Restaurant review: Padstow might belong to Rick Stein but Rock's top chef Nathan Outlaw operates by his own rules

Outlaw's at St Enodoc, St Enodoc Hotel, Rock Road, Rock, Cornwall

My starting point today is twofold: first, a presumption that you don't live in Rock, in Cornwall (and my sincerest to those of you who do); and second, a determination to make you visit Nathan Outlaw's magnificent restaurant there.

Putting these foundations together, I must tell you that half the charm of the place derives from the ferry trips you will need to make if coming from Padstow (unless you go the long way round, driving past Wadebridge on the A39), which is a bit like those boat trips to mystical Tibetan kingdoms across mist-covered lakes in Shaolin films. This watery approach makes the chef-patron's lovely name somehow apposite, as if he operates beyond the gastronomic jurisdiction of the mainland.

The other half of the charm comes from the restaurant itself, 20 minutes' walk across a golf course from John Betjeman's elegant grave in the tiny Church of St Enodoc. The church gives its name to the main hotel in Rock, which has two Outlaw restaurants: a super-posh one with a £95 tasting menu, and a cheaper one, which I visit, and is just about affordable if you save up.

Outlaw's at St Enodoc has plenty of outdoor seating, on a wooden deck that overlooks the harbour, and catching the evening sun makes for one of the better views in the beautiful south-west. Two breads are served with butter before the meal: a white with Davidstow and Rosemary, and a brown with Doombar, brewed just up the road. Both are very good, particularly the latter. But the best of the treats before the meal proper is four hake-and-smoked-coley fishcakes, spherical in shape and therefore almost like bon bons, with a herb mayonnaise whose flavour hisses delightfully in the palate.

To start, I have a lobster risotto with basil and orange, spring onions and lobster dressing. This is less than the sum of its parts. The spring onions overpower the risotto, which is lacking in flavour. The citrus-cured salmon, ginger and coriander yoghurt is better, but the ginger and citrus acidity are so zingy they cut right through the fish, whose flavour I search for in vain. Salmon is such a delicate beast that sometimes the trick is to leave it in peace.

The mains offer less fishy options, in every respect. I have rump of lamb with fine beans, aubergine and pink-fir potatoes, a delicious variety of this starchy stable. The lamb is hot, tender and intense, and the aubergine has a smoky flavour that complements it very well. We also share John Dory with broccoli, chilli, garlic and mushrooms. For probably the ugliest thing in the sea, this fish is remarkably tasty; and here its plump white flesh absorbs the almost-Thai spices around it very well.

Other mains we try include gurnard with bulgur wheat, olives, and red-pepper shellfish sauce. This crimson fish, which competes with John Dory in the ugliness stakes, used to be instinctively tossed back into the sea by trawlers, who couldn't bear the sight of it. In the past few years, though, its popularity has grown exponentially. Outlaw's crew shows why, with a perfectly composed plate that combines Mediterranean and English flavours.

My highlight, however, is an outstanding venison with hispy cabbage, creamy parsnip purée, and espresso sauce. Most of us, I imagine, wouldn't dare to put coffee on meat; yet, together with the autumnal whiff from the parsnip, this constitutes one of the best dishes I've had this year.

The desserts are solid, English, and excellent, especially the sticky toffee pudding with prune and Armagnac ice-cream.

Yet perhaps the best thing about this meal is the waiter, Jorge (though he may spell it differently). This chap warrants an immediate pay rise and promotion on account of being indubitably the most charming, personable, attentive and helpful fellow ever to migrate from Portugal to the south-west.

At the end of the meal, Jorge provides some complimentary vanilla shortbread and dark-chocolate fudge with salted peanuts. This is a fabulous end to a fabulous meal. Cheaper than its more glamorous sibling, and with only a couple of obvious shortcomings, this superb restaurant is worth getting that ferry for.


Outlaw's at St Enodoc, St Enodoc Hotel, Rock Road, Rock, Cornwall. Tel: 01208 862 737. £120 for two, with drinks

Four more: What I've been eating this week


A favourite Indian sweet from my childhood, which I had at my mum's. Yoghurt (drained so it's creamy), sugar and saffron. Unbeatable.


I took a guy from No 10, in defiance of the terrible reviews of this Covent Garden place. It turns out the reviews were justified. Duck confit: total waste of £19.50.

Tree-ripened mango

Pretty much every day I go to the M&S in Kensington, where you get two of these for £5. Golden, succulent and sweet: the king of fruit!

Calf's liver, smoked bacon and sage

I'd never been to Les Deux Salons before, but this £15.95 dish will have me taking Westminster contacts there time and again.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor