Seafood Tasting Menu at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw:
This particular excursion has been on my wish list for some time. Last year on my annual visit to the Boscastle Food and Craft Festival, we made a diversion to the Seafood Grill at Rock and vowed that THIS year we’d be rather better organised and book the fine dining menu. Now, you might think I eat out far too much, and to some extent that is true. But it’s often not my choice of venue – so it’s just as special for me to go out somewhere I really want to try, whether that’s a budget wine bar or a Michelin starred restaurant like the fine dining restaurant at St Enodoc Hotel, Rock. The setting for Restaurant Nathan Outlaw could just be one of the most perfect in the world, looking out over an unspoilt bay in North Cornwall. There’s a charming sea facing patio area where you can sit and have an aperitif. Everything is just so.
In the small but perfectly formed dining room, you will find yourself provided with a truly special level of service from the husband and wife team of Stephi and Damon Little. It’s intimate, charming and everything runs like clockwork but without compromise. If you chose to order the accompanying flight of wine to drink with the meal, by the end of the evening you might just feel that you’ve been subtly coached into the nuances of both food and drink. It’s an education without any hint of condescension. When I learnt that the menu changes regularly every two weeks and that the wines are matched individually by Damon each time that happens I was genuinely astonished. Of course not many of us could afford to go back every two weeks to check…but somehow the story is believable. Attention to detail here is astonishing.
Our first example came very early on in the meal. My dining companion had asked for a ‘tomato free’ menu. And the first dish on the menu, Port Isaac Crab with Porthilly sauce would not have worked for her because the sauce was a reduction of shore crab and tomato. Her version came with a different sauce but also with a different wine rather than the Sauska Tokaji that I enjoyed, learning along the way that this was made from grapes from 20 year old vines that were hand picked and that should have notes of white plum and caramalised orange zest!
The fine dining menu is eight courses. My impression is that the idea is to take you on a taste journey, so the order of the food is quite specific. After the Crab with Porthilly Sauce we had what Damon described as ‘almost a palate cleanser’ – a very light dish of cured brill with apple bacon and horseradish, served with the curiously named ‘Kung Fu Girl Reisling’ from Washington State.
Cod with Jerusalem Artichokes and Hazelnuts came with a saffron infused sauce. Served with Fleur de Savagnin 2011
Grey Mullet with Pickled Mushrooms and Tartare Dressing came with a kind of ‘deconstructed’ tartare, a rapeseed oil base with the usual caper base mixed with a red wine reduction to create the sauce to which the pickled mushrooms were added. Early in the season, the Mullet was fished from deep waters around plymouth.
Served alongside a small brioche toast topped with a light mushroom mousse
The final fish course was Turbot on the bone, served with an aioli, fennel and some freshly grated lime zest
Known as the king of the sea for good reason, this was a wonderfully flavoured fish. I’ve never had Turbot served on the bone before but the challenge of dissecting it without making a mess was rewarded by a depth of flavour that is sometimes lost in filleted fish. To drink Keermont Terrasse 2011 is a white blend from Stellenbosch, South Africa which derives its name from the terraced vineyards from which the grapes are harvested. 2011 produces just 4120 bottles of this wine, with each grape vinified separately and then blended to produce the winemaker’s best result each year.
Our cheese course comprised a delicately composed plate with beetroot, walnuts and a tiny baked goats cheese accompanied by a little melted cheese. Ragstone is a smooth goat’s cheese from Herefordshire, made with unpasteurised goat’s milk and this warm dish was a great balance of textures and flavours, the sweet earthy beetroot and slightly bitter crunchy walnut bringing out the piquant flavours of the cheese.
Ratafia de Champagne to accompany was a drink I’d happily choose to consume all evening, it has a little marc de champagne added to the grapes and is then aged for 4 years. The result is quite a rich drink with a nutty flavour that went perfectly with the goats cheese.
Desserts in fine dining restaurants more than any other courses tend to be picture perfect. Lemons, Figs and Blackberries were presented as the lightest lemony froth accompanied by a little crumble, caramelised fig and a few berries. A beautiful autumnal dish, this tasted every bit as good as it looked.
To drink Brachetto d’Aqui 2012, which had a light almondy taste on a lemon curdy base. And, thankfully was low alcohol – just 5.5%, so a great match with the light fruity dessert.
If you ever crave a second dessert…fear not, this menu provides two! Basil sponge with raspberries and yoghurt was served with a late harvest Gewurztraminer from Sha’al Vineyard, Carmel, Israel. I really liked the contrast of the slightly sticky basil sponge with the raspberries and yoghurt – great and interesting flavour pairings providing a refreshing end to a fabulous meal.
So,what distinguishes this place? It is somewhere that is hard to fault if you enjoy fish and local produce. The food, from head chef Chris Simpson, who leads a team of just four people, is beautifully prepared and presented – simple and uncomplicated without being unrefined. Service is immaculate. Damon’s obvious passion for both the food and wine is evident throughout and you may find, like me, that not only do you have a wonderful dining experience but end up learning about a wealth of rare and interesting wines and how they pair with the food. It is a very special experience and one I hope I can repeat at some time in the future. I’m not in the privileged position to have dined in many two or three star Michelin restaurants, but I can confidently say that this was, for me (on my own personal scale) a five star experience.
The fine dining menu is priced at £95 and an accompanying full wine flight will add a further £72 to your bill. A vegetarian menu is available.
St Enodoc Hotel