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The Sportsman


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#1 Matthew Grant

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 02:25 AM

Arrived at the Sportsman after a relatively easy journey to Whistable once I realised that there are other Stations in my vicinity other than East Croydon. I'd heard abou this place and the emphasis they place on trying to source ingredients locally as well as starting to make there own Serrano style ham, hand-churned unpasteurised butter and homemade salt

After a whistle stop stroll round Whitstable ( We didn't even get to see the sea) we jumped in the taxi to the Sportsman around 4 miles away (about £6). Its pretty desolate around the pub with a smattering of houses and windswept fields, the Pub even looks a little grim until you walk in. Shame the view is of a caravan park.

I was parched so while sinking a pint of Asahi dry in record time I perused and set about trying to get the good stuff. "I've heard about your home made ham I can't see it on the menu?"

"Unfortunately we haven't got any at the moment, it’s a bit if an experiment at the moment" Same for the hand churned unpasteurised butter and the homemade salt!!!!

Ater a little digging around though they magically came up with the offer of some ham.

Onion bread was outstanding and we had worked our way through a basket of it when the charming waitress turned up with the salt and unpasteurised butter and another basket of bread. Woo hoo! Great butter, especially when enhanced with a little of the salt, it had a slightly cheesy smell and a taste not far off clotted cream. It would be nice to get a salted version.

Started with Oysters and Chorizo, 2 lovely plump specimens.

Ham with Melon sorbet followed, not sure of the necessity of the sorbet. The ham is a good attempt but probably needs a little refining, the pork perhaps not being of the quality required to get a really great ham.

A Crab risotto was exquisite, beautiful rich stock the rice flecked with crab and a large spoonful of crab meat on top.
Courgette salad consisted of a courgette cream (?) which was mild in flavour, a deep-fried stuffed courgette flower, for me it could have done with a little more stuffing as it got lost once the cheese melted down. Rachel thought it excellent. Long strips of courgette blanched and doused liberally in Olive oil and covered in Parmesan finished the plate.

Turbot with Pistou was a beautiful thick piece of fish eaten with relish by Rachel. Accompanied by pistou with summer vegetables, beans, broad beans and the like, strong with basil. Super.

Thornback ray with cockles, brown butter and sherry vinegar was another great piece of fish and the accompanying sauce buttery and slightly sweet was very good.

Managed to Squeeze down an Almond and Cherry tart before heading off home £103 lighter including two bottles of wine which came to around £40 in total. An excellent value meal with some very assured cooking and some great ingredients. A return visit is a must but this time I'll make sure we don't fall asleep on the way home and wake up on the approach into Victoria. I blame Rachel who said "I won't be going to sleep" when I suggested setting the alarm on her phone.
"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

#2 Bapi

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 02:37 AM

Nice review Matt. Sounded like great day out- bar the train episode at the end. :biggrin:

What fish would you say the ray was similar to, in terms of texture and flavour. I have never seen it on a menu before?

Edited by Bapi, 18 July 2006 - 02:44 AM.


#3 Matthew Grant

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 04:33 AM

Pretty similar to Skate, I think it is often sold as Skate?
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#4 Bapi

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 04:41 AM

Pretty similar to Skate, I think it is often sold as Skate?

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Thought as much- Ta.

#5 Basildog

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Posted 18 July 2006 - 02:44 PM

All skates are rays, not all rays are skate.

#6 Bapi

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 02:03 AM

All skates are rays, not all rays are skate.

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Since when did you become Jacques Cousteau? :biggrin:

#7 Matthew Grant

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 03:12 AM

Basildog, that was what I was trying to get at, isn't there some sort of law that says certain Rays are allowed to be sold as Skate?
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#8 Pweaver1984

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 09:07 AM

Had quick lunch here on Tuesday, and food was really good. Onion bread to start, liked the caramalisation on crusts! Was looking forward to Crab risotto, but wasn't on the menu! Went for The Seasalter Terrine, which was really tasty, think he uses mostly pork belly, with a fried quails egg, few cornichons and sourdough. My dining partner who wasn't that hungry had the feta, melon and pumpkin seed salad, which she said was fine, a touch too much oil though.
Also like Matt I had a couple of his Oysters and Hot Chorizo, which again hit the spot.

Mains I went for Braised Brill with Pistou and summer vegetables, was very light, seasonal with fish cooked perfectly, could definitely taste cheese in the Pistou, possibly Parmesan??

Dessert went for Rhubarb 3 ways, which was a Jelly, a creme brulee and sorbet which they put some popping candy at the top. Great way to end a meal. They also managed a "redberry" fruit salad for my partner.

