carnivorous diners who crave a bit of meat on the otherwise very fish-driven menu," explains Outlaw. "The lamb belly is cured and slow-cooked to render all the fat away and you're left with something almost resembling bacon, which works very well with fish." The ray is taken off the bone and rolled before being stained with beetroot juice, poached and finished off in the pan. The dish was paired with a moreish pinot noir from Bourgogne offering surprising body and flavours of dark fruits.
Last, but certainly not least, was a dessert of elderflower and lemon crumble tart with Cornwall sorbet. A nod to spring, elderflowers have just come into season and presented a wonderful marriage of flavours with the lemon in the dessert. "The story behind the sorbet is that it's a Champagne sorbet made with Cornwall sparkling wine from the Camel Valley, with a bit of lemon and elderflower," adds Outlaw. A nice light dessert, zingy and fresh in flavour, it was a perfect finish to a perfect meal.
Cornwall may seem far to travel for lunch but Restaurant Nathan Outlaw was certainly worth the journey.
Pecorino Le Merlettaie 2009, Cui Cui, Offida, Marche, Italy
â- Lemon sole, oyster, horseradish and cucumber
Darnibole Bacchus 2009, Camel Valley, Cornwall
â- Smoked sea bass, St Enodoc asparagus and English mustard
Terras Gauda O Rosal 2009, Bodegas Terras Gauda, Rias Baixas, Spain
â- Ray and lamb belly, beetroot and tarragon
Bourgogne Rouge 2006, Domaine Alain Michelot
â- Elderflower and lemon crumble tart and Cornwall sorbet
Ice Cuvée Classic VQA, Peller Estates, Niagara, Canada
lemon sole, crispy oyster, horseradish and cucumber
**Lemon sole One fillet skinned and trimmed per portion off a big fish. To cook, season with salt and grill on a oiled tray.
**Oyster Pacific oyster breadcrumbed in panko and deep fried.
**Oyster sauce Make a mayonnaise in a Robot Coupe. For 10 portions, use four Pacific oysters, four yolks,half a lemon juiced, pinch of salt and 500ml light rapeseed oil.
**Cucumber stock Blend five cucumbers with one lemon's juice, 50ml white wine vinegar and a pitch of salt. Hang in muslin and allow to drain.
Horseradish cream Reserved oyster juice **Lemon oil Four unwaxed lemons, zest peeled and blended with 200ml olive oil and 600ml sunflower oil. Blitz for five minutes and then allow the sediment to settle overnight. Decant into a plastic bottle to serve.
**Cucumber 1cm diced cucumber, peeled. Seven dices per portion.
Chopped dill Lemon segments Cut into small triangles just before service.
â- Camel Valley Vineyard
â- Ellis Wharton Wines
â- Domaine Direct
â- Peller Family Estates
comments from the diners
"It was fabulous, absolutely fantastic. For us it was a great opportunity to engage with fellow chefs and we enjoyed the exchange in information. My favourite dish was the lemon sole - what an amazing combination of flavours."
Sandie Webb, chef-proprietor, Revolutions Restaurant & Grill, Chippenham, Wiltshire
"It was a beautiful lunch with lovely company. Nathan was on top form. The sea bass was my top dish, it offered lots of flavour and really showcased seasonal, local produce."
Adrian Oliver, chef-proprietor, Margot's Restaurant, Padstow, Cornwall
"Amazing food in great surroundings, all produced with such passion. I will be trying to reproduce the lamb dish on my menu."
Dean Bingham,chef-proprietor, Snooty Fox, Westbury, Wiltshire
"It was as good as any of the other Chef Eats Out lunches and I enjoyed the intimacy of the event, which really suited Nathan's style of operation. It's great to see the simplicity of Nathan's cooking. With two-star Michelin you expect a lot of fuss but he shows that even at that level you can keep it simple."
Steve Bennett, head chef, Llansantffraed Court hotel, Abergavenny, Wales
"A fantastic event. It's nice for us because it's local and gave us the opportunity to treat our team to a great meal while at the same time supporting a local celebrity. Nathan is someone our team looks up to. "
Jon Scott, director, Cornish Coastal Hotels
Message from our sponsor
"Chef was thrilled to be sponsor this Chef Eats Out event hosted by Nathan Outlaw at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw which was awarded two Michelin stars earlier this year.
With his personal approach to cooking and his use of local seasonal fine ingredients, Nathan was the ideal host for this exciting event which brought together a group of chefs from across the industry.
Dedicated to supporting culinary ambition, Chef launched its exclusive Chef Club designed to celebrate chefs from all walks of life, earlier this year. Visit www.thechefclub.co.uk for more information and to benefit from exclusive offers and invitations."