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The Sportsman

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113 replies to this topic

#91 dougal

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 12:52 AM

Congratulations to Steven Harris on being selected as the Good Food Guide's "Chef of the Year".

Just happened past at lunchtime yesterday to discover a BBC South East News crew doing the story ...

Just a couple of reflective comments about a couple of things mentioned previously.

- seemed half-empty yet "fully booked". They don't cram the place. And they take some pressure off the kitchen by scheduling tables to arrive one at a time. So, at the start of service, the place can be pretty empty, yet 'fully booked'. Yesterday, they had a party of a dozen or more, and seemingly just a handful of other tables taken - yet a lady came in (to make a booking for later in the week) having failed to get a table for that day, and seemed surprised that the place looked 'quiet'. However without a booking, you could well be lucky enough to nevertheless get starters and puds. Seemingly other tables were expected inside, since my (excellent) early-ish snack of crab risotto was served in the conservatory. BTW, the same scheduling/booking policy applies at The Granville.
If it maintains the excellent standards (and they make an adequate living) then I'm all in favour.
Be prepared to book!

- I've had the dense (flourless) "chocolate cake" at The Granville, and the only likely disappointment would come from expecting anything remotely like a sponge cake. Think more of dense, very chocolatey moussey tart without the pastry. And one should appreciate that there is some whimsy among the desserts - as with the 'sorbets'.
"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

#92 Patrick_O

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 08:28 AM

I will be heading to London in early November arriving Friday morning, leaving Sunday afternoon. I really want to go to the Sportsman and was wondering how long the door to door trip takes from the centre of London and if it is worth the trek given we only have a couple of days? I was thinking Saturday lunch might the best bet?
I have a shed load of other places I want try too and will probably be back over early in the New Year with a little more time on my hands.

#93 Pam Brunning

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Posted 13 September 2009 - 02:37 PM

Go for it Patrick - give them a ring and make sure they have plenty of staff on for Saturday lunch - the food is great - better than you will get in most places in London!
Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society
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#94 Gary Marshall

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 12:48 AM

patrick, it's an easy trip, victoria station (i think) to faversham, pick a cab up there, 15 mins to the resto. probably a good hour from london in total but it's eminently doable in an afternoon, it'n not hard to get there just before 12, have a blow out and get back in time for a train 4 -ish, or alternatively a few beers in the pub across the road from the station in faversham.

try google for the local cab firm in faversham and they'll meet you at the station.
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#95 Patrick_O

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 02:18 AM

Thanks for the info. Doesn't sound like too much hardship!

#96 Gary Marshall

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 03:45 AM

No it's not , I managed it from leeds once after c.3 hours sleep after our office xmas party. The wonders of sausages and bloody marys.
you don't win friends with salad

#97 ajnicholls

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 02:58 AM

So, another day, another foodie pilgrimage. Manchester to the Sportsman - 250-odd miles.
A simple trip from Victoria to Faversham, as advised by Gary. Plenty of cabs at the train station and a short drive to the pub. Somewhat bracing day with the sea winds making me go inside as soon as we got there.
The first impressions were of an incredibly warm and friendly place. A pint of the local Shepherd Neame ale and off we went.
Much of the tasting menu has been discussed here, so I'll skate over those bits:

Pork scratchings, pickled herring open sandwich with crab jelly

I may never be able to eat a pork scratching again after these. A somewhat heavy night of drinking had taken place the previous night and these may be the perfect remedy. The herring was lovely too.

Oysters with chorizo

Served by Stephen and explained how this dish in many ways encompasses the essence of the pub. Local produce with home-made elements. The smokiness of the chorizo sets off the salty oyster perfectly. At £1.50 each, if I lived anywhere near (and sadly I don't) then I'd eat them by the bucket-load.

Poached oyster with Jersey cream and apple compote

The same local native oysters came this time warm with a rich Jersey cream sauce, and somewhat surprisingly, the apple compote was extremely cold. The temperature contrasts really worked and, although I prefer my oysters raw, they were very pleasant.

