Lunch at Outlaw’s at the Capital:
I’ve known and loved Nathan Outlaw’s food since before I started writing London-Unattached. Not the City version though, the Nathan I first met was a loveable chef who was taking Cornwall by storm. Although he’d trained with Rick Stein, he’d left and set up his own restaurant, gaining a Michelin star in 2004 at the age of 25, just a few months after opening his own restaurant in Cornwall, the Black Pig. A few years later, I was staying with a friend in Boscastle and we happened upon him, cooking on stage at the local food and arts festival. It was the sort of event where everyone got a taste of the food – and both of us resolved to book ourselves into Restaurant Nathan Outlaw on our next visit.
Several locations and as many meals later, I’m still something of a Nathan Outlaw groupie. Apart from a focus on Cornish produce and an ability to make quite sublime dishes from simple ingredients that you or I might overlook, he seems to be a genuinely nice guy. So, when Nathan first opened a restaurant at the Capital, we determined to go along, probably just that bit too soon.
I’d never recommend checking out a restaurant in its first few weeks. Even if they have done a soft launch, logistic issues tend to show up when the place is fully opened. We broke our own rule and were just a little disillusioned. There was nothing wrong, but the spark we’d hoped for just didn’t seem to be there. And yet, just nine months or so on, Outlaw’s at the Capital got a Michelin star.
I’ve been meaning to go back ever since to see if things changed. So, I was both curious and delighted to receive an invitation to review the new spring lunch menu last week. The interior has been spruced up a bit and the colours in the bar are richer and brighter.
I enjoyed a glass of Henriot Blanc de Blancs Brut while we looked at the menus. And, I was delighted to see that the once all-French wine list now has (Cornish) Camel Valley wines together with an excellent selection of wines from around the world complementing the French selection. I learnt from Cesar da Silva, the charming operations manager that the restaurant had indeed changed very quickly – as they discovered what worked in Cornwall needed some tweaking to make it perfect for the Knightsbridge location. Even the name changed – from Outlaw’s Seafood Grill to Outlaw’s at the Capital.
The menus have a lovely contemporary feel, decorated with seafood etchings and with those all important social media handles along the bottom. There’s a personal, signed message from Nathan at the top. The lunchtime offering is for the Spring Menu (£49 for two courses or £62 for three) or for the Set Lunch (£29 for two courses, £33 for three). We decided to try one of each and came to the conclusion that if you were trying to eat on a budget, the set lunch was in no way compromised. We loved both!
First, an amuse bouche of smoked cod roe on seaweed crackers with sweet paprika. A light mouthful, I would have happily eaten a plateful of these.
I was even tempted by the bread – a choice of Cornish cheddar and rosemary or doom bar beer bread – both soft and fluffy in the centre with a nicely crisp shell.
Next, from the Spring menu I enjoyed cured monkfish with mint and peas garnished with yoghurt. Salt cured fish, thinly sliced like a carpaccio and dressed with mint, fresh peas, pea shoots and little dollops of whipped yoghurt. Very delicate, very fine and very delicious.
My companion, meanwhile, was enjoying a plateful of salmon cured with beer and lemon juice, a fresh cucumber chutney and seaweed salad cream. It looked beautiful and was quickly devoured despite the fact that my friend had started the meal telling me he didn’t really like fish.
Next for me, cod with devilled butter, brown shrimps and celeriac. I like pairing white fish with brown shrimps to add a nuttiness and texture. The elevated version here had a celeriac puree, a garnish of devilled butter and of tangy gherkins, capers and dill.
My companion’s main course, from the set lunch menu, was a stunning plateful of hake with roast chicken and mushroom dressing served with fennel and dressed with tarragon oil.
We both enjoyed a glass of Arinto Chardonnay Reserva 2016 with our food – a Portuguese wine made with a blend of Arinto and Chardonnay grapes to create a citrussy wine which worked perfectly with the white fish.
Dessert at lunchtime, especially if you happen to have eaten amuse bouche, bread and half the nibbles that were served with your aperitif, can be a challenge. The custard tart with rhubarb and ginger beer had all the appeal of a midnight feast though and was something I really didn’t want to miss. I did yearn for the listed ‘Sevi & Leti’ the Great British Menu 2017 dish from head chef Tom Brown, but, an allergy to strawberries precluded that option. If you want to try it for yourself, then Tom has kindly posted the recipe online. I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed by my choice of custard tart which turned out to be a fabulously light patisserie case filled with smooth rich custard accompanied by fresh rhubarb, a rhubarb sorbet ginger conserve and served with a crunch of ginger crumb.
No less disappointing was the pretty lemon curd pavlova with yoghurt sorbet and almonds enjoyed by my companion.
We finished the meal with coffee, clotted cream fudge and tiny ginger biscuits
I was impressed by the quality of the food and the beautiful presentation. There were a couple of minor wobbles with service, but the staff were unanimously charming and helpful and the restaurant was packed with guests arriving for the Chelsea Flower Show. The offering at Outlaw’s at the Capital, just opposite Harrods, is remarkably good value – and I learnt that room prices are similarly keen. The Capital Hotel is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels group, my favourite group of Boutique hotels. As such, I have every confidence that it’s somewhere you should consider if you are planning to visit London.
What could be better than a boutique hotel with your own personal Michelin starred restaurant?
Outlaw’s at the Capital
22-24 Basil St, Knightsbridge,
London SW3 1AT