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The Sportsman


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Went for a meal here with the good lady on Saturday 9th and have got to say everything was pretty much spot on. First thing to note is that the we chose from had several different options to that which MobyP had on the 4th. Obviously the first sign of great seasonality and using only the freshest ingredients.

To start was the onion bread. Oh the bread... Most places could use this and call it brioche it was that buttery and yummy. The butter was also spot on with just that hint of cheesiness which sets proper butter apart from the rest. With this I managed to get us a few slivers of ham which as others have remarked was remarkably tender and melt in the mouth delicious. Nearly forgot that tap water was offered straight up and didn't even see a bottle of mineral.

As we were there on a weekend we were unfortunately restricted to the ALC (seems a bit weird not to offer the tasting menu as it's not exactly the biggest of restaurants, but hey ho).

Three starters were had. Wood pigeon was the only lowish point of the meal. The two bits of meat were of ok quality but one was substantially thinner than the other causing half of the meet to be overcooked. Also the pink portion had a bit of sinnew left in which really shouldn't be happening. The accomanying lentils however were the only ones I have ever enjoyed eating so top marks there. Another starter was a slip sole with tarter sauce. The fish timed perfectly although the tarter sauce to me was slighlty overpowering. The final starter was the salmagundi. As others have said this is the most beautiful dish - with all the salad elements tasting so fresh and delicious and a perfectly timed golden poached egg you can not help but love it.

For mains we had the thornback ray and the brill. The ray was lovely although a bit to much of a soft fish for me but that is the nature of the beast. The brill was again well timed although much more to my liking being a good meaty texture. The size was also generous with two healthy chunks which helped sharing out the dish.

We then shared a cheeseboard which consisted of epoise, roquefort, a goats, a brie and a local hard cheese (which the waitress first thought was Comte). All were fine and in good condition although something other than jacobs wtar biscuits would have been good especially having got our hopes up with the onion bread.

For dessert we had the fruit salad and the hot chocolate mousse with salted caramel. The fruit salad was again a fine example of how not to mess with perfectly selected fresh ingredients. The encompassing biscuit basket was also good although the ice cream was a bit too melted which was the only let down. The chocloate mousse was again superb. Good rich taste and the lurking caramel at the bottom was also spot on just notching the dessert up that extra level.

To accompany we (by that I mean I) had a decent bottle of 2004 Montagny 1er cru from Mont Cuchot at £24 (if you found this in London I guess you would be looking at £40+). Service was ok although I would've prefered to order at the table instead of the bar and being offered a taste of the wine and then being poured the first glass would also have been an improvement.

All told the bill came to £108 for 8 courses and the bottle of wine mentioned. Best value meal I've had in a long time and look forward to returning midweek for the tasting menu in a couple of months when we visit our friends again.

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  • 4 months later...

I'll have to add my voice to the choir of those commending the Sportsman.

I have had my eye on this place for months and months, but finally, last weekend I was able to take a trip with a few fellow foodies down there.

My review: Lunch at the Sportsman

It certainly lived up to expectations and turned out to be one of my best meals all year.

All the dishes were good and service was friendly and generous.

The ingredients are shockingly fresh - turbot and crabs caught on the day, for example.

The chef, Stephen Harris, must be applauded for what he is doing down there.

A return has already been penciled in.

Edited by Food Snob (log)

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a group of us were there again on saturday, another great meal, epecially the turbot in vin jaune sauce (insert homer drooling emoticon) none of us would let the girls clear the table until we'd got spoons/more bread to finish the sauce (oh, and the homemade foccaccia (insert ....etc ) .

truely superb and if i can make it from leeds with a 6.30am start after my office xmas bash with 3 hours sleep, you can do it too!

it's well worth the trip and not that hard to get to, victoria to faversham train £10 taxi from there.

you don't win friends with salad

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  • 3 weeks later...

Really a special place. My thoughts are below, and the pictures are HERE...

The Michelin guide characterizes its two-star restaurants as “worth a detour” and three-stars as “worth a special journey.” But as the five of us tumbled out of the packed car one by one, I realized we had collectively traveled over 50 hours to get to The Sportsman. I’d say that’s a special journey. And it was absolutely worth it.

