Nathan Outlaw’s love for seafood and hospitality has created an immersive experience in which geniality is as much at the fore as gastronomy.
Words by Hannah Tapping
Combining his deep respect for classic cookery with a passion and understanding of seafood, Nathan Outlaw is the first to admit that quality produce is paramount to his success. The way in which the various seafood on the menus is caught, landed, handled, and delivered to the restaurants, bears huge importance in an Outlaw’s kitchen, and the dishes themselves are created to let the star of the show shine; the seafood.
Nathan grew up in Maidstone, Kent, and after helping out with breakfast services in his dad’s kitchens from a young age, it seemed only natural for him to venture in that direction. Having worked in industrial kitchens on evenings and weekends since the age of 14, he then attended Thanet Catering College in his late teens. His career as a chef began in London, where he worked under Peter Kromberg at the five-star InterContinental Hotel on Park Lane. Nathan honed his craft in the big city, under the tutelage of the culinary greats of their time, including Gary Rhodes and Eric Chavot. The draw of the coast, however, was strong and so Nathan set his sights on Cornwall; a place that held fond memories of childhood holidays.
Nathan’s love for fish and seafood cookery was sparked during two years at Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow: “I strongly believe that chefs should play to the strengths of their surroundings and being in north Cornwall means that we have access to the freshest and most delectable seafood that inhabit our coast. Over the years, I would say I have built up a confidence in my cooking which allows me to know when enough is enough, and to really rely on the ingredients and execution of cooking to lead the way. When it comes to seafood, freshness, quality, and simplicity are so important. However, you must never forget that dishes should first and foremost be tasty, and the experience enjoyable – leaving you wanting more.”
For Nathan, the producers and suppliers hold a crucial position in the day-to-day running of the restaurants: “The fishermen, with whom we maintain special relationships, are particularly integral, and we rely on their consistent delivery of high-quality seafood. We place a strong emphasis on sustainability, with daily inshore day boats and local, seasonal produce dictating what’s on the menu. This approach minimises waste and promotes the preservation of marine life.”
Both eponymous restaurants exclusively serve seafood tasting menus, each with distinctive dishes and unique scenery which gives them their own character and identity, while both focus on great hospitality. New Road, which sits at the top of Port Isaac overlooking the bay, conveys the nuances in seafood cookery. Combining unique culinary techniques with traditional methods, the tasting menus present an array of deceptively intricate and perfectly executed seafood dishes. Diners are recommended to set aside three hours in which to enjoy the experience, with each dish devoted to exhibiting seafood in distinct and memorable ways.
Fish Kitchen, on the other hand, is sometimes referred to as New Road’s naughty little sister! Home to this tiny restaurant, with just 20 covers, is a renovated 15th century fisherman’s cottage, which looks directly out across Port Isaac harbour. Its quirky nature threads throughout the building and into the kitchen, with head chef Tim Barnes at the helm. The menu is ever-changing, dictated by the daily catch landed by the inshore day boats. Taking inspiration from around the world, Fish Kitchen menus often incorporate a range of spices and complex flavour combinations.
Hospitality in all its forms now defines Outlaw’s, as Nathan explains: “Accommodation has been a huge leap forward in the Outlaw’s experience. First-class hospitality has always been something we’re proud to deliver, so we’re excited to be able extend our offering and allow guests somewhere to continue their foodie journey. For example, our Guest House, which opened in May 2022, hosts an ‘Ultimate Foodie Getaway’; a dinner, bed and breakfast package where guests can stay and dine at both New Road and Fish Kitchen. It’s come full circle... from buttering toast in my dad’s kitchens at eight years old, you’ll often find me running breakfast service over at our Guest House!’
With just nine bedrooms, the Guest House is an exclusive retreat, and with its location at the top of Port Isaac, boasts idyllic vistas of the ocean. “When thinking about what the Guest House would look like, we wanted it to be a haven for all-year-round getaways to the Cornish coast. As with all of our ventures, hospitality takes a certain spotlight and we aim for it to feel like a home from home... with a lot of food! The feedback so far has been excellent, so we’re excited to see what 2023 brings,” adds Nathan.
This year also sees the opening of the first of Outlaw’s Coastal Retreats, which consist of two self-catering properties; Kittiwake Cottage, which sleeps up to six, and Kittiwake Annexe, a one-bedroom pied-à-terre with kitchenette. “The property was in dire need of repair”, explains Nathan, “and being a Grade-II listed building, the renovations have been extensive. It got to a point where I was dreading calls from the builders, but the team from Luke and Dingle Ltd have worked so hard and seeing the final results has made it all worth it.”
Whilst Cornwall’s seafood larder takes centre stage on the plate, it’s the team at Outlaw’s which is integral to the day-to-day operation. Over 70% of those employed, have been working with Nathan for eight years or more, many for up to 15. The result is a team built around a common appreciation for customer service, offering guests an authentic, warm welcome and genuine connection to Outlaw’s world. In answer to what the next steps are for Outlaw’s, Nathan concludes: “To continue doing what we do best; serving the finest seafood the UK has to offer while giving genuine hospitality, so guests can relax and enjoy every moment they are with us.”