Nathan Outlaw on bringing Cornwall to Dubai

Away from the Cornish coast, the Michelin-starred chef worried he might feel like a fish out of water when he took on Al Mahara

(Image credit: DAVID LOFTUS)

The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai has seven stars and is the height of luxury. It's not a place I imagined myself opening a restaurant, but the general manager came to Cornwall to eat at my restaurant and invited me to Dubai to take a look.

My biggest concern about taking over Al Mahara was not only making the restaurant accessible, but also how on earth I'd have access to fresh fish. The Gulf is fine for kingfish, which can be used for raw and cured dishes but it's too rich in protein for much else. It turned out though that I needn't have worried. The fact that Dubai is such a forward-thinking country, focused on building a global reputation for great hospitality and tourism, means that logistics have become easier. I arrived at Al Mahara to find the same oysters I serve in Cornwall and it's quicker to get Scottish scallops and salmon to Dubai than to London. British mackerel will never be on my menu there, because oily fish doesn't travel well, but turbot, brill and large cod aren't affected by long flights. I can source excellent fish from Australia, too.

(Image credit: DAVID LOFTUS)

Taking on a restaurant in Dubai isn't about having an eye on the big bucks. I employ brilliant chefs with ambition and I carefully consider options that come up, however unexpected. I've known Pete Biggs for more then 15 years – he isn't married and doesn't have kids, so he was really keen to take on Al Mahara. I'm still pretty hands-on, though; I go to Dubai every six weeks, am in London every fortnight and the rest of the time I'm in Cornwall.

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I'm not sure I'd take on a fourth restaurant – perhaps I would consider it if a guy working for me wanted a new project with my backing. But I don't have any masterplan – just simple, local, seasonal cooking done at the highest level, with the occasional cookbook. I own more than 400 cookery books and I love working on my own. My fourth, Home Kitchen, is perfect for anyone going to university or moving into their first flat.

(Image credit: DAVID LOFTUS)

I realise there's a certain irony to opening a restaurant at a seven-star hotel and then working on a book about home cooking, but I cooked all the recipes at home on a crappy stove, using the most basic equipment. I got my first Michelin star at the Black Pig, where I used to cook meat, so in Home Kitchen, I've shown you how to do a perfect Sunday roast or bacon and sausage sandwich, make a delicious quiche or trifle, prepare cured salmon or make crab cakes. My wife's recipe for cottage pie with baked beans is included because it is the best one. And if our two kids turn out to be less interested in food than I am, I know this book has 100 recipes to ensure they will always eat well.

NATHAN OUTLAW was born in Kent and runs two-Michelin-star Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac, Cornwall and Outlaw's at the Capital Hotel in London, which boasts one star. Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara opened in Dubai a year ago. Nathan Outlaw's Home Kitchen, £25, published by Quadrille, is out 20 April;

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