— This post got really long. Flick through the pictures and read the summarising sentence at the bottom if you have more important things to do with your day, no one would blame you for that. —
This post has been side-lined for a while, in favour of recipe testing, my job, job hunting and other, less valid procrastination activities. However, the announcement of the latest Michelin guide last week reminded me of my failings as a new blogger, and the desire to document my un-nurtured opinion returned. Why? Because Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port Issac, has been awarded a prestigious star. Hmmm.
I should say now, before I rip this accolade apart, that I’m a massive fan of Nathan Outlaw. The boy’s got talent, serious talent. And it’s a popular opinion to share. But the decision to award his newest establishment a Michelin star, strikes me as odd, misplaced, and highlights the flaws in the system. I fear at this point my boyfriend may accidentally happen upon this blog, read this, and shrink away in embarrassment as I boldly talk about something I honestly know very little about. But I suppose having a wordpress account lets anyone who can type have an opinion, so why not document mine.
Outlaw has a growing Empire down in North Cornwall, and I have had the pleasure of eating at most of them, as well as his restaurant in The Capital. I advise you now not to do what I did, and eat in them all in a confined space of time, as I had very similar dishes at a lot of the places. I would also advise you to not journey to Port Issac in the hope of a replication of Outlaw’s style similar to The Capital or St Enedoc Hotel. The food wasn’t horrible, I mean, c’mon, it is Nathan Outlaw, we gotta give him some credit. But without that name pioneering that little restaurant on the front, there is no way that place would have received a star. No way. Not from what I saw.
The Fish Kitchen is a dainty little eatery, right on the harbour side, situated in a unassuming little fishing cottage. It has been designed well inside, is bright and feels spacious despite the square meters they have on offer. The menu reads well, and are dishes typical to the Outlaw repertoire: cured salmon with horseradish mayonnaise OR smoked mackerel with cucumber, dill and caper salad and crispy oyster etc. When I went for lunch in August, I was taken aback by the value as well. To eat from the set menu, it was only £15 per person (based on 2 sharing), and you were treated to 3 of the small dishes from the regular menu to share, finishing with a heartily sized fish burger and shoestring fries each.
DISCLAIMER: All photos on this post are taken with an iPhone 4 – apologies for the quality – which varies a lot.
First things first, the cods roe dip with flatbread. I have become quite the connoisseur of this, but this take on it didn’t really hit the spot. I have been informed this may be because his is ‘proper’, but I think the smoother, moussier texture is more appealing. This was slightly lumpy, unnecessarily finished with oil, and the taste was a little weak. It was good (value and taste), but I would never put that dish as a starter to a Michelin starred menu. My socks stayed firmly on my feet.
Cured Salmon and Cod’s Roe Dip (w/ flatbreads – really tasty flatbread)
Next, and featured above was the cured salmon. True to form, this was delicious, but it’s one of my favourite dishes ever, so I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to this. It wasn’t as good as the version I had at The Capital, but it could get a little boring me just arguing ‘it wasn’t as good’, as I feel it might be a critical approach akin to ‘I could do that’ in the art world. Apologies. It already happened. I’m not deleting it.
Great simple mackerel dish. Shameful unfocused photography.
The smoked mackerel was really good, and it’s a shame I had eaten the same dish done slightly differently 2 days before at St Enedoc Hotel, as the latter was world’s better, and the Fish Kitchen’s one, just didn’t live up to it’s rival.
Then was THE fish burger. This was by no means a good dish. I can only assume the judges for the Michelin guide decided the set lunch was not something they should be sampling. BUT IT SHOULD BE. Every dish should be impeccable and delicious and you should want to eat it again and again. However, aside from our table, there were audible and visible signs of other diners dislike of this dish. Blitzed up fish, set together in a burger form. Which tasted a old a bit dry and chewy. WHAT? NO! This is not fine dining. It is just a bit rank. Maybe if it has been a breaded fillet of good quality fish, and pulled you nostalgically back to when you used to have fish fingers sandwiches for tea, but in a refined, clever manner, then a fish burger would be apt in this Fish Kitchen. But done in this way, I can’t see where the merit is. Give me Birds Eye over this any day. Bizarre that this relaxed dining experience now has such a sophisticated accolade.
Here’s some food I WOULD recommend, just so you know I do LOVE Outlaw… Ode to Outlaw.
The Mariners Public House, Rock.
Simple delicious food. Not a thing to criticise. Tasty and great service too. (We also had mussels and olives)
Whole Plaice, cider onions, anchovy & tarragon butter, courgettes.
^ This was incidentally the star of the show ^
Butterflied Sardines, tomato chutney.
View for the afternoon.
Outlaw’s at the St.Enedoc Hotel, Rock (not it’s neighbour Restaurant Nathan Outlaw – who do not serve lunch)
BUT, everything, from the view, the food, the wine, the service, was all impeccable. Cannot reccomend this enough, especially if you’re not feeling plush enough to eat at the ‘real deal’ next door… but you’re still feeling a little plush.
Lunch – 3 courses. £45.
Start: Char-Grilled Octopus, avocado, green olive, lime & rocket – This was the best.
Start: Cured Mackerel, cucumber, dill, horseradish yoghurt.
Main: Plaice, hot tartare sauce, crushed minted peas.
Main: Bass, cider spring onions, tarragon & anchovy butter.
Pud: Chocolate Cheesecake, raspberry sorbet, raspberry and honeycomb.
The view. Mmm yes.
Outlaw’s at The Capital Hotel, London. Set Lunch. 3 Courses, £27.
All SO spot on. (Service and food). And it’s all proper fancy given it’s setting.
Set Menu – Cured Salmon, horseradish yoghurt, saffron kohlrabi & dill.
Set Menu – Bream, pickled vegetable, smoked paprika sauce.
Set Menu – Breaded Hake, runner beans, parsley & mussel butter.
Set Menu – Red Gurnard, broccoli, lettuce, lemon & garlic
Set Menu – Dark Chocolate Tart, lime ice cream & cocoa syrup
A la Carte – Poached Peach, honey ice-cream, pistachio & yoghurt
Coffee and Petit Fours
Fancy toilets, with swans head golden taps. Cool.
Effectively: Eat at Outlaw’s little empire. Lunch is cheaper, and no less delcious. Don’t make a pilgrimage to Port Issac for the Fish Kitchen, but check it out if you’re in the area. Don’t eat the fish burger.