Why is Nathan Outlaw moving away from posh nosh?
PUBLISHED: 13:16 08 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:08 10 September 2020
The Michelin-starred chef is taking a revolutionary new approach to food at the New Road Inn in Port Isaac
With the launch of Outlaw’s New Road, Cornwall’s most lauded chef has revolutionised his menu and moved away from posh nosh and returned to simple and exquisite cooking
Nathan Outlaw is one of country’s best chefs. Holder of two Michelin stars it all began making toast for his chef father as a teenager.
Gaining his first Michelin star at age 25 and earning a second one soon afterwards, he has continued to innovate. His latest project has been to turn his two Michelin starred Restaurant Nathan Outlaw into a new restaurant. Outlaw’s New Road will continue to serve his signature ingredient – fish, but in a whole new way.
The Covid 19 lockdown saw Nathan’s restaurants close in March and he launched an Outlaws to Go home delivery service (which is set to continue). The newly designed restaurant – which is at the same Port Isaac address as his Restaurant Nathan Outlaw – offers a more inclusive menu. This means the seafood tasting menu has been replaced with a more traditional a la carte menu where prices will open up Nathan’s signature cooking to a wider audience. Starters begin at £12 and mains from £26.
The restaurant has also undergone a refurbishment to reflect the new inclusive menu.
It’s something he has thought about for some time, he says. But the lockdown provided a much-needed push. “What we had before was very niche and very selective; we had one menu and it wasn’t accessible to a large audience,” he explains. “It’s a shame all these great ingredients weren’t available to a larger audience especially people in Cornwall. The actual food is based on supporting the Cornish fishing industry and all the good growers that we’ve got in the area; really showing that off. The actual food on the plate is simple in its cooking form, but actually really celebrates the best stuff in the area.”
So how important is Cornwall to his cooking? “It’s everything,” he says without pause.
Nathan’s one-way move to Cornwall came at 19 when he worked in the kitchen of restaurateur Rick Stein. He namechecks The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow for his most memorable meal. “It was the first proper restaurant I ever really ate at,” he remembers. And he learned very quickly from eating in a restaurant that the front of house was a big part of any restaurant’s success. “Not many chefs will admit this but the front of house is way more important,” he says.
So after nearly 30 years in the kitchen, what excites him? The awards, the plaudits, the TV shows? “When I started, I didn’t think there were awards for cooking I did it because I loved cooking.” And very little has changed, he says. “Obviously I’m going to say seafood is my favourite,” he says of the ingredients. “I get excited when the asparagus seasons starts. The Cornish soft fruits are amazing and they make a massive difference to the end of the meal. And something that’s humble like a new potato from Cornwall is brilliant. I reckon a lot of people who live in Cornwall have never tried a Cornish new potato – it’s crazy.
“I really like working with young people, have a lot of young Cornish people in our team - they keep me on my toes; I like the teaching aspect of it. We’ve got about 30 people we employ in both the restaurants and we’ve been able to keep everyone on. Which is great.”
While celebrity chefs come and go, Nathan has been busy building up an incredible reputation becoming the only specialist fish restaurant in the UK to be awarded two Michelin stars and he puts much of his success down to the producers he works with. “Being in Cornwall a long, long time counts in building a relationship with people.
“When I first came to Cornwall to work for Rick I soon realised you had to get on side with the Cornish people - I married one,” he laughs. “You’ve got to try and be part of whatever is going on and it’s very easy to do. That’s when you realise it’s such a great place to live and there are so many wonderful things going on.”
Nathan’s other Port Isaac restaurant Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, remains close for now – with just eight cosy tables set within a 15th century fishermen’s cottage, socially-distanced eating is not an easy option. But watch this space. “We’ve got some ideas that we’re looking into.”
The innovative approach is something that has given him hope for Cornwall’s food and drink industry as chefs, eateries and hotels create new ways of bringing Cornish food and drink to all. “It makes the food and drink scene much more exciting for Cornwall.”
What his new restaurant might mean to his Michelin stars is as yet unknown. But his innate ability to innovate is a vital part to fine dining – and for this Nathan deserves every one of those plaudits he has spent his career gaining.
This feature first appeared in Cornwall Life’s September issue. Find out more about our latest subscription offers here