With a coffee came some cubes of moist brownie, a pint of Whitstable Bay, and bottle of water total just under £48. Lucky to have it just down the road.
I went into a French restaraunt and asked the waiter, 'Have you got frog's legs?' He said, 'Yes,' so I said, 'Well hop into the kitchen and get me a cheese sandwich.'
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#9 Peter H

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Posted 20 July 2006 - 04:33 PM

I might be in the area next Wednesday and I'm thinking about having lunch there. Does it get very busy at lunchtime - do I need to book?

#10 Matthew Grant

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 12:48 AM

There were a few tables taken when i was there for lunch last week, probably not necessary to book but what harm is there if you do? :smile:
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#11 Gary Marshall

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 01:30 AM

There were a few tables taken when i was there for lunch last week, probably not necessary to book but what harm is there if you do? :smile:

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exactly, i don't understand reticence to book, it helps the restaurant, you're likely to be better looked after as you're expected, it makes the whole experience less stressful in my experience.

I rarely go to places that don't take reservations and i'll even call ahead to book if i'm just popping down the road, just to ensure my fosters is waiting for me when i arrive :laugh:
you don't win friends with salad

#12 Peter H

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 03:48 AM

exactly, i don't understand reticence to book, it helps the restaurant, you're likely to be better looked after as you're expected, it makes the whole experience less stressful in my experience.

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Normally I wouldn't hesitate, but in this case there's less than a 50:50 possibility I'll be anywhere near Whitstable on the day. I can always cancel, but although this is usually fine (and the call is much preferred to a no-show), I've occasionally got the impression that I'm regarded as a time waster :sad:

#13 Pweaver1984

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 09:01 AM

Found their website recently, not sure how long its been online for, but I thinks its great just like the pub itself.

Click on the Beach Huts!
I went into a French restaraunt and asked the waiter, 'Have you got frog's legs?' He said, 'Yes,' so I said, 'Well hop into the kitchen and get me a cheese sandwich.'
Tommy Cooper

#14 curlywurlyfi

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Posted 23 May 2007 - 01:00 PM

I organized a lunch for some greedy friends back here in Feb. The Sportsman treated us absolutely impeccably - actually, beyond impeccably. Stephen did us (14 people) a wonderful mix between a tasting menu + set menu, with lots of hidden surprises - eg when he had put baldly on the menu 'oyster', we got oysters three ways :smile: , which is why the food I reference below isn't necessarily shown on the a la carte you can see on the website.

Have to say, this was ace. Stephen + Emma really did us proud. Three of us walked from Whitstable train station to the pub along the shingly beach/sea wall, which took about an hour + a half but did at least mean I felt I could justify kicking off at noon with a bucket of fino.

Stand-out dishes for me - the oyster tartare with soy foam; the warm chocolate with salted caramel (serves me right for having airily said to C not three minutes beforehand, "yes, I don't really like puddings" - and then being presented with this, which made me retract my pronouncement pretty bloody sharpish); the lamb shoulder; the sprout tops with the lamb; the sauce with the turbot which actually had me using a cockle shell as a spoon to get the last of it into my greedy little face.

Oh and - whatever you do DON'T MISS the crab risotto.

Edited by curlywurlyfi, 23 May 2007 - 01:01 PM.

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#15 MobyP

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Posted 02 June 2007 - 11:42 PM

A few excellent meals here. Stephen Harris has a way, especially with seafood. This is the sort of place you would go to weekly if you could. As Fi says, his crab risotto can be spectacular (among the best of any risotto I've had). His turbot with cockles or thornback ray in brown butter were excellent. He deals with the immediacy of local ingredients - usually within half a mile of the pub. He was talking about serving some local lobsters with fresh cepes that a local had brought to his door that morning. Can't recommend highly enough.

Pictures here
"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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#16 Bapi

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 02:19 AM

Its sister seems to have hit the spot too- for Maj junior- The Granville

#17 britcook

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 07:09 AM

A word of caution, popularity has its price, which is that the place is packed, a couple of friends went on spec Saturday lunchtime and couldn't get even a nibble.

#18 MobyP

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Posted 30 July 2007 - 03:55 AM

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(Salmagundy salad - pic by Culinary Bear)

An absolute brilliant meal from Stephen Harris, this Sunday. We knew he made his own bread, churned his own butter, made his own fleur de sel and sel gris, raised his own pigs, cured his own hams, had sheep and eggs from across the road... well now he's started growing his own vegetables as well. After a recent visit to Bras, he thought to do his own version of the gargilliou with a traditional English salad called a salmagundy - with a slow poached duck egg, warm ham (his own of course, as well as the product of his garden.

The fish there is always incredibly fresh - we had a huge turbot to share between us, served two ways, a tartar with soy foam, and big tranches served with fresh crab.

Everything was a winner - a great carrot soup with green peppercorns to start... and excellent desserts made with local fruit and herbs.

Possibly my favourite place in England right now.

