Round the table with Nathan Outlaw
Nathan Outlaw on owning the UK’s no.1 restaurant, his new Chelsea opening at The Goring Hotel and starting out as a young chef living in Battersea
“I lived in Battersea when I was working at the InterContinental. It was my first job straight out of college and I couldn’t afford the bus or the tube so I used to walk or skateboard from my flat in Battersea to Hyde Park Corner. It must have taken me about an hour each way.” Nathan Outlaw is sitting by the kitchen pass of his two Michelin- star Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, just weeks after it was crowned the UK’s top restaurant in the 2019 Food & Drink Guide – for the second year running.
“South west London is the London I know,” he continues, “put me in east London and I don’t have a clue, I’m not cool enough! But Chelsea, Fulham and Battersea I know very well. As a kid my dad and I would go to Chelsea every week to watch the football and then I spent my time as a chef in those parts of London.”
While Nathan is now synonymous with exquisite Cornish dining – the two Michelin star restaurant sits literally metres away from his other Port Isaac establishment, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, which boasts another coveted star – London holds a special place in his heart, not least because he is about to add a second central London venture to his empire.
Nathan opened his first London outpost, Outlaw’s at the Capital, in Knightsbridge in 2012 and in late spring 2019 the chef is opening a new brasserie-style restaurant at The Goring in Belgravia. The hotel is famed for being chosen by Kate Middleton for the night before her wedding to Prince William, and Nathan’s new brasserie will be The Goring’s first new restaurant in 108 years.
Nathan says of the new venture: “I’m already busy designing dishes and creating menus. I’ll be concentrating on sustainable Cornish seafood. It will be a true seafood restaurant and will complement the existing restaurant – The Dining Room – at The Goring, which is amazing in its own right.”
The chef already splits his time between London and Cornwall, spending around two days at The Capital before returning home to the West Country to run the kitchen at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw.
“I like the balance, it’s a good way of keeping your toe in. I’m usually at Outlaw’s at the Capital Monday and Tuesday and then head back to Cornwall as Restaurant Nathan Outlaw is open Wednesday to Saturday,” Nathan says.
Outlaw in the Capital
Nathan’s London trips allow him to sample some of his favourite south west London establishments. “I love Colbert on Sloane Square, the little French brasserie. I like Bibendum – I think what Claude Bosi is doing there is really very good. We drink in the Gloucester as it’s the only pub on Sloane Street and it’s the closest to The Capital,” Nathan laughs.
“But I’d be lying if I said I was ever not ready to come back to Cornwall after a couple of days, I mean just look at it.” He gestures towards the window where barrelling surf races towards the shore and a winter’s sunset floods the sky with crimson and mauve fingers.
“I’d always had my eye on this building,” he says of the Restaurant Nathan Outlaw premises, which perches atop Port Isaac overlooking the shores of Port Gaverne. “Good things come to those who wait. I’ll never leave this place. And that’s the first time I’ve ever felt like that.”
I couldn’t afford the bus or the tube so I used to walk or skateboard from my flat in Battersea to Hyde Park Corner
The son of a chef, Nathan grew up in Kent and aged eight was buttering toast during the breakfast service in his dad’s kitchen. He worked in kitchens at evenings and weekends as a teenager, enrolled at catering college in Thanet and landed his first gig at the InterContinental, followed by stints with Gary Rhodes and Eric Chavot before winding up, somewhat literally, on Rick Stein’s doorstep in Padstow.
“It was 1996, I had been working as a young chef in London but at the time there were very few good fish restaurants. Rick’s Seafood Restaurant was the place, and I just thought, ‘I have to do it’, so I went down there. I told myself, if you’re going to work somewhere, work in the best place in the world for seafood’, and that was Rick’s,” Nathan says.
“It was a brilliant time to be working there. It was manically busy but good fun.” After two years with Stein, Nathan moved to pastures new. He eventually opened with his own name above the door and began building his empire.
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw exclusively serves a seafood tasting menu, which changes based on what is caught every day. Such is the success of the Michelin-laden restaurant that his eponymous kitchen provides the inspiration for Nathan’s new book, due out in April.
“The new book showcases a year in the life of Restaurant Nathan Outlaw. It took 15 months to write, all of the photography was done here, and it’s a real sense of this restaurant. They are the dishes we cook here, the suppliers we use and how we work through the seasons.”
“We use quite a few different suppliers. The main merchant is Wing of St Mawes, owned by Rob Wing. He also has a company called the Cornish Fishmonger online so if you want to order the fish that we have in the restaurant you can. Then we use three or four fishermen locally and a cooperative called Kernowsashimi – their fish is unreal. The quality is something very, very special.”
“I’m lucky enough to have travelled to some lovely places where people rave about the seafood and I’m thinking, yeah, it’s nice but it’s not Cornish seafood. What you get here is such a huge variety,” he says.
He may have grown up in Kent but Nathan Outlaw may well be Cornwall’s greatest export and continues to be its most influential ambassador.