Bread - Sourdough, onion and rosemary focaccia, rye with home-made butter

Seriously, seriously good bread with the butter that has been eulogised at great length before


Apparently a traditional name for a seasonal salad. This was great - autumn/winter on a plate. The range of textures made this dish. Parsnip crisps, onion puree, raw and cooked cauliflower, roast beetroot, turnip. And some other things that escape me right now.

Slip sole with seaweed butter

The small, native relative to the Dover sole was served on the bone, whole, cooked in the seaweed infused butter that they also make themselves. This was a serious piece of cooking. The fish was perfect. Firm and meaty in texture and the delicate seaweed didn't overpower it in any way. This was probably the best fish I've ever had in a restaurant.

Steamed sea bass with smoked herring sauce, green beans

My only fault with this meal, and it is a small one, is that no sauce should ever be grey. A beautiful fish that Stephen said had been line caught the previous evening and was "bloody massive". This was firm and sweet, in only the way that good sea bass is. The sauce, whilst looking absolutely hideous, was actually lovely, with a subtle smokiness.

Sportsman ham

I have a ham obsession. I have my own pata negra iberico ham at home. And this is as good as anything I've ever had.

Lamb belly

As discussed before. My god, it's good.

Rack and shoulder of lamb

This was truly incredible. The rack of lamb was pink and tender. You could cut it like butter. I can only assume it was sous-vide to get the texture they did. The shoulder had been slowly cooked and presented with a piece of the crisped skin. Served with spinach and the richest lamb jus I've ever tasted.

Pear ice-lolly, Jamaican ginger cake milk

This was fun. The pear lolly was in a large espresso cup filled with a sauce made with local milk and ginger cake. I felt about 6 eating this.

Apple sorbet, burned cream, shortbread

The apple sorbet , with a topping of sharp yoghurt was superb. The addition of space-dust was most amusing to my friend. The burned cream (creme brulee) was a classic and can't be faulted. The small square of shortbread was a nice addition

Chocolate tartlet, tangerine ice-cream, jasmine tea junket with rosehip syrup, cream cheese ice cream

4 desserts in miniature. The chocolate tartlet was very, very intense. I don't think I could eat a larger portion of this. The pastry was divine and melted in the mouth. A just-churned tangerine ice cream was sweet and sharp. A fine example. The junket was a bit of a disappointment, neither tasting of rosehip or jasmine. The cream cheese ice cream was rich, served with meringue and cake crumbs.

My overall impression of this place is one of superlative cooking and real respect for the ingredients used. I loved everything about the meal and the warmth of the staff was great. The cooking was faultless and well worth the trip.


#98 felixhirsch

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 06:16 PM

I returned to the Sportsman the day I came back to England and was greeted by another great meal. The cooking seems to be evolving more and more towards the idea of using various parts of a product, which is great and the products are of course as good as it gets in Britain. Service is fantastic, and one simply feels very happy and well in this place. That is one of the greatest compliments I could think of giving to a restaurant. It's hard to go as far as naming favourite dishes, but the level is incredibly high and constant.

The only thing, Stephen could improve a little would be the desserts, which sure are fine by 1* standards, but are much less interesting than the rest of the food. This time, the star among the sweet parts of the meal was a fantastic ice cream made from the pits of plums.

Here's the full story.

#99 Harters

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 03:37 PM

Well, we're finally schlepping down from Cheshire and have booked the tasting menu for dinner on 24/3. That's a week after we're at Fraiche. This retirement lark is pretty good!

We're going to have a couple of days. Probably one round Canterbury and another pottering round the coast. So, I'm still in need of a couple of dinner and lunches. I've a wider Kent thread and would still welcome any recommendations here
John Hartley

#100 PhilD

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 04:06 PM

So, I'm still in need of a couple of dinner and lunches.