The drive out to Seasalter from London takes only an hour and a half if the traffic and weather are on your side. They are not — December in England sucks. Or maybe the whole year sucks, and I’ve just not had a large enough sample set. Anyway, on this particular day it was rainy, teeth-chatteringly cold and the sky was so dark I wasn’t sure whether it was nighttime or if the Michelin gods were angry with us for making a “special journey” for a restaurant they’ve deemed worthy of just one star.

But in fact, in was lunchtime, and we had arrived a good hour early. Freezing and pathetic-looking, we sheepishly knocked on the front door of this unassuming little pub in the middle of nowhere. An angel called Emma came to greet us. She led us to a table near the fireplace, poured us some tea, and we began to thaw. Conversation drifted to nothing but restaurants all sorts of interesting things for the next hour. My brother, the lone non-food-obsessed man among the five of us, was thrilled when it actually came time for us to move to another table and eat.

Deep down, I think he knew the food talk would continue, poor bastard. But he quickly found consolation in a few canapés, the first of which was Pickled herring, Bramley apple jam, horseradish & soda bread. Being half Polish, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to love herring. I don’t. Horseradish, either. But the sweet apple jam and crumbly soda bread made this a happy first bite, even though it was quickly upstaged by the second: Rendered bacon fat, butter & buttermilk soda bread. Rendered bacon fat and butter… if loving that is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.

More porcine snacks came our way with the Pork scratchings & grainy mustard. I love the British name for this treat, and I love any Brit kind enough to serve it to me. It’s just deep-fried pork skin, that glorious textural feat that is fatty, crispy, and gelatinous at once. When things this tasty are served family-style, I’ve found that minimizing conversation and maximizing my proximity to the plate is the best way to go. You can always make new friends later in life. Joyous pork-filled moments are fleeting.

Presented as a course in and of itself (and rightfully so) was the Focaccia & buttermilk soda bread, local house-churned butter & sel gris. The focaccia was thick and fluffy, slicked with olive oil and littered with plenty of rosemary and red onion. The soda bread was sweet, crumbly, and nutty due to the abundance of oats in it. The butter was, simply put, out of this world. I may or may not have cried when we finished all the bread (and of course, all the butter with it). But Emma, saint that she is, brought more and left it there the rest of the meal.

You never really know where the snacks stop and the actual courses start, but we played it safe and got started on the wine anyway. Our first bottle – Domaine Leflaive 2006 Borgogne Blanc – led us remarkably well through the first several dishes, starting with the Fried rock oyster & lardo. Now, in my heart of hearts, I know if you wrap just about anything with pork fat, deep-fry it, and stick a toothpick in it, you can call it pub food. But this town is known for fine oysters, and I’m pretty sure the lardo came from about a mile away. This is Seasalter pub food. Welcome to The Sportsman.

We all agreed that the previous bite was tasty, but my brother saw the Rock oyster & homemade chorizo as more of a gastroenterological risk than an edible specimen. He choked down his raw bivalve with a grimace, while the rest of us slurped the shells clean with delight. The oyster was plump and fresh, and the coarse house-made chorizo was well-spiced on its own, but unfortunately I thought the salt and paprika in the sausage drowned out the subtle flavor of the oyster.

Chicken liver pâté, button mushrooms & shaved Parmesan was a three-star dish walking around at home in its pajamas — unfussy and comfortable. At Pascal Barbot’s l’Astrance in Paris, I’ve seen liver and raw mushroom working in tandem before. I’d call that dish a masterpiece, and apparently so would Chef Stephen Harris. His nod to Barbot (not coincidentally, his favorite chef on the planet) was more mousse than pâté. Dense, rich, and creamy on the tongue, the complex sweetness of Sauternes lingered seductively after each mouthful. The mushrooms and parmesan added earthy and nutty undertones.

We splashed around again in the nearby waters with a Local scallop & house-made seaweed butter. This is basically the same simple presentation I’ve had before at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, only this one was actually good. The scallop had no opacity in the center, so the texture was a bit firmer than I would have liked. But it tasted fresh and sweet, and Harris’ seaweed butter is the best I’ve had.

