While Nathan's flagship Rock restaurant and his London restaurant are both Michelin star holders, the Port Isaac restaurant seeks something a little different, a more casual affair, recognising the importance of the tourist trade such that our hiking boots and weatherproof coats in no way make us feel out of place on entry; the waitresses meanwhile are wearing official Fish Kitchen T-shirts and there's a relaxed friendly vibe to the place as soon as you enter. This is the kind of seafood restaurant you wish every port had and certainly feels like what every port deserves.
The menu is small plates, around starter size, order a few and if you want to order more at any time, just add them on, no problem. Plates came out in no particular order we could discern, just when they are ready and you graze through lunch. It's exactly the right thing for here: we entered the restaurant after exploring rock pools, now we're exploring fish dishes in the same leisurely way, a more formal affair wouldn't seem appropriate. Small plates, hungry, us - we got to try most of the menu and the specials too.
Porthilly oysters to start, and they are so good, briny not milky, substantial, fleshy, best enjoyed with a bit of chewing, but no accompaniment needed benefiting as these do from purity. We have a couple of crispy oysters too with pickled veg and oyster mayonnaise which are really nice: gateway oysters for anyone taking their first oyster steps. A smoked mackerel dip and toast is also an early dish. Then it's onto the hot fish dishes.
From the menu there's Grey mullet, mushrooms & parsley, potato, saffron & garlic puree as well as Outlaw's fish burger (which is already for us a legend). From the day's specials, there's Grilled brill fillet, anchovy & tarragon butter, cider onions as well as Seafood & Bean Stew, Octopus, Mussels, Seabass. Clearly, to make this restaurant work you need two things. First, great ingredients, and here, well, just look outside. Nathan's name also underwrites a quality product so no worries, tick. Second, you need a chef who understands how to make the most of those great ingredients, and here, Outlaw's Fish Kitchen has Paul Ripley (@ChefPaulRipley). Admittedly, we weren't familiar with Paul ahead of our visit to the Fish Kitchen but we had heard nothing but good things about him and discovered that he was formerly Head Chef at Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, where during his time he trained up a young chef named Nathan Outlaw; subsequently he held a Michelin star for six years at his own restaurant Ripley's in St Merryn. Put another way, you really couldn't ask for a stronger chef in the kitchen than Paul, tick. The food then is excellent, beautifully cooked, done with understanding such that the fish is always allowed to shine on the plate.
Our waitresses for the day, Hayley and Megan were fantastic: friendly, smiling and contagiously enthusiastic about all aspects of the Fish Kitchen. We had a chance to talk to Paul Ripley too who was also really super and simply everything and everyone in the restaurant endears you to it further. Outlaw's Fish Kitchen does full justice to the sea's riches and you feel a genuine connection to Cornwall, its people and its food when you eat here. We are endlessly sad about seaside towns that don't have a good fish restaurant, such a waste; in Outlaw's Fish Kitchen, Port Isaac has possibly the best incarnation of what a fish kitchen should be staffed by the best people possible.
In summer, we can imagine this place is simply rammed, queues out the door. In winter, there's a peacefulness to it that is better for the soul. But whatever season, Port Isaac itself is worth a visit and it would be criminal to visit the town without stopping by Outlaw's Fish Kitchen to get the real taste of Cornwall, courtesy of the talented Mr Ripley.