Well the Sportsman does lunch as well.....

#101 felixhirsch

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Posted 07 March 2010 - 07:34 AM

And what lunches! My last meal here was stunning again. There was a lot of game on the tasting, and some stunning scallops. It couldn't be better, and I absolutely adored it. The best dishes this time were the salmagundy, the wigeon and turbot. The rest was exceptional too, with the only less shiny course a few slices of raw scallops topped with Stephen's ham and apple mousse. The apple was too tart and dominated this little dish completely. Apart from that, it was a stunning meal, which I hope will be just as good when I go in a good week.

All in all, I can only recommend to get a few people together, order the tasting (must be done in advance), bring lots of nice wine and have a brilliant time.

#102 Peter H

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Posted 08 March 2010 - 06:35 PM

I had a wonderful lunch at the Sportsman last week, with a menu slightly different to that of felixhirsch. Great cooking and flavour/texture combinations. The 'set piece courses' - e.g. the turbot, lamb and lemon tart dishes - were exemplary! I was hoping to see the crab risotto but, although I didn't, I wasn't disappointed with the food!

Pics here

If there's a suggestion of a forum outing, I'd be in!

Edited by Peter H, 08 March 2010 - 06:41 PM.

#103 Kropotkin

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Posted 04 June 2010 - 04:38 AM

I found myself in Kent last week and made time for a sneaky lunch at the Sportsman. This meant whizzing across the strangely compelling landscape of saltmarshes, levees, caravan parks and ad hoc seaside houses that stretch beneath the big sky of the Thames estuary. I'm wierd enough to like such isolated and distinctive places, and all this amidst a bright, breezy day had me cheered anyway. This was compounded by the ready charm of the Sportsman's light, airy rooms with their pale shades, simple decor and fresh daisies on the tables. The effortlessly chatty staff compounded my unanticipated cheeriness still further - I don't want to be best mates with the staff everywhere I go, but they pitched it just right here.

I'd not had time to read this thread beforehand, but seem to have hit lucky with the ordering:

I did remember to have the breads and butter - which were simply great as stated above (they churn their butter in an old bread-maker, apparently...)

The Crab rissotto was just as good as everyone here says.

Ditto the Turbot with vin jaune, asparagus (this month) and pork belly. The pork was a little drier than I expected but nevertheless, and as above, it all worked together beautifully. Both these dishes stood comparison with 2* places up the road in big London.

Finally, the Lemon tart with ice-cream and meringue crumble was very decent.

60 quid all in (including drinks)...

So I find myself parroting everyone else inanely - this place is excellent: splendid food, an accessible winelist, friendly staff and amazing value all round. Go while you can - surely it can't last forever, and then we'll all be really sad.

PS! Weekday taxi's are hard to come by from about 3-ish, they say, when the school-run kicks in.

Edited by Kropotkin, 04 June 2010 - 04:40 AM.

#104 Harters

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 09:38 AM

They say that if you sit for long enough at Piccadilly Circus, you’ll see everyone you know. In the food world, it’s probably the same thing with the Sportsman. I’ve read about the place many times. Everyone praises it with not a word of criticism for the food. I’m joining that club.

You have to pre-book the tasting menu as it’s only offered when Stephen Harris is cooking. We started with what I suspect are the now almost legendary pork scratchings. And, oh yes, they should be legendary – a mile away from my previous experiences in dingy northern pubs. They came with a contrast – a bite-sized square of pickled herring on soda bread.

Then a baked oyster in a gooseberry granita. Dead simple. Dead good.

Bread came next – sourdough, soda and a fabulous rosemary and red onion focaccia. It comes with their home churned butter which incorporates their own homemade salt. The process of taking a bucket of sea water and boiling it up to get salt was explained.

A salad – salamagundi – with poached duck egg. It’s explained that many of the ingredients come from their own garden. It’s fresh and seasonal – some assorted leaves, softened (but not soft) baby carrots and other veg.