The straightforward Scallop carpaccio & smoked brill roe might have been my favorite dish of the day. Scallop, brill roe, wood sorrel, and salt — I counted just four ingredients, and looking out the window by our table, I could see the sources of all four of them. There’s an immediacy to Chef Harris’ cuisine that is absolutely impossible not to respect. And the beautiful fresh sweetness of the scallop with the smoky roe and the lemony wood sorrel was impossible not to love.

Nothing wasted – that was Stephen Harris’ goal in curing his own Seasalter hams. He was already using nearly every other part of the pigs he got from nearby Monkshill Farm, and surely there could be no higher calling for the legs that remained. So they began feeding the pigs with leftovers from the kitchen and windfall apples. After a shower of grey salt from Guerande and fourteen months to hang out, here were hams from two different breeds for us to enjoy — one with a lighter color that left an almost-floral sweetness as it dissolved on my tongue like Serrano; and the other, a dark, waxy, saltier, full-flavored ham that brought jamón Ibérico to mind.

The next dish was written on the blackboard in two words – Crab risotto. But even that description seemed superfluous, as the rice was merely the vehicle of an expression of the purest, most concentrated crab flavor imaginable. (To quote, shamefully, from Disney’s Aladdin: “Phenomenal cosmic power… itty bitty living space.”) Other than the ever-so-slightly overcooked rice, this was a dish beyond reproach. It was rich, sweet, and, in my mind, truly ingredient-defining. To taste this risotto was to know exactly what crab tastes like.

While we were happily guzzling a bottle of red – Chambolle Musigny, Domaine Bruno Clair “Les Veroilles” 2002 – somebody must have been fishing. An announcement had come earlier in the meal: “They’ve just caught a turbot nearby, and you’ll be eating it soon.” Wait, what?! I’ve apparently been going to the wrong restaurants all my life, because this sort of thing has never happened to me. Right then and there I began to devise a plan to somehow import this place and everyone in it back to the US with me, because it’s basically Utopia.

Friends more knowledgeable on the subject than I told me turbot benefits from a few days out of the water before cooking. I replied that if they really needed some time to sort out their emotions involved with making that fish go gentle into that good night, they could certainly just pass their servings of Roast turbot with a smoked herring sauce over to me. It wasn’t the firm flesh of the gloriously fat fish fillet, the vibrant green sprout tops, or the smoky, creamy, strikingly metallic-colored Avruga caviar sauce that sparked my sudden generosity. I was just trying to be a good friend. Really.

Two oyster dishes, two scallop dishes, now two lamb dishes — the first of which was Fried Monkshill Farm lamb belly & mint sauce. ”I’ll have two of everything on the menu” would apparently be a good ordering strategy here. This was just absurdly tasty. It was so simple that it wowed. Just breaded and fried lamb belly, fatty, meaty, and crispy in every bite, to be dipped into an utterly addictive sweet mint sauce that I’m pretty sure consisted of nothing more than a simple syrup packed with the fresh herb.

We also had Roast Monkshill Farm lamb loin & braised shoulder, served with bread sauce, purple brussels sprouts, and lamb jus. The shoulder was like a meat layer cake — every stratum had a different consistency. The pleasantly crispy and chewy skin gave way to melting fat and collagen, which in turn moistened the tender, stringy (in a good way) strands of meat packed together below. The loin was firm and flavorful. The sprouts, a nice touch of greenery in an otherwise very rich dish.

Okay, now this was just getting out of hand. Even the desserts here are memorable?! This is a pub, people! Won’t somebody please start acting like it? I mean, take the Strawberry ice lolly with cake milk, for example. Imagine the audacity to serve something so flavorful and yet so playful at the same time. Cake milk is exactly what it sounds like: milk thickened with delicious buttery cake crumbs. You dip the popsicle (which was lovely on its own, by the way) into the cake milk, eat, and repeat.