Pics here.
"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

#19 curlywurlyfi

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Posted 30 July 2007 - 05:59 AM

hear hear. it was wonderful. Lemon verbena icecream; pickled mackerel with gooseberry jelly + soda bread; the freshest, most simply cooked turbot; strawberry ice lolly with cake milk - but Moby's right, the absolute standout was the salmagundi. A joy to look at + a delight to eat.
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#20 YKL

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 09:47 AM

just wanted to echo Fi and Moby ... this was a wonderful wonderful meal. The salmagundy was so beautiful it practically had me in tears, and the turbot tartar was fabulous - fresh, fragant with herbs and perfectly balanced. As fine a mouthful of food as you will ever find anywhere.

As Moby said, everything was top notch, but some parts were quite exceptional ... that extraordinary ham which was so powerful and yet refined, jasmine junket heavenly in flavour and lightness, the cake milk was a genius invention, that lemon verbana ice-cream was to die for .... basically everything was just bloody brilliant.

Moby has to remind us that this is a pub, you could easily believe you were in a starred restaurant ... in fact, this was one of the best meals I've ever been lucky enough to enjoy. It's effectively a 500 mile round trip for me to visit, but that's not going to stop me. When something is this special, distance is not a barrier ..

Edited by YKL, 31 July 2007 - 09:57 AM.


#21 Big Bud

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Posted 31 July 2007 - 03:47 PM

I had a meal here back in January and have got to say as a chef this is one of the most inspiring places I have eaten. The ham and the salt were amazing. The ingredients that stephan uses are top notch. His passion pours through the whole place. Keep up the good work.

#22 Matthew Grant

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Posted 03 September 2007 - 12:58 AM

Another very good meal at the Sportsman on Saturday. We hadn’t pre ordered the tasting menu so manfully worked our way through the Ham, bread and 3 starters.

The ham seemed to have improved since the first time I was there, good farmyard flavours and a touch salty. Good bread and butter as previously.
Salmagundi was fabulous, the home grown vegetables were really good quality, peas and broad beans really standing out, you could really see the Michel Bras influence in this dish. Smoked mackerel with a crab apple jelly worked really well, the sweet jelly marrying with the beautiful smoked fish, I’m not sure if they are smoking it themselves? The Crab risotto is really dark and has excellent deep flavours as previously described, I’d forgotten how good it is.

Brill with cepes highlighted very good fish and lovely buttery cepes which unfortunately (or fortunately) came from France, Roast chicken with cepes was a large breast of decent but not outstanding chicken but the dish itself, simple as it was, worked well.

Strawberry ice-cream, churned to order had great texture. My dessert was three different elements, a strawberry ice lolly with cake milk, raspberry milkshake and the junket as previously described by Moby.

A top notch restaurant in a casual setting. Not even a borderline one star, I can’t believe it hasn’t got one already, surely this year?
"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

#23 smoz

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Posted 05 September 2007 - 01:32 PM

I will be eating there this Saturday lunchtime, reading the reports on here is making my mouth water, I can't wait.

#24 MobyP

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 12:00 AM

a fantastic lunch here yesterday - pictures here.
"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

#25 martinwa

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 10:08 AM

"[QUOTE]It's effectively a 500 mile round trip for me to visit, but that's not going to stop me. When something is this special, distance is not a barrier .."


Did you stay overnight somewhere? Planning my first visit and checking out local hotels and finding it all rather dismal.
Anybody suggest anything?

Edited by martinwa, 07 January 2008 - 10:10 AM.


#26 Matthew Grant

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 11:56 AM

Its a direct train from Victoria, only takes around 90 minutes from memory.
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#27 MobyP

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Posted 07 January 2008 - 12:47 PM

I tend to do the round trip from London. About an hour and a half each way for me. Or split it with someone.

Wish I could eat like this once a week
"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

#28 bakerestates

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 04:16 AM

I tend to do the round trip from London. About an hour and a half each way for me. Or split it with someone.

Wish I could eat like this once a week

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Your photos look great and I am going to get there before the year is out (if I had a boat it would be dead easy from us, just hop on at Mersea) as it seems an inspiring place for anyone into food and more.

#29 curlywurlyfi

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 06:30 AM

I was also there on Sunday + it really was a joy. Some things just didn't work for me (eg cockles with Campari) but having been a couple of times it is great that Stephen is confident we will take his more experimental dishes in the wider context. His home-churned butter still worth stabbing your dining companions for (the turbot sauce approx 80% butter, + as for the mussel + bacon chowder...) Warm chocolate mousse with salted caramel underneath, partridge pasties, rhubarb ice lolly with panettone 'milk'... I could go on but I am about to have a Sainsbury's-sourced sandwich for lunch + it's too dispiriting a contrast. I love The Sportsman. You owe it to yourselves to go!
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#30 Matthew Grant

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 07:56 AM

I'm going to hop on over and add it on to my list of places that will get a star this year. :smile:
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