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Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, Rock, United Kingdom

July 2, 2011 1 comment

Sometimes part of the fun of planning a holiday is to come up with excuses for the destination. For me, I have mastered this art to a new level: a weekend break in Ludlow in Shropshire has turned into a 10-day long holiday, including a “detour” of over 200 miles to Rock in Cornwall. This year I decided a two-night stay in Rock would be a good idea – with both evening meals at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw. Last year when we went there for one night, the only thing in Rock that we manage to visit was Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, which had opened for merely a month and was still finding its feet in the new venue of St Enodoc Hotel at that point. Within a week of sorting out my reservation of two dinners at the restaurant (it was that good last year that one dinner would simply feel too much of a wasted effort to travel all the way there) and the stay at the newly-refurbished hotel, the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars. It was a good sign and it was just what I had expected.

Now that I have been to the restaurant a few times and got to know the staff a bit, it felt like going to visit old friends rather than just a visit to a restaurant. The service was friendly and informal, and it was nice to see that they were not trying to cram in more seats – the restaurant still felt spacious enough that each table still had its privacy.

As the restaurant only offers one single set menu these days (which was a wise move given the capacity), I was concerned about dining on two consecutive evenings in the same place. However, I was assured that I would get a different menu on the second evening.

Dinner 1 (19 April 2011)

The amuse-bouche was mackerel with horseradish salad and wholegrain bread – it was an impressive start: a deliciously moist piece of fish.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Mackeral with Horseradish salad on Wholegrain bread

The first course was John Dory with tarragon, St Enodoc asparagus, bacon and hazelnut: the fish was firm and beautifully cooked, and the tarragon sauce was bold without overpowering the flavour of the fish.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - John Dory

The next course was crab salad with apple and fennel. Crab was one of my favourite seafood. The crab here was fresh and cooked nicely (anything less than that, I’d have thought “what a waste of food”). The combination of the apple and crab pate worked well in this very refreshing dish.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Crab Salad

The third course was bream with saffron, mussels, olives and pepper. These ingredients produced a rather bold but refined bouillabaisse flavour. It was as if I was suddenly transported to the south of France. Another impressive dish.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Bream

The “main” course  was turbot with lamb belly, beetroot and rosemary. As it’s lamb belly, the dish had a rather strong smell which could be problematic for some people if they did not know the strength of that smell. But for me, it’s not a problem. I thought that the lamb belly would overpower all the other flavours of the dish, but to my surprise it provided a nice balance to the sweetness of the beetroot discs and jus, and the flavour of the turbot was not buried underneath all these other flavours. Another well-executed dish.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Turbot

After such a flavoursome main course, it would be hard to find something to cleanse the palate sufficiently for the desserts. But here it was: Rhubarb jelly with vanilla cream, rhubarb and ginger sorbet. It was a light pre-dessert, with the rhubarb pieces not too sharp or overpowering. I usually would not go for ginger biscuit but this one had a nice clean taste to it without being too much of the ginger taste lingering afterwards. All the ingredients just worked very well together.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Rhubarb Jelly with Vanilla Cream

The dessert was chocolate orange cheesecake with orange-yoghurt sorbet, cocoa syrup and orange curd. If there’s anything I did not like about this meal, it would have been the use of milk chocolate but that’s more a personal preference of  dark chocolate and I thought the taste of milk chocolate was a bit wishy-washy and might have worked better with a darker chocolate which would give a stronger body of flavour. However, the orange curd and sorbet were delicious.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

Petit fours

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Petit Fours

Dinner 2 (20 April 2011)

For the second evening, we had a different menu.

