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Back to Basics with Chef Nathan Outlaw

Written By Kayla Douglas

A community of foodies, Smarties are constantly on the hunt for the next hottest restaurant; so, we were thrilled that the highly anticipated opening of Siren – a seafood-centric eatery inspired by The Goring family’s strong ties to Cornwall – lives up to the hype (and then some!).

With an innovative menu spearheaded by renowned chef Nathan Outlaw, Siren showcases the best of Cornish produce through simple yet elegant seafood dishes, served alongside lovely views of The Goring’s secluded garden. To learn more about how Nathan fuses his ethos around food with this 109-year old hotel, we sat down to chat about how it all comes back to the sea.

With successful restaurants, Michelin stars and several books amongst your lengthy list of accomplishments, what drives you to keep pursuing new endeavors?

Nathan Outlaw: I have to admit to being a bit of a stickler when it comes to my restaurants. I never think ‘well that’s good enough’, I’m always looking for ways to improve things whether that be the dishes, the way things progress through the kitchen or the offering front of house. It’s easy when you get to the top of this game to become complacent but if you do, the only way to go is down! I also get bored easily so thinking up new things and looking for new opportunities keeps me happy. I’m currently becoming very interested in the world of vegetable gardening. I want to be able to grow my own veg as well as cook it!

The family-run approach to The Goring is at the heart of everything – what about this special dynamic drew you to pursue a collaboration with the hotel?

Nathan: I’ve known Jeremy Goring for years and we have the same outlook as regards the service we want to offer.  I’ve always run my own business with ‘family values’ and Jeremy does the same. If you look after your staff and your customers as you would want to be looked after yourself, you can’t go far wrong. We also have the same sense of humour so we have fun whilst working. If you think about it, you spend an awful lot of your life at work and it would be really miserable if you couldn’t have fun doing it! I’m much happier in an environment where everybody wants to offer the best they can to customers and where they value each other no matter what position they hold in the company. That’s really important to me.

How is the menu and dining experience at Siren unique?

Nathan: The first thing is that we source the very best fish and seafood, mostly from the waters around Cornwall but also from other sources in the UK. Without a prime ingredient, the resulting dishes wouldn’t be the same, even with the expertise of the chefs we have in the Siren kitchen. We’ve also thought very carefully about menu choices so there is a fine balance of the seemingly simple seafood dishes I’m known for and some fancier dishes which are unique to us. Add to that a level of hospitality and service, always with a smile and the needs of the customer in mind that I don’t think you’d find in many places and the dining experience at Siren is, I think unique.

What’s the most exciting thing about the London food scene right now?

Nathan: The fact that it’s an appreciation of cuisines from all around the world.  You can choose to eat from almost any cuisine available and, importantly, you can eat well.

Incorporating fresh-caught fish is your calling card. If you had to pick your favorite seafood dish that just never gets old, what would it be and why?

Nathan: I think a really well made Fish Stew is a must have for any serious seafood restaurant. It can be really fancy if you want it to be, but my preference is for the rustic side of a good stew that can be thoroughly enjoyed then the dish mopped with some good bread! Don’t be fooled by the word ‘rustic’ though, it’s certainly not a case of chuck it all in and boil it. The all-important base of my Fish Stew has taken years to perfect and I’ll continue to tweak it, no doubt! The mix and ratio of seafood has to be right too otherwise you lose the balance. Good Fish Stew is a very serious undertaking!

You’ve mentioned in past interviews that your approach to food is all about simplicity. What’s the key to remaining innovative without hiding behind gimmicks?

In my experience, if you’re left not wanting another bite or spoonful of what you are tasting, then it isn’t good enough so what’s the point in serving it?

Nathan: In my opinion, cooking dishes that are both innovative and simple at the same time is one of the hardest things to get right. There’s nowhere to hide! You need a very good understanding of your basics, touching perfection as close as you can with the simple side, whilst the innovation comes from understanding the finest ingredients, when they are at their best, when to use them, how to use them and sourcing them ethically. There are no shortcuts to this; it takes time and a willingness to learn about both the ingredients you are working with and the correct techniques to cook them properly. Ultimately, the flavour of any dish has to be amazing. You should be able to pick out each layer of flavour as well as the overall amalgamation. You should also enjoy the textures of the dish you are eating. In my experience, if you’re left not wanting another bite or spoonful of what you are tasting, then it isn’t good enough so what’s the point in serving it?

When you actually take a moment for yourself to get away from the kitchen, what types of vacations do you favor? Beach? City?

Nathan: For a long holiday, I’m very much a countryside/coastal person. I find it impossible to be away from the sea for long; it makes me a bit mad! I find the sea very therapeutic and calming. Walking my dogs on the beach never fails to clear the cobwebs from my mind and help me put life into perspective. However, I do like short breaks in the city (mind you, a maximum of four days is usually enough for me). I’m not really one for the bright lights and hustle.

Where are you headed next?

To be honest, the more I travel, the more places I realise I want to go to!

Nathan: A few years ago, I went to Australia to work but I was only there for five days which, I realised the more I saw and heard, was nowhere near enough time to see the country properly. I’d like to return with my wife and do a longer holiday perhaps touring about. I’d also like to see more of the USA. Again, I’ve been to New York working which was a great experience and I went to Disney Florida as a child but I’d like to see more of the other parts, perhaps the Southern states and the midwest. I might have a problem with not seeing the sea for a while though! My wife and I have just returned from a long weekend in Paris where we walked 15 miles in one day! It would be good to do more European city capitals too in the future. To be honest, the more I travel, the more places I realise I want to go to!

To learn more about planning a stay at The Goring, talk to your SmartFlyer travel advisor.

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