After the Black Pig and St Ervan, the Cornish Michelin star returns to the stove with a signature restaurant in Fowey
With this, the third Cornish restaurant to showcase his talent in under four years, you could be forgiven for thinking Nathan Outlaw is a chef with itchy feet. But you'd be wrong. Rather, Outlaw, despite originally hailing from Kent, is determined to stay put in the South West having recently turned down an opportunity to open in London.
His first restaurant, The Black Pig in Rock, was not equipped to survive the area's fiercely seasonal affluence, while he couldn't legislate for St Ervan Manor near Padstow suddenly being sold by its owners for personal reasons.
Yet, while finding the right vehicle to succeed long-term in Cornwall has so far eluded him, his ability behind the stove has never been in question, rapidly picking up a Michelin star at The Black Pig at the age of 25 and taking the award with him to St Ervan.
His new restaurant is in the Marina Villa Hotel – a recently made-over, family-run 18-bedroom operation, in Fowey. Formerly known as Waterview, the renamed, renovated restaurant is nautically themed with a model ship at the entrance, a knot-trimmed mirror and ropewrapped pillars. The walls are cream, the carpet beige, the seating a combination of purple corduroy banquettes and chairs upholstered in leaf-patterned velvet, and the dark-stained tables topped with wooden-panelled place mats.
Not an interior that on a clear day will distract from the view, with the dining room looking dreamily out over the Fowey estuary and across to the fishing village of Polruan.
Out goes the ‘tasting menu only'
policy adopted at St Ervan, replaced by a no-nonsense à la carte of five starters, five mains and five desserts. With his Pacojet mothballed, he's focusing on traditional ways of delivering flavour over modern techniques, the exceptions being the odd wellemployed foam, such as the horseradish bubbles surrounding the starter of Cured Salmon, Marinated Beetroot, Horseradish and Dill (£8), a variation on a dish that's been in his repertoire since his Black Pig days, that now includes Whisky-soaked Salmon and a Beetroot Risotto.
It's the details that grab you in starters, such as Squab Pigeon, Chicory, Espresso and Orange (£12)
– the squab's leg confited, the chicory pickled; and Scampi, Gammon and Pineapple, Sage and Onion (£12), the gammon braised and picked off the bone, the pineapple, again, on the receiving end of a delicate pickling. More pickling – it's obviously a stage he's going through – awaits in a main course of Sea Bass, Pickled Fennel, Vanilla Gnocchi (£20). Elsewhere, Hogget, Garlic Potato with Rosemary and Anchovy (£18)
features an perfectly roasted saddle of lamb and tempurabattered anchovies.
For afters, his Sous and Pastry Chef Gordon Gray put out a palatecleansing Gin 'n' Tonic Jelly with Lime Sorbet before a Caramel Pear – Amaretto Mousse that came with the equally unexpected crunch of Amaretto biscuit crumbs. He even managed to get something new from a Bitter Chocolate Fondant and Coffee Ice Cream (£9), by making the fondant square, coating it in cocoa powder and butter and serving a ‘soil' of ground chocolate shortbread under the ice cream.
We can only hope that Fowey, with a more reliable base of well-heeled residents and off-season visitors, can support such cooking where Rock failed. The site has potential, with plans to expand the 36-cover dining room to 50, increase the capacity of the terrace and install wraparound windows to make the most of that picture-postcard view.
Where? | The Marina Villa Hotel, Esplanade, Fowey, Cornwall PL23 1HY 01726 833315 themarinahotel.co.uk