Then came a tall wedge of a Dark chocolate tart & tangerine ice cream. The chocolate filling was soft like room-temperature butter, and it seemed to stand in defiance of gravity through sheer stubbornness. The flavor was so dense, rich, and intense — bittersweet, incarnate. In fact, my only criticism (and it’s a slight one) was that to my taste, the chocolate and the slightly bitter ice cream together created a mouthful that was nearly acrid.

We ended with a wonderful Dessert trio. Yes, we were still eating in a pub(!)… There was a miniature Gypsy tart, with a deliciously sweet condensed milk and brown sugar filling, and a Jasmine tea junket (milk pudding) with breakfast crunch & rosehip syrup. Finally, some green apple sorbet with yogurt & “space dust”. Space dust sounded like a narcotic that might make me even more blissful than I already was, but that’s just what the Brits call Pop Rocks. It was used here to great effect, making the tartness of the sorbet dance around on your tongue.

I spoke earlier of the immediacy of Stephen Harris’ food. It has a sense of place and time. It’s right here in Seasalter, right now. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. This guy lives, breathes, and cooks with the land and the sea around him. He belongs there. And after eating his food, you feel like you do, too. I’m almost ashamed to tell you how little we paid for this remarkable meal — just £55 a head before wine, if you’ll believe that. I regretted having made dinner reservations elsewhere that evening. And I regret now that I live about 5,400 miles away from this incredibly special place.

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I'm passing through Dover in the not too distant and, much as I'd like to go over to Whitstable, I don't really want to add another 45 minutes drive to my already long journey (both ways). So I'm looking for somewhere closer.

Past experience indicates that Dover itself appears to have nothing worthwhile (unless I've missed a gem) but a nosy at the GFG suggests the restaurant at the Wallet's Court Hotel just up the road at St Margaret's and the Yew Tree at Barfeston might suit. Does anyone have knowledge of either, please? Or anywhere else nearby, of course.

John Hartley

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Hey Aaron, nice review. I'm glad I got to share your meal.

About those scallops, (and this may be a conversation to be had amongst the terminally anal, of which I undoubtedly count myself) but I don't think those scallops were overcooked - the texture of the raw scallops were far more structured, more plastic-y, rather than the rubberyness of Scottish and Maine scallops. It is also because of the extreme freshness. I think this came across in the cooked versions too. I thought they were amongst the best scallops I've had, perhaps second only to the Ambroisie versions (which probably came from the same waters). Most highly regarded Scotts scallops have an aftertaste that I can't stand. These were by contrast, extremely cleanly flavoured.

That said, many chefs undercook their scallops. They sear each side and have a raw wedge in the middle. Scallops, unlike tuna, can take a little more variation in heat.

Edited by MobyP (log)

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

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I'm passing through Dover in the not too distant and, much as I'd like to go over to Whitstable, I don't really want to add another 45 minutes drive to my already long journey (both ways). So I'm looking for somewhere closer.

Past experience indicates that Dover itself appears to have nothing worthwhile  (unless I've missed a gem) but a nosy at the GFG suggests the restaurant at the Wallet's Court Hotel just up the road at St Margaret's and the Yew Tree at Barfeston might suit. Does anyone have knowledge of either, please? Or anywhere else nearby, of course.

i think you'd regret being that close to the sportsman and not going.

you don't win friends with salad

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Hey Aaron, nice review. I'm glad I got to share your meal.

About those scallops, (and this may be a conversation to be had amongst the terminally anal, of which I undoubtedly count myself) but I don't think those scallops were overcooked - the texture of the raw scallops were far more structured, more plastic-y, rather than the rubberyness of Scottish and Maine scallops. It is also because of the extreme freshness. I think this came across in the cooked versions too. I thought they were amongst the best scallops I've had, perhaps second only to the Ambroisie versions (which probably came from the same waters). Most highly regarded Scotts scallops have an aftertaste that I can't stand. These were by contrast, extremely cleanly flavoured.

That said, many chefs undercook their scallops. They sear each side and have a raw wedge in the middle. Scallops, unlike tuna, can take a little more variation in heat.

Terminally anal here.

I echo MobyP - that was a great meal shared.

