My mom’s in town from Chicago and amongst our recent adventures was this visit to Nathan Outlaw’s new restaurant in Port Isaac, where even my vegetarian momma found a delicious meal. Here’s my write-up which also appeared on Great British Chefs.
Port Isaac is a little fishing village in Cornwall made up of winding, steep narrow streets that meander their way down into the harbour and then up again towards the hills and the Coastal Walking Path. The town attracts a surprising amount of tourism for its associations with Doc Martin (a BBC television series and the reason my mom was so keen on visiting) but there’s more to this town than famous film sites and pretty sea views. Port Isaac is also the location of Nathan Outlaw’s latest restaurant, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, located right in the heart of Port Isaac, directly across the harbour.
Having been to Outlaw’s in Rock I was pretty excited to check out Fish Kitchen which has quite a different approach and atmosphere. Whereas the Rock locale was located in the holiday setting of St Enodoc Hotel, Fish Kitchen is in the middle of a busy village and feels much homier. It helps that the dining room itself is pretty small – only a few tables in a building that must be hundreds of years old: the outside appears to be leaning over and the inside has those low ceilings and wooden beams that add to the whole ye olde vibe of the place.
Also unlike the grill, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen serves its food tapas style – small plates come as they’re prepared and are meant to be shared, which means it’s worth bringing a few friends along so you can sample as many dishes as possible. There wasn’t a bummer in the bunch. Crispy oyster with pickled vegetables and oyster mayonnaise was our first taster, which made me very glad I’d treated myself to a class of Camel Valley Brut Pinot Noir Rosé to start – it’s hard to go wrong with oysters and bubbly.
The adventure followed with a multitude of beautiful dishes whose superb presentation lived up to their taste, but this has as much to do with the accoutrements as the fish itself. Breaded sole (basically fish fingers for grown ups) was a highlight with cucumber, both fresh and pickled. Ling with mushroom ketchup and pickled mushrooms has totally expanded my mushroom horizons. Cornish crab with apple and celeriac was like a crabby take on creamy roulade. Even the vegetable side dishes were outstanding, especially the cauliflower gratin with Davidstow Cornish Crackler (a wonderfully strong cheddar cheese) and the baby gem salad with brown bread and salad cream.
The portions are small enough that you should (in theory) have room for dessert. We opted for lime posset with candied pistachios (terrific) and a cheese plate where I expected to see more Cornish cheeses but couldn’t fault the ones we were given – more of that Davidstow Crackler along with Dorset Blue Vinny and Tunworth soft cheese, rounded out by fresh beetroot chutney and Cornish oatcakes.
Dinner for four with two bottles of wine and an unreserved ordering style cost about £150. Not a bad price to pay for a couple hours of exquisite food that celebrates Cornish fish and seafood, all wrapped up in a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. For all the tourism that Doc Martin brings to Port Isaac, it’s nice to see that great fish is once again making this village a draw for anyone who likes good food.
More pictures on Flickr.