Grilled slip sole and seaweed butter. The fish perfectly cooked and just sliding off the bone. The seaweed giving a taste of “something you couldn’t quite put your finger on” to the butter.

Then Stephen Harris came out with a plate of cured ham. He explains the pig comes from a farm just up the road and that they first tried a number of pork dishes but they just didn’t sell so he came up with the idea of turning it into ham in the style of the Spanish. It’s good. Very good. Deep piggy flavour with a good layer of delicious white fat. Of course, it’s cured in their homemade salt and this one dates from November 2008 so was perfectly matured.

Turbot seems to feature regularly in reviews of the Sportsman and this meal was no exception. A small braised piece sat on some shredded green beans, surrounded by a crab bisque. I think as a dish this had it all – perfectly cooked fish, richness in the bisque, a little texture from the beans. Fab.

Then the first of the lamb preparations. A piece of de-boned breast, coated in mustard and breadcrumbs. Served with mint sauce. You eat it with your hands – well, of course you do. No surprise to hear that the lamb is local. It comes from Monkshill Farm – which is owned and operated by the Royal School for Deaf Children in Margate.

And, for the final savoury dish, grilled rump and braised shoulder of lamb, sat on shredded leeks. I thought the rump was fantastic until I tried the shoulder then I ran out of superlatives in my head.

After all that, it was lovely to be offered a cherry ice lolly. Not least as it’s cherry season in Kent. Came in a little bowl full of cake flavoured milk. No, I can’t explain it better either but that’s what it was described as, and that’s what it tasted of.

The next offering was a delight. A sweet biscuit basket filled with summer fruits and a dollop of lemon verbena ice-cream.

And, finally, a plate of four further desserts – rhubarb sorbet; junket topped with flapjack crumbs; a tiny raspberry and almond tart and an intense chocolate cupcake.

Service had been great – informal and friendly, yet thoroughly knowledgeable about the dishes. I started to try and find a different response for each time I was asked if I’d enjoyed a dish. I gave up halfway through the meal and resorted to “Bloody hell, that was good”.
John Hartley

#105 david goodfellow

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Posted 23 July 2010 - 05:58 AM

Good report John, thanks for the reminder of how good it was.

That tray baked focaccia is to die for. Stephen Harris gave me the recipe orally but my sieve like brain lost it like it does a lot things these days.

I may just e-mail him for the recipe it really is superb.

#106 dougal

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 06:01 AM

They are unveiling a plaque at The Sportsman on Sunday 26th Sept.

Good story behind it.
"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

#107 Harters

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Posted 09 September 2010 - 06:43 AM

Great story. Brings together two of my passions in life - good food & military history.
John Hartley

#108 Richard1

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 04:06 AM

Finally getting myself down to the Sportsman next week. Really looking forward to it. Hope it is still true to its what you see, is what you get set up. Don't think I could stand another one of the usual 'overhyped, we want/ have loads of michelin stars, overbearing and underwhelming restaurants', you know the places!Errrr!Just give me something genuine!
Anybody out there visited of late? Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Do I need to book the tasting menu in advance? Heard they now have a sister restaurant? Worth a visit? First time ever in the garden of England, any other food things going on of interest?

#109 Gary Marshall

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 04:46 AM

you won't be disappointed, it's about as 'about the food' as you can get and the wine list is well priced too. do ring them to book the tasting menu, it is not offered without iirc.
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#110 ediblelife

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 08:39 AM

I took the wife for her birthday lunch last week and we had a phenomenal meal. I was slightly nervous that it wouldn't live up to my expectations but it surpassed them, simply fantastic in every way. We had the tasting menu which, if I remember correctly, featured:

Little Radish and Goats Cheese Tartlets

Oyster with Bramley Apple and Lardo

Baked Oyster with Rasberry Granita

Leek Chowder with Home Cured Ham

Brill Tea with Bladderwrack Seaweed

Brill with Smoked Roe Sauce, Sea Purslane, Sea Beet

Shoulder and Rack of Lamb

Cream Cheese Ice Cream, Pear Puree, Meringue Crumble

Plus a huge amount of addictive home made bread and butter.