Moby - I'm not sure how the scallops incarnated on your plate at l'Ambroisie. I had them with white truffles and broccoli (click). I'm not sure I appreciated the scallops at l'Ambroisie - I mean that quite literally. That dish (for me) was all about the truffles and, strangely, the broccoli. The scallop was really backseated.

In contrast, the scallop dish at The Sportsman was all about the scallops (both of them, actually). And, though I tend to like my scallops closer to raw (like Aaron), I'd have to say I liked the scallop with seaweed butter at The Sportsman better. (And that was some mighty fine seaweed butter - I agree with Aaron that this was a MUCH more successful dish than the one at l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon).

But the two dishes are really incomparable. For one, the price of the scallop dish at l'Ambroisie alone could pay for me to eat at the The Sportsman thrice. :wacko:

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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It's obvious that basically, Americans and Europeans have different views on scallop cooking.

At l'Ambroisie, in that dish, do you think the scallops were not required? Or that, maybe, they were an ideal canvas for the other ingredients to express themselves?

Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

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It's obvious that basically, Americans and Europeans have different views on scallop cooking.

At l'Ambroisie, in that dish, do you think the scallops were not required? Or that, maybe, they were an ideal canvas for the other ingredients to express themselves?

I'm not sure whether or not the scallops were required. It was an aesthetic decision, I think - textural and flavor - that I cannot question. But the point I was making is that the scallop was not the star of that dish, whereas, at The Sportsman, it was. Therefore, to me, the two dishes really are incomparable.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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I've had scallops at L'Ambroisie three times

here's one of them, served with black truffle and jerusalem artichoke puree

-

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mobyp/1108440...57594095692807/

There the cooking style is different. My impression is that they are steamed through, rather than the graded cooking of most restaurants.

The awsome quality of the scallops always shone through, despite the boldness of the other flavours.

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

Flickr Food

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

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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.

We found The Sportsman last summer it was great, glad to hear they are keeping up the standard. Yes have found skate listed on menus as ray, I looked into it and they are the same.

Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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There the cooking style is different. My impression is that they are steamed through, rather than the graded cooking of most restaurants.

Yes, that is my impression too (steamed quality of the scallops at l'Ambroisie).

Knowing that you prefer your scallops of that consistency, I can see why you like the preparation at l'Ambroisie.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Hey Aaron, nice review. I'm glad I got to share your meal.

About those scallops, (and this may be a conversation to be had amongst the terminally anal, of which I undoubtedly count myself) but I don't think those scallops were overcooked - the texture of the raw scallops were far more structured, more plastic-y, rather than the rubberyness of Scottish and Maine scallops. It is also because of the extreme freshness. I think this came across in the cooked versions too. I thought they were amongst the best scallops I've had, perhaps second only to the Ambroisie versions (which probably came from the same waters). Most highly regarded Scotts scallops have an aftertaste that I can't stand. These were by contrast, extremely cleanly flavoured.

That said, many chefs undercook their scallops. They sear each side and have a raw wedge in the middle. Scallops, unlike tuna, can take a little more variation in heat.

Terminally anal here.

I echo MobyP - that was a great meal shared.

Moby - I'm not sure how the scallops incarnated on your plate at l'Ambroisie. I had them with white truffles and broccoli (click). I'm not sure I appreciated the scallops at l'Ambroisie - I mean that quite literally. That dish (for me) was all about the truffles and, strangely, the broccoli. The scallop was really backseated.

In contrast, the scallop dish at The Sportsman was all about the scallops (both of them, actually). And, though I tend to like my scallops closer to raw (like Aaron), I'd have to say I liked the scallop with seaweed butter at The Sportsman better. (And that was some mighty fine seaweed butter - I agree with Aaron that this was a MUCH more successful dish than the one at l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon).

This is merely an argument of semantics, but I didn't call the scallops overcooked. Just "a bit firmer than I would have liked". :raz:

I'd agree with UE that both dishes at the Sportsman were all about the scallops. (I've not been to l'Ambroisie, so can't comment on that comparison.) I also absolutely agree with Moby about the exceptionally clean flavor of the scallop. And I think his description of the texture is an apt one. This were some incredibly fresh scallops. We were in the right place at the right time.