The first course was lemon sole with crispy oyster, cucumber and dill. As usual, the fish was cooked to perfection – at this point I must say I’d expect nothing less than perfection really on the fish-cooking front. The sauce had a flavour that was a cross between mayonnaise and tartare sauce, and it went well with the fish and the oyster. If there’s anything I had to nitpick on this dish, it would have been the batter of the oyster – I thought it might have worked better with a lighter batter.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Lemon Sole

The second course that arrived at our table won hands down on the colour alone: Bream with beetroot barley. The vibrant maroon red colour of the beetroot was stunning on a white plate. Often at many places the beetroot would have such a vinegary taste that it would ruin the rest of the ingredients, but not here – the beetroot had sufficient flavour without overpowering the fish. The smoked bream pate on top of the beetroot and parsley had a nice flavour, and the these two main ingredients provided an unforgettable mixture of texture and taste.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Bream

The third course was sea bass, brown shrimps and shellfish sauce. Often I’d get very frustrated with people overcooking the seabass, to the point where the flesh of the fish would just disintegrate at the slightest touch. Here, the cooking was once again impossible to fault. The shellfish sauce was sweet and provided an interesting extra dimension to the dish.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Sea Bass

The main course was turbot with piccalilli sauce and ham hock – again a combination of flavours and texture that worked perfectly together: the freshness of the fish came through in the middle of the saltiness of the ham hock and the vinegar flavour of the piccalilli.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Turbot

As we enjoyed the meal so much, we decided to just be a bit greedy and added the cheese course. We had a selection of six cheeses: Wyfe of Bath, Stratton Belle, Tunworth, Keltic Gold, Davidstow ‘3 Year Old’ Crackler, Beenleigh.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Cheese

I must admit when I saw the menu, I was not looking forward to the pre-dessert of Sea buckthorn cream and sorbet. Maybe it was a bad experience I had with sea buckthorn elsewhere the year before. But the concern was totally unfounded – this dish was so nice that I could easily have had another one without any problem. The ultra-smooth sea buckthorn cream and sorbet were refreshing and light. It was a truly pleasant surprise.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Sea Buckthorn

The dessert was chocolate sponge, with coffee syrup and vanilla ice-cream. This was a variation of chocolate fondant with a smooth ice-cream. The syrup had a nice sweet flavour. Once again the meal finished on a high note.

Restaurant Nathan Outlaw - Chocolate Sponge

Both dinners were exceptional, but if I really had to choose, the second dinner had a slight winning edge – it was probably the best meal I’ve had in the past 12 months also (and this was reflected in the perfect score).

Considering the size of the kitchen and the number of staff, it was impressive that Nathan Outlaw managed to produce such a consistent set of dishes. If you are after really fancy elaborate cooking in the Heston Blumenthal or John Campbell style, you won’t find it here. This is returning to the basics: good quality fresh food with simpler cooking style in order to let the ingredients speak for themselves. Nathan’s use of locally-sourced seafood coupled with flawless cooking has made this one of the best restaurants not just in the Southwest England, but in the whole of UK.

My Favourite Restaurant is here!

Address: St. Enodoc Hotel, Rock, Cornwall, PL27 6LA, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44(0)1208 863394
Website: www.nathan-outlaw.com

Opening Hours: 
Lunch: Friday & Saturday 12:30 – 14:00
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday: 19:00-21:00

Food: 10/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 20/20 [Based on two visits in April 2011]

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Paul Ainsworth at Number 6, Padstow, United Kingdom

How do you squeeze in a meal when your itinerary is already jam-packed and your stomach is not able to squeeze in another full meal? Well, this was the dilemma I had in Cornwall – I had the intention of going to Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 restaurant in 2010, but there was no way to fit it into the tight schedule. This year I had to try to find a slot to visit this place between the two dinners at Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in Rock – doing a full lunch and then a proper dinner would push my stomach (and waistline) way past its limit, but a “light” lunch in Padstow would be a good compromise.

It was a very sunny and warm day in April – almost like mid-summer. Padstow was crowded, but as it’s not the height of the summer yet, it was still manageable (well, not the parking – the carpark was overflowing).

