Making waves: Chef Nathan Outlaw debuts at Burj Al Arab
With Prince Charles and former James Bond actor Roger Moore among his patrons in the United Kingdom, two-Michelin star chef Nathan Outlaw feels right at home at Al Mahara restaurant in Dubai’s Burj Al Arab.
“Working with Burj Al Arab speaks for itself,” he says. “It’s ... a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The 38-year-old British chef has just taken the helm at the iconic hotel’s seafood restaurant and will commute here every six weeks to oversee operations while managing his food empire at home.
Outlaw began cooking alongside his father at the age of 14, before honing his skills with leading chefs including Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein. He is now the owner of a London restaurant and three establishments in Cornwall, where he lives with his wife and two children. Outlaw is highly respected in the industry, and his eponymous flagship restaurant, on the southwestern tip of England, has retained its two Michelin stars since 2011.
Locally sourced seafood is the hallmark of his portfolio, and he has created a three-course lunch menu and a four-course dinner menu for Burj Al Arab to mark his fine-dining debut in the UAE. Some of his favourite and best-known dishes have made the cut, including freshly harvested raw scallops and citrus-cured brill.
“Al Mahara means oyster shell,” he says. “I’ve created a crispy oyster dish with two types of oyster – raw ones from Cornwall and the others from Ireland, cooked in breadcrumbs. Another signature dish is lobster risotto and it travels with me everywhere I go.”
Outlaw’s respect for every scale and tail is evident from his commitment to socially and environmentally ethical produce.
“What I use must be sustainable – as a seafood chef, I never want to run out of fish,” he says. “I also want to see that the fishermen are supported before it’s put on the menu.”
For dessert, Outlaw was keen for Al Mahara’s new offerings to remain true to his roots and incorporate seasonal local fruit.
“I’ve emphasised classic British puddings – one of them is my signature sticky toffee pudding,” he says. “I’m using fantastic Dubai dates for the base – they are so much better than I’d ever find in the UK.”
Outlaw’s food is understated, refined and packed with flavour. It’s geared to the masses and not exclusively for high-rolling gourmands, royals or celebrities who might frequent Burj Al Arab.
“The menu had to be accessible to everybody – that was one of my main briefs,” he says. “It’s top-quality ingredients with simpler tastes, which is what I do best.
“Planning the menu took just over three months, mainly because I’m used to just calling up a fisherman in Cornwall and him bringing me fish – but we soon perfected things with suppliers in Dubai, Ireland and the UK.”
Since Outlaw fired up the ovens in Al Mahara on September 24, the restaurant has been at capacity.
“We’ve had a nice mix of customers, from people staying in the hotel to couples who have been dining here for many years and were excited about the changes,” he says. “Their feedback was very positive. We’ve had foodies, and even people who have flown in from the UK, which is hugely supportive. There was also a gentleman who booked a table for two more nights, which was a massive compliment in itself.
“We treat everybody the same and what really matters is that they relax, have a great time and enjoy the food.”
Taking over the reins from Outlaw when he returns to Cornwall next week is long-term friend and right-hand man Pete Biggs. The pair met in 2002, when Outlaw – then head chef at The Vineyard in Stockcross in the UK – hired Biggs to work alongside him.
“He cooked me a beautiful red mullet dish with a white bean, cassoulet-like stew,” Outlaw says. “So simple and perfectly cooked. Straight away I knew he was a talented cook. He’s practically been with me ever since. So when the Burj Al Arab opportunity came up, I said to the hotel that I was interested but I needed Pete on board, plus all the best ingredients. Luckily, we got both.”
• For restaurant reservations, call 04 301 7926 or email BAAPR@jumeirah.com
Published: September 27, 2016 04:00 AM