Everything was cooked perfectly and the Brill was the standout dish of the day. It entered my top three meals of all time, behind The Fat Duck and Hibiscus, but ahead of the likes of L'Enclume, Sat Bains, Waterside Inn, and Le Champignon Sauvage and Pied a Terre. The fact that the atmosphere is so relaxed is what made it so special. I can't wait to return.

#111 Richard1

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 11:10 AM

Sounds like it has alot to live upto then!! :biggrin: First time in ages that Im really looking forward to a meal. Thanks for the comments. PS Booked the tasting menu today, sorted!

#112 Harters

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 03:11 AM

It was a Saturday night, so no tasting menu on offer. So, that meant none of the famous home-cured ham. And none of the detailed explanations about technique or provenance. In its place, a very straightforward menu chalked up on the blackboard – perhaps the only Michelin starred place where you order at the bar.

There was great bread – sourdough, soda and a garlic and rosemary foccacia. There was an onion tart – the pastry light, thin, and crispy; a layer of caramelised onions topped with a thick layer of a just set savoury cream. Served at room temperature with a slick of thick puree (ramsons?). Excellent.

The other starter – even simpler in appearance and just as delicious. Fried slip sole drizzled with a little salty butter. That’s all. And nothing more was needed.

For mains, a saddle of Monkshill lamb was cooked two ways. One long and slow and metinglt fab. The other quickly cooked – the meat very pink and delicious – although this meant that the fat was all but raw and inedible. A little light jus, a wodge of potato dauphinoise and some spinach finished it off. Along with an eggcup of very good mint sauce – a bit sweeter than I make at home but not suffering from it.

We then both took a cheese course – a local Kent cheddar, Kinderton Ash goat from my part of the world and, somewhat surprisingly, three French ones that were OK but nothing to write home about.

Chocolate mousse proved to be a clever dessert. On the bottom of the dish, a layer of salted caramel. On top a milk sorbet and this then surrounded and topped by the warm mousse. A flavour flavour combination which really worked well.

The other dessert was, in fact, two mini-offerings. I had a sense they were leftovers from the previous night’s tasting menu. An apple sorbet – just the right blend of icy sweet and sharp. And a “burnt cream”. Both excellent in themselves but not really working together a an integrated plate.

We finished with excellent coffee. As on our previous visit, service is entirely relaxed and there is nothing pretentious about the Sportsman. And, when your food is in this clear, simple style, your ingredients have to be top-notch. They are.
John Hartley

#113 bakerestates

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Posted 22 November 2012 - 04:14 PM

Wednesday 21 November....A12.....sidways rain......M25...gridlock.....M2....howling gale......missed turn for Favesham Road blinded by lorry mist......why bother?.....

raw oyster, apple foam, ham
baked oyster, rhubarb granita, seaweed, cream
sourdough, onion foccacia, soda bread, pub's butter
pumkin soup, cream, muchroom raviolo, pumkin seeds
turbot, cured pork belly, cabbage & leeks, vin jaune sauce
partridge breast, bread sauce, fried cabbage, rosehip sauce
roast rack of lamb, braised lamb shoulder, smoked celeriac puree, grilled spring onion
rhubarb lollipop, custard cream
cream cheese ice cream, pear puree, ginger, milk snow
coffee with the lighest richest chocolate mousse, apple strudles, chocolate truffles, set cream with rosehip jelly

the essence of terroir, nowhere I'd rather be....whatever the weather

(I have photos, just dont know how to upload, fuck it, just go)

#114 Gary Marshall

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 02:14 AM

I wondered if you were heading to The Sportsman when you mentioned it on twitter, glad to find i hadn't missed a gem during my time down south!

One of my favourites, must get back there..
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