In general, I'm not even sure I prefer a purely raw spot in the middle. I just enjoy the tenderness when it dances on that cooked/raw line, just lightly opaque in the very center.

Moby, the pleasure was all ours. It was actually specifically thanks to your posts over the past couple of years that I suggested we go to the Sportsman in the first place. I owe you one.

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... I'd heard abou this place and the emphasis they place on trying to source ingredients locally ...

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.

...

We found The Sportsman last summer it was great, glad to hear they are keeping up the standard. Yes have found skate listed on menus as ray, I looked into it and they are the same.

Well, the nomenclature is a bit muddled, but its the other way round -- hopefully most of what you are sold in the UK as 'skate' would be be either Thornback or Blond Ray.

Thornback Ray (Raja Clavata) is local to the Thames estuary, just over the seawall from the Sportsman, as of course are the cockles, if not the sherry vinegar! Locally at least, that Ray should be a sustainable fishery.

The true Skate (Raja Batis) is a deep-water fish, and potentially grows to enormous size, historically as much as 200 lb, though that simply doesn't happen any more. Since the Skate is endangered through overfishing, one hopes that much of what is sold as "skate" is actually ray. And "skate" is actually used as a general catch-all name for the Rajaformae - which include the Thornback Ray!

Kudos to Mr Harris for using a local, more sustainable fish - and accurately naming it on the menu!

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

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  • 2 weeks later...

A friend and I had a lovely lunch here yesterday.

All the praise from the previous posts is well justified. There is laidback enthusiasm & generosity here which is missing in most other places I've eaten in. This matched by the skill shown by Stephen Harris and his team - a true food enthusiast.

We pre-ordered the tasting menu (£55), with the myriad of courses as described above - the particular highlights being:

- the poshest pork scratchings made from Gloucester Old Spot

- the simple preparation of scallops (the seaweed butter was indeed delightful)

- wild bass with mussel & mussel jus

- breaded breast of lamb

- chocolate mousse with salted caramel.

Stephen Harris served us most courses himself, explaining why he'd made them and pointing out the window showing where most the ingredients had come from, including the salt marsh lamb....

His enthusiasm was infectious, obviously keen that we enjoy ourselves as much as possible. He even gave us a couple glasses of '99 Puligny Montrachet to go with the bass since he'd just opened the bottle and really liked it. if only all dining experiences were like this!

It's worth noting that the wine list is really reasonable. most bottles are terrific value under £20.

With the lovely prepared dishes, variety (you won't go hungry!) & cheerful service this is an excellent value place to eat. It's well worth the trek down to Whitstable and I can't wait to go back.

fergal

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  • 2 months later...

Took the Aged Ps here for lunch on Friday and we all loved it. Was hoping to try the crab risotto but it wasn't on - my smoked mackeral was excellent, with a sweet bramley compote, but promised horseradish seemed completely absent which definitely brought the dish down a peg or too. Lamb, whose brother and sisters could be seen frolicking across the road on the marsh as we ate, was first rate and the thornback ray/skate beautiful. Highlights of the whole thing though were the rosemary bread at the start - spongy, oily, gorgeous - and a wobbly lemon tart with meringue ice-cream that had been dusted with sea salt. As has been noted, the wine list is terrific value for a place like this. Service was sweet.

Next time I'd try and go with people of a stronger constitution and try the tasting menu.

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  • 1 month later...
Took the Aged Ps here for lunch on Friday and we all loved it.  Was hoping to try the crab risotto  but it wasn't on - my smoked mackeral was excellent, with a sweet bramley compote,  but promised horseradish seemed completely absent which definitely brought the dish down a peg or too.  Lamb, whose brother and sisters could be seen frolicking across the road on the marsh as we ate,  was first rate and the thornback ray/skate  beautiful.  Highlights of the whole thing though were the rosemary bread at the start - spongy, oily, gorgeous  - and a wobbly lemon tart with meringue ice-cream that had been dusted with sea salt. As has been noted, the wine list is terrific value for a place like this.  Service was sweet.

Next time I'd try and go with people of a stronger constitution and try the tasting menu.

