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The Sportsman

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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.

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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 (log)
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  • 2 months later...

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 (log)
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  • 1 month later...

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

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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.

"So many places, so little time"



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  • 1 month later...
  • 6 months later...

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?


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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.

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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

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  • 1 year later...

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)

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