Trepidly, I approach the vast Capital Hotel in London’s frankly hilariously wealthy Knightsbridge. Was I excited about taking my first step into a Michelin-starred restaurant? Certainly. Was I mildly out of place with my Tintin tote bag and my checked shirt? Arguably.
So this deviation in my normal culinary routine was down to the generosity of my partner, who gave me a lunch for two at Outlaw’s at the Capital as a Christmas gift. The two of us arrive at the undeniably impressive Capital hotel and are greeted by the customary array of doormen and receptionists, all falling over themselves in the politest possible way to help us. Once in the restaurant itself, the ever attentive maître d’ (who was very helpful without being condescending) seats us in a room perfectly epitomising the seafood nature of Outlaw’s. A turquoise wall with a fish tank separates the kitchen from the dining room, which is decked out in muted beach colours. I began singing Under the Sea in my head. ‘Stop humming!’ whispered my partner.
Nathan Outlaw himself is a seafood specialist; his two Michelin-starred restaurant in Rock is a foodie haunt, and his recently opened London branch at the Capital has been awarded one star. The menu, whilst predominantly fish based, has enough variety to suit most palates. We went for the three course set lunch at £25 per person, which includes a selection of signature dishes.
Noting the predilection for fish on the menu, I thought ‘when in Rome’, and ordered the duck salad to start. My partner went for the more conventional baked crab, curry and celeriac, fennel salad. Neither of us were disappointed with our dishes; I found the duck to be accompanied brilliantly by apple and stilton, whilst she beamed as she ate forkfuls of curried crab.
Before proceeding to the mains, we were warned that the menu had been changed slightly from the normal, as bad weather had stopped their usual catch from docking in time, so they had to change the fish. We thought this could only be a good sign, emphasising the freshness of the food. We decided to mix and match – one relatively safe dish and one more extravagant meal. So the safe option was tilapia (normally monkfish) with a garlic and parsley sauce, on a bed of leeks and potatoes, whilst our more risqué choice was mackerel (normally gurnard) with cuttlefish croquettes, in an ink and red pepper sauce, on a bed of shredded white cabbage.
Upon arrival, we both agreed that the tilapia was essentially a very posh fish and chips – though this is not to take anything away from it, it was excellent. Also who doesn’t like fish and chips? The mackerel though was the star of the show. We were initially worried about the sauce – it was an opaque black and smothered the dish and we thought it may be too heavy. Like Thorin, we had never been so wrong. The red pepper complemented the ink and it resulted in a subtly sweet sauce, covering an excellent dish in which the stand-out performers were the cuttlefish croquettes.
The lunch onslaught was briefly interrupted by a period of self-reflection and cheese. Ragstone, Keltic Gold, Strathdon Blue and Davidstow 3 year-old Crackler Cheddar to be precise, which set us up perfectly for the final assault on pudding. I went for a vanilla rice pudding with Bramley apples, and my partner chose the banana ice cream with a coffee crumble and chocolate sauce. Both were very tasty, although not quite up to the same quality as the rest of the meal that had set such a high bar. Not to mention I don’t really like puddings that much.
In addition to the three courses, Outlaw’s ply you with nibbles between dishes. We began with some excellent fish cakes with a parsley sauce, and they also provide two types of bread – one infused with cheese, and the other with Doom Bar ale. I particularly enjoyed the ale bread, as I discovered that I could now essentially eat my alcohol.
I was hugely impressed with Outlaw’s; the food was excellent and the service was attentive without being overbearing. Three courses of Michelin-starred cuisine and a cheese plate for little over £30 is fantastic value and for seafood, it’s arguably the best plaice in London. Sorry…