The restaurant had a bright casual feel to it, and I loved the decor, with its large mirror in one of the rooms. It might just as well be a comfortable surrounding that I could settle into – the task of choosing the dishes from the menu was hard. There were so many dishes which sounded so interesting that the difficulty was to narrow down to a manageable number of dishes – not so simple when even there were several starters that I wanted. The waiter was so helpful that he hinted that we could have ordered in whatever way we wanted from the menu, so the decision was then made: three starters to share between me and Russell: we’d have one each and then share the third.

I chose the sweetcorn soup with thyme and crabmeat tortellini – the soup was smooth and sweet, but I found that the sweetcorn taste overpowered the fresh flavour of the crabmeat. A shame really but it was nevertheless a well-executed dish. Russell had the Terras farm duck “Scotch eggs” with smoked mustard mayonnaise – while it tasted nice, the texture was a bit too crumbly for his liking. I had a mouthful of it and I agreed.

 

 

We then decided to share the third starter: St Enodoc asparagus with Serrano ham, parmesan, quail egg and salad. It was the season for the asparagus and the combination of the various ingredients, although verging on the somewhat predictable side, was well balanced.

Our original plan was to just have a light lunch of three starters, but with the dishes being so promising, we decided to go for a dessert also. Alas, another list to select from…. Difficult choice. So to go for the easy (but very greedy) option, we went for the “Taste of no. 6” dessert plate. We were expecting about 4-5 items on the plate, but when the plate arrived, we were (pleasantly) shocked by the size and selection. It consisted of a few items that I would have liked from the menu, such as pineapple tart tatin with thyme and coconut ice-cream, hot chocolate moelleux, espresso creme brulee with fairground doughnuts, rhubarb trifle etc. So much for a “light” lunch!

On the whole, it was a very enjoyable meal and I would certainly go back next time I am in Padstow. There’s some fine-tuning to do on the dishes to take it to the level of excellence, but the signs were promising. While most people would flock to one of Rick Stein’s eateries in Padstow, I’d be more happy to go to Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 for better food.

Address:  6 Middle Street, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8AP, United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0)1841 532 093
Website: www.number6inpadstow.co.uk

Opening Hours: 
From May to Sep: Tuesday-Sunday: 10:30-16:00, 18:00-22:00
From Oct to Apr: Tuesday-Sunday: 10:30-16:00, 19:00-22:00
Food: 7/10
Ambience: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 15/20 [Based on visit in April 2011]

Nathan Outlaw Restaurant, Rock, United Kingdom

April 27, 2011 2 comments

It was Nathan Outlaw’s restaurant in Fowey that finished off my Cornwall gourmet trip on a high in 2009, and so in 2010 I have once again chosen Nathan for the grande finale of this year’s SW England foodie tour with my friends Darcy and Bob from the US. I felt this was an appropriate choice given that Darcy was a lover of seafood, and I knew that I couldn’t go far wrong with Nathan with his forte in seafood cooking and his use of local produce – being by the sea really helps!

As the Marina Villa hotel in Fowey was sold off, once again Nathan had to find a new venue to move to. He already has the Seafood & Grill at St Enodoc Hotel in Rock since middle of 2009, so it’s a natural choice to move his flagship restaurant to the same place. For those who are not familiar with the geography of SW England, Rock is in North Cornwall and is located on the opposite side of the Camel Estuary to Padstow. It’s a tough place to be competing with Rick Stein’s well-known seafood empire which dominates Padstow.

The restaurant in Rock had only opened for about 4 weeks when we visited, so certain things still needed to be ironed out, even though most of the staff followed Nathan’s footstep from Fowey to Rock. The sommelier might not be completely familiar with his wines, but he was certainly knowledgeable, and recommended a very nice bottle of Austrian white wine, after I set out the rules of “no Chablis, no Riesling” for the evening. He was even prepared to open a new bottle to let us try a bit first, as I am not a fan of Austrian wine generally – but this was a clever move for him as the wine was light and refreshing, and so we ended up with the bottle to go with the meal.

