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Chef Q & A: Nathan Outlaw and Tom Brown from Outlaw’s at The Capital
The Michelin starred restaurant Outlaw’s at The Capital boasts an ever changing array of unique dishes created using British seafood caught predominantly around the coast of Cornwall and delivered fresh to Knightsbridge.
Masterminded by Nathan Outlaw and Head Chef Tom Brown, who source the freshest and best seafood from fisherman they know. They let the ingredients take centre stage and menus showcase an array of original and creative seafood dishes. Nathan who holds 2 Michelin stars at his eponymous seafood restaurant in the village of Port Isaac, Cornwall spends time each week at the restaurant with Tom.
We were lucky enough to catch up with them in the wake of the launch of Nathan’s brand new cookery book and put some burning questions to both of them!
LRG: You’ve said in the past that you learnt more from Rick Stein in the time you were with him than at any other point in your career. Who else are your chef inspirations?
Nathan: I became interested in cooking at a young age, inspired by my Mum, a great home cook, and my Dad, Clive, who is a chef. Helping out in his kitchens was enough to make me realise I wanted to be a chef – and now he works with me as Pastry Chef at Outlaw’s at The Capital.
LRG: What meals are your staples when you are cooking at home?
Nathan: We eat quite simply at home. Pasta is a favourite with the kids. In fact, what we cook indoors was the inspiration for my new book! I’m really proud of “Home Kitchen”, for the first time it’s not just fish. I am excited to share a collection of my favourite recipes for dishes that I love to cook at home. One of my favourite things to do is cooking breakfast with my kids when I have a day off and my book includes recipes from breakfast, every day dishes on the go, big family Sunday lunches, and some old school classic puddings like trifle and sticky toffee pudding. It’s a book you could give to someone starting out on their own but there’s also more adventurous things for those who have some experience too.
LRG: Do you have a guilty food pleasure you can share with us?
Nathan: After a busy service I love coming home and having Davidstow cheese on toast! I also have a passion for cake, any cake! To be honest though as a chef you are always eating and trying things as you go.
LRG: What is your personal favourite fish to cook?
Nathan: Mackerel –it’s without a doubt my favourite fish. It’s fantastically versatile and so good for you as it’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Also cuttlefish, it’s really good in stews and curries and is forgiving if you overcook it a bit.
LRG: And the best restaurant you’ve been to recently?
Nathan: When I was in London recently I ate at the new Bibendum by Claude Bosi which was amazing. Great food in such an iconic building.
LRG: You have a great association with Sharp’s Brewery and through your own pub, The Mariners in Rock, you have been exploring beer food pairing – do you see a time when beer choices will be on the same menu as wine in restaurants?
Nathan: Absolutely, we did a ‘posh’ beer dinner as part of London beer week and it was great to raise awareness of how beer and food can work so well together. It’s exciting to introduce something a bit different to our diners rather than just pairing wine with dishes.
LRG: Were you aiming for two Michelin stars with Restaurant Nathan Outlaw?
Nathan: We’ve always been very successful with Michelin, but it’s not something I’ve ever really aimed for. I’d be doing things the same way if there were no Michelin stars. It’s just a matter of what I like doing and think is right. Being awarded a Michelin star though is an amazing recognition, no one has an influence over it, there’s no sponsorship, you don’t know who the inspectors are – and I like that.
LRG: The recent publication of the Sunday Times Top 100 restaurants shows a continuation of the shift from ‘fine dining’ to a more casual approach – does this fit with your own dining ethos?
Nathan: I think there is a place for fine-dining and more casual dining – for me it’s all about making the guest feel comfortable and ensuring they enjoy the whole experience.
LRG: You are known for your love of cookbooks – do you have a current favourite? And an old faithful?
Nathan: I have a massive and ever increasing collection. I’m addicted to cook books and dip into all of them from time to time. My ‘old faithful’ though is by one Richard Stein (now known as Rick, of course) called ‘English Seafood Cookery’.
LRG: What is your earliest cooking memory?
Nathan: Rolling out left over bits of pastry with my Mum as she was cooking. They went into the oven but I’m not sure if they were ever eaten as most went on the floor at some point! Also making cornflake and rice krispie cakes…and being allowed to lick the bowl!
LRG: Both Outlaw’s at The Capital and Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen have Michelin stars, yet they are vastly different dining environments – what are the key qualities they share?
Nathan: For me, fish is always the star of the show and my restaurants just showcase that in different ways. Fish kitchen is all about small plates and a more informal style of dining where as Restaurant Nathan Outlaw and Outlaw’s at The Capital are a smarter and more formal restaurant offering. My style of cooking remains consistent across all my restaurants and we love to show off the freshest and best fish available caught by fishermen we know well.
LRG: Is it true that you fell into cooking by accident?
Tom: Yes, I was working at my local pub as a kitchen porter on Sundays and got offered the job as a stop gap after college. I loved being in the kitchen straight away and never looked back!
LRG: Nathan prides himself on the local suppliers and fisherman he has formed relationships with in Cornwall. How do you replicate this in London?
Tom: We have really strong relationships with our suppliers and we pride ourselves on showing off the freshest and best sustainable produce – it’s all about the quality. I like to physically meet the supplier, understand their ethos. A relationship is crucial and trusting them infinitely. Most of our fish is from Cornwall and we know our suppliers personally and established a trusting relationship with them. This is very important as we know exactly where our produce comes from and we know it is sourced in a sustainable way.
LRG: Do you have ideas of your own that you try out in the restaurant?
Tom: Nathan and I work on the menu together, and develop the dishes in advance basing them around what produce is at its peak at that time of year. I love the simplicity, lightness and balance that always comes through with Nathan’s food and I think that greatly influences what I do. Finding your own style is basically just doing the things you’ve found over time that you enjoy doing and fortunately I work for a chef that I share a lot of that with!
LRG: How different is it cooking for the London market?
Tom: Our menus are a little more refined than when I was in Cornwall but our style of cooking across all of Nathan’s restaurants is very similar. It’s all about the fish and never overpowering that.
LRG: Where do you like to eat when you are off duty?
Tom: My favourite restaurant in London is Pitt Cue, their meat is amazing. I also really like Hedone – their approach to ingredients is so unique. London is so exciting in terms of its array of restaurants and I love to eat out as much as possible on my days off.
LRG: Have you developed your own signature dish?
Tom: No not really. I love to experiment all the time and try new dishes. Our menus are very much dictated by what is in season and the catch of the day in Cornwall so we let that guide us.
LRG: Some chefs say that retaining a Michelin star is harder than gaining it in the first place – would you agree?
Tom: There’s definitely a lot more pressure to retain a star, and keeping our star at Outlaw’s at The Capitals star last year was a definite highlight for me. However you can’t put too much pressure of yourself. Cooking is what I love to do and we just focus on cooking the best that we can every day in the restaurant.
LRG: What do you miss most about Cornwall?
Tom: Cornwall is a beautiful part of the world and sometimes I miss being able to be that close to the coast and the beaches but I am loving London and all that it has to offer.
The Restaurant: Outlaw’s at The Capital, 22 – 24 Basil Street, Chelsea, London SW3 1AT | www.capitalhotel.co.uk | 0207 591 1202
The Member Club Offer: Members and their guests receive a complimentary Bellini when having lunch or dinner Monday to Saturday. Click here for more details.
Nathan Outlaw Book Launch Dinner
Enjoy an evening with Nathan Outlaw to launch his latest Cookbook – The Home Kitchen, Tuesday 9th May. Includes six-course menu and signed copy. Click here for more details.
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