What has happened at The Sportsman we lunched there two years ago and enjoyed a terrific dining experience. Finding ourselves in the area again, with our daughter and her partner, we decided another visit was a must.

When I booked the day before I was told they were full from 1pm onwards - so booked for 12.15pm. When we arrived they were about a third full. Having had a somewhat fractious morning we immediately ordered a bottle of Prosecco (£16.95) to relax with while we considered the blackboard menu. The bottle appeared on the bar, opened, with four glasses about fifteen minutes later, as our tongues were hanging out my husband went to fetch it, - well it is a pub. ‘Oh I was going to bring it in a minute,’ said the young waitress.

We decided on a main course and dessert as I remembered that the puds here were super. We ordered a platter of their home made bread, £1 a head, with fresh olives. We were disappointed to see that the butter was not their own freshly churned as it used to be. When we asked why we were told that would be £1.50 extra! Some plates on which to spread the excellent bread with the hard, inferior butter would have been appreciated but with no staff around we used our paper napkins on the bare table.

Monkshill Farm pork belly and apple sauce with creamed potatoes at £15.95 looked, and from the appreciative comments, was delicious with a slab of crisp crackling. Seared thornback ray, brown butter and cockles with a sherry vinegar dressing at £17.95 was also pronounced excellent, the fish perfectly cooked and a good combination. My roast cod on a bed of asparagus was topped with white crab meat and served with a delicious crab bisque - £16.95 - it was superb. The seafood came with a dish of creamed and new potatoes. Eventually the plates were cleared but with no sign of a dessert menu appearing I went to collect it myself. With desserts at £6.95 each the men decided to pass. Our daughter chose the lemon tart with meringue ice cream which was very good with a thin crisp crust and a creamy filling. I chose the dark chocolate mousse cake with raspberries and Jersey cream. The raspberries were good, the cake was a heavy stodge and the cream just a slick on the plate. I needed more cream but as usual the staff had done a disappearing act. I left the remainder deciding it wasn’t worth getting fat for but finding someone to do the bill did provided another bit of exercise. It eventually arrived with the legend ‘Service not included’ scrawled all over it. I felt like pointing out that was painfully obvious!

They never did get more than half full, clearly they have dire staff problems and limit bookings accordingly but it appears they still miscalculate.

The bill, at £106.65, with only one dish each that got top marks, was excessive for what is a very basic pub. Their success has obviously gone to their head and they are getting away with murder. And no, I didn’t leave anything for service.

Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

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Its a shame you didn't enjoy your experience Pam. The Sportsman is somewhere I really want to go myself but just can't get there for one reason or other. I've heard and read nothing but positive reviews and the chef seems a pretty down to earth fellow. Its maybe a little tight to be charging extra for their butter , which obviously is what alot of people like and remember.

Anyone who works in the catering industry will say, you can have the best food ever, served on the swankist plates etc etc BUT without decent staff, it counts for nothing.

Reading between the lines, it comes across as if the place has been overwelmed with custom, due to the massive coverage it has had. Eateries can and do become victims of their own success. This in turn can result in a high level of staff turn over, which until they can settle things down will obviously reflect in an unfortunate service. For all the goodwill in the world, there will be times when places get things wrong etc. Its how they react and respond to these shortcomings, which will really tell you what they are all about.

Have you called The Sportsman to voice your concerns? If not, you should, as Im sure the owners will be very disappointed to hear you have not enjoyed your visit.

By all accounts it seems a quality, unpretentious operation that maybe finding the pressure hard going. This is by no means an excuse though.

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Pam,

I'm sorry to hear that you weren't happy with your experience at The Sportsman.

I just wanted to note, with regard to your comment:

I chose the dark chocolate mousse cake with raspberries and Jersey cream. The raspberries were good, the cake was a heavy stodge and the cream just a slick on the plate. I needed more cream but as usual the staff had done a disappearing act.

Was it similar to THIS? If so, it really wasn't airy/fluffy mousse-like when I had it either. It had more of a pudding (in the American sense of the word)/ganache consistency and weight. I thought it was excellent. But, I didn't for a second think of it as "diet food."

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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