Outlaw’s at the Capital – A Review (Set Lunch Jan 2014)

Consistently perfectly cooked seafood, brilliant quality fresh produce, attentive services, easy location and brilliant value for money.

11 days into 2014 and it was already our second visit here. It gets a little addictive at times when it comes to good food, especially with fish, especially with fresh produce, especially when you know your fish is guaranteed to be cooked perfectly.

There are many blog reviews and online pages about Nathan Outlaw and his restaurants, so I won’t bore you by regurgitating what has already been said. We learnt about Nathan from the Great British Menu show, and it wasn’t until September 2013 that we finally visited Outlaw’s at the Capital for our first time. It’s been 4 months and we were already on our 4th visit. This says something. All through our set menu, we discussed whether or not we should perhaps block book Saturday lunches here for the rest of the year – not a joke.

Nathan is renowned for being one of the best seafood chefs in the UK. I have to admit, I haven’t been to many fine dining seafood restaurants, nor have I ordered many seafood dishes in any form of restaurants. See, I love fish, but I always avoid fish at restaurants as most kitchens cook their fish in a way that the poor thing has been dead 10 time over and over again which really upsets me. But it’s different here. Consistent perfect judgement of the cooking (ever so slightly just under, by the time it reaches the guests on the table, it’s just perfect, just the way It should be), no fuss-simple-genuine cooking (say no to water bathed or molecular fish, please…), attentive services (water and wine are constantly refilled, and they recognise you on your second visit), easy to book and get to, all at the price of £25 for 3 courses (with the current toptable deal of a free coffee or tea). What more can you ask for on a relaxing Saturday afternoon?

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Fishcakes with Parsley Mayonnaise

These little amuse-bouche balls were too yum. It has been and continues to be something that I look forward to ever since our first visit. We were told that the fishcakes (or should I say, fish balls) are normally made with any fish they have on the day hence the slight difference in texture and flavour from the ones we had from the week before, but just as good. It was so perfectly rounded, delicately shallow fried then oven baked, the bread crumb layer is just thin enough to hold it together yet thick enough to give that outer crunch, the parsley mayo gave it a subtle additional dimension of freshness. I could have just sat there and ate them all as my starter, main and dessert.

Nathan actually has on his personal website the recipe for making these wonderful balls. All you have to do is sign up to his (free) Grub Club. Yay.

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Bread: Cheese and Rosemary, Doom Bar Ale

Two types of bread are served here. 1. Cheese and rosemary – this reminds me of focaccia. OK, maybe it is a little on the oilly side especially if you are not pairing it with some bubblies to add that acid to cut through the oil or if you’ve picked a light menu, but it was yum. It’s not cheesy in an in your face way, and the hint of rosemary is just right. You can also taste the quality of olive oil used in the bread. 2. Doom Bar Ale – I’ve never had Doom Bar Ale, let a alone bread that taste if it. All I know is that it’s a Cornish Ale, i.e. local produce for Nathan Outlaw. The bread was soft in texture with a soft crust, a little like the texture of normal loaf bread, with a hint if ale flavour but only very light.

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Crab, Celeriac, Apple & Curry

Using cock crab from south of England near Cornwall, this crab was one of the freshest I have had in London. Most impressive was the celeriac. It was so thinly sliced and precisely cut that it looked at if it was crab in mayonnaise when it first arrived. Apple adds crunch and acid to the dish. But curry? Hmm… Not sure if we sensed any curry until I re-read the menu at home.

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Mackerel & Cuttlefish, White Cabbage, Ink and Red Pepper Sauce

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Breaded Ling, Mussel & Parsley Butter, Leeks & Potato

I only learnt about this fish (Ling) from Nathan Outlaw. It’s a big, ugly, meaty fish that is a little like cod – white, lean, firm texture. The fish was perfectly cooked and still extremely moist. The crust was ever so slight under and on the verge of being soggy, but I didn’t mind that because the fish itself was perfect. Personally I would have preferred a pan fried version of it. The breaded fish can only remind me of (a very nice version of) fish and chips, except the dish didn’t come with any double triple goose fat deep fried chips… Nonetheless, I’m not complaining when my fish is perfectly cooked 🙂

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Banana Ice Cream, Coffee Crumble, Chocolate Sauce

Banana, chocolate, coffee. Nom, nom, nom… Classic combination of flavour. The crumble did exactly what it’s supposed to do, adding texture and bitterness to the dessert. The banana ice cream was smooth, creamy, gooey and sticky. For a normal human being (e.g. the other two people on my table), the size of the dessert was probably perfect. But for someone who can down a tub of Ben & Jerry’s in one go, I could easily have munched down 3 big scoops of those luscious banana devils. The only thing that perhaps would have made it even nicer is a long thin piece of tuile to give the dish an extra crunch and height.

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Petit Fours: Chocolate Truffle, Mini Treacle Tart

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Caffè latte

Summary
– Define perfect – In my dictionary, the word perfect comprises of many factors. When it comes to food, the factors that contribute to perfection is love, food, wine, service, ambience, price, and my personal objective mood at the time. Is Outlaw’s at the Capital perfect in a 3 star Michelin context? Perhaps not. But is it perfect considering £25 for a much loved 3 courses perfectly cooked fish meal with lovely service on a lazy Saturday afternoon? Absolutely yes!

From a selfish perspective, I hope Outlaw’s doesn’t increase their price or ever become so popular that turns into yet another restaurant with a 6 months waiting list, but the reality is, it already is much busier than when we first visited in 2013, and I’m sure it will continue to grow that way as more people learn about the good food and service that can be found here. Perhaps I just need to block book my reservation for the rest of 2014 now.

Damage to pocket: £45 per head (3 courses set lunch + 1 bottle of wine shared between 3)
Number of accumulated visits: 4
Date of visit: January 2014
Will we return? Absolutely

Menu:
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Outlaw Seafood & Grill at the Capital on Urbanspoon

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