As it’s the final evening of a week-long gourmet trip and we had a whole day of travelling around sightseeing, we were all too tired to decide what to eat in the a la carte menu, and so we chose the easy way out and opted for the tasting menu.

The first dish that was presented to the table was Smoked Mackerel with pickled vegetables, olive bread and smoked salt. It was beautifully presented (as you can see below). Taste-wise the verdict was mixed – I thought it was good but Russell did not enjoy it too much, but then he was not a fan of mackerel anyway.

The first 3 courses were all fish – it’s a showcase of Nathan’s skills in cooking seafood:

(1) Lemon Sole, with caper potato dumplings and parsley sauce

(2) Brill, with angels on horseback, seaweed and squash

(3) Bream, mussels and saffron with olives and tarragon

It’s hard to find too many faults with these dishes. The only (slightly) negative comment at the table seemed to be on the brill which was slightly on the dry side and overcooked.

The next course was still around the seafood-theme:

(4) Scallops, with hogs pudding, Jerusalem artichoke and apple. When we finished this course, the staff asked how it was – We all agreed that this was one of the best dishes we had during the trip, as the scallops were very fresh and perfectly cooked. The other ingredients complemented the scallops really well, with no one single ingredient dominating the overall flavour. We were told that the scallops just came in on the day and were only delivered at 4pm.

After four courses of seafood, the next course was a meat course:

(5) Venison, chicory tart with hazelnuts, parsnips and thyme. Nearly every restaurant we went to on this trip featured venison on the menu. This one might not be the best, but then it was very good, with the meat not too dry or overcooked.

There were 2 desserts that followed:

(6) Stem Ginger Cheesecake, with poached rhubarb and ginger ice-cream

(7) Almond Financier, blood orange and pistachio with yoghurt sorbet

I must admit that I shivered when I saw “ginger cheesecake” and “ginger ice-cream” in one dish – although I love using ginger in cooking savoury food, I am not a fan of ginger biscuits or in desserts. One of the indicators of a great chef (as opposed to a good chef) for me is that he/she can make me enjoy a dish full of ingredients I don’t like. With this ginger cheesecake from Nathan, while I can’t say that I would go back and choose this dessert specifically, I could quite happily eat another one if I had to. So that’s nearly a total success!

The desserts were nice, but lacked that certain edge that made the dishes unforgettable, like the ones I had in Fowey.

It’s probably a bit unfair to try to compare the restaurant at Fowey against the current setting in Rock. After all, the Fowey restaurant had an absolutely stunning unobstructed view – sitting halfway up the hill looking out to the Fowey estuary. The blinds were closed in the restaurant at Rock, but I didn’t expect the view to be anywhere as good. The service was friendly and informal, though some details still needed to be worked on – but this was to be expected given the early days of this venue and certain aspects still needed to be ironed out. In terms of food, the quality was still as good – fresh produce, nicely cooked. However, it lacked the excitement and the “wow” factor at Fowey – Nathan explained that this was due to the smaller number of staff in the kitchen and that limited what he could achieve. This was compensated by the scallops dish at Rock – the dish was so good that everyone at our table agreed that it would be one of our top 10 dishes to die for!

Certainly a restaurant I would look forward to returning to in the near future – in the meantime, the only thing I could do was to tell friends and colleagues heading down to Cornwall to forget about going to Padstow for seafood at one of Rick Stein’s eateries; instead, consider heading to Rock instead for an outstanding dinner at Nathan Outlaw’s.

Address: St. Enodoc Hotel, Rock, Cornwall, PL27 6LA, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44(0)1208 863394
Website: www.nathan-outlaw.com/

Opening Hours: 
Lunch: Friday & Saturday 12:30 – 14:00
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday: 19:00-21:00

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 4/5
Total: 18/20 [Based on visit in March 2010]