Over the bank holiday weekend I made one of my regular excursions to Cornwall for some hiking and relaxation. But this time there was going to be less hiking, more relaxation — and one of the treats I was looking forward to was dinner at Nathan Outlaw’s two Michelin starred restaurant in Rock.
This latest incarnation of his evolving Cornish kitchen is based in a hotel on the north coast of the county, and I’d built up a certain picture in my mind of what that would be like. But, on driving down through Rock, and up the steep drive to the hotel, these expectations were proven a little wide of the mark. I’d imagined a little Cornish fishing village, with a cosy old hotel/pub given new life by this star chef. In reality it’s a (relatively) new-build hotel, set in a sea of trailer parks and B&Bs. Once on the terrace, or in the dining room, all that melts away, and you do have a view of the river that winds down to the sea, and some green hills.
I quickly relaxed when it became clear that the front of house was in very professional hands indeed, and when I saw the menu for the evening’s meal.
The concept is a set tasting menu of eight courses (though in reality the first two each had two separate dishes, so it’s more like ten).
On the way to the table I passed Nathan himself heading towards the kitchen. I’m told that he works every service here, which is impressive for a chef with a blossoming media career and a new restaurant in London.
The first course (pictured at the top of this post) was Smoked Whiskey Cured Salmon with Watercress and Cider. The flavours were subtle and fresh — the watercress and cider was a real palate cleanser to start the meal.
Cured brill, mint and coriander followed next, and again the light simplicity of the dish was very refreshing.
One of the dishes I’d been most anticipating since reading the menu was next — Scallop, with wild garlic tartare dressing. The dish was colourful with a dash of highly reduced red wine set off by the kind of green from the wild garlic that can only mean the start of summer.
At this point, the guests arrived at the next table — and I looked up to see Heston Blumenthal taking a seat and starting to read the evening’s menu. As he was directly in my line of sight, I reluctantly abandoned taking photos of the meal, because it’d look just like I was taking surreptitious photos of him — which would make it a bit hard for him to relax. It can’t be often that he gets to just sit and enjoy a meal on a Saturday night!
All of the dishes were exceptional, in the concept and execution. This was capped off by an excellent selection of wines, and front of house service that combined being super professional with being really friendly, welcoming and fun.