Friday, 26 August 2011

The Sportsman, Seasalter

No, this isn't going to be a review of every single thing I ate. If you want a blow-by-blow account, see e.g. the excellent reviews by fellow bloggers EssexEating, CheeseandBiscuits, FoodStories, or HollowLegs, which cover much of the same territory (the tasting menu doesn't change a great deal, it seems).

I'm far too lazy to do all that. So I'm just going to stick up some photos, identify them (as far as my memory serves me), add a few comments as I go along, and then finish off with a few thoughts at the end. OK?

Here goes:

Sportsman exterior

Not going to win awards for stunning exterior facade, but...

Sportsman interior

...inside, it's cosy but airy, comfortable, and relaxed.

Sportsman bread

The breads: sourdough, soda, and focaccia. The dark, treacly soda was particularly amazing, but they were all fantastic. The butter is made on the premises from raw cream.

Sportsman pickled herring

Pickled herring (a sweet cure) on rye, with gooseberry jam. And lighter-than-light pork scratchings. A great way to start.

Sportsman oyster

Poached oyster, with pickled cucumber and Avruga caviar. Not mine (after a nasty incident involving oysters a couple of years ago), but The Other Diner's. Reported to be 'delicious'.

Sportsman liver pate

Liver pâté. Probably the lightest, smoothest, and most flavoursome liver pâté I've ever eaten, on the most exquisitely thin Melba toast.

Sportsman beetroot tartlet

Dainty beetroot tartlets. Made with super-delicate, friable pastry and punchy roasted beetroot.

Sportsman beetroot soup

Chilled beetroot soup. I am not the greatest fan of soup, and the idea of this one - prior to its arrival - didn't thrill me. Oh, how I ate my words. The flavours sang as brightly as the colour. My word, it was good. So, so good.

Sportsman slip sole

Slip sole in seaweed butter. It had both of us licking our plates for every last morsel, every last droplet of molten butter. So simple, but utterly stunning.

Sportsman crab risotto

The Other Diner's crab risotto. Made from the brown meat, with the white meat atop. Pronounced 'gorgeous.'

Sportsman salmagundi

My Salmagundi. In times gone by, this was a sort of random leftovers salad mashup. At The Sportsman, it was elevated to the realms of salady godliness. All manner of vegetables were crammed into it, in one form or other - raw, pureed, pickled, blanched... (carrot, aubergine, tomato, cauliflower, cucumber, courgette, broad beans...) And underneath the leafiness was a perfectly poached egg. Joy unconfined.

Sportsman own ham

Courgette 'spaghetti' with parmesan, topped with The Sportsman's home-cured ham. As beautiful as it looked, I wasn't madly wowed by the ham. The courgette creation, however - YES. Made from raw courgettes, it was soft, moist (ooer), melty in the mouth, and with just the right proportion of cheese to make it umami-ly moreish.

Sportsman turbot

The King of Fish - braised turbot with sea beet from the shoreline 'out the back', baby sage leaves, and smoked roe velouté. Turbot is a rare treat at the best of times, and on the odd occasion I've eaten it previously, I've sometimes been left a little disappointed. Not here. It was every bit as wonderful as it should have been. Stephen Harris really, really knows how to cook fish.

Sportsman lamb mint sauce

Breadcrumbed and fried lamb breast with the ultimate mint sauce. Comfort food of the highest order. With a mint sauce far, far removed from any mint sauce you can find elsewhere on this planet. Scrummy.

Sportsman lamb

Roast lamb from the farm across the road. It doesn't get any fresher or any more locally sourced than this. Tender and tasty. The only meat dish on the menu. And, strangely, perhaps the least compelling. But still, by anyone's standards, very good indeed.

Sportsman cherry lolly

Cherry ice lolly with Madeira cake milk. Exactly what it says on the tin. Take Madeira cake, soak it in milk for a wee while. Strain off milk. Eat with luscious cherry lolly. Run out of superlatives. The fruitiest fruity lolly I've ever had the pleasure of eating. I have no idea how many cherries went into it. Possibly an entire orchard. Even the Other Diner, who professes not to like cherries, was groaning with ecstasy.

Sportsman stawberry cream cheese ice cream

Cream cheese ice cream 'with strawberry'. And crunchy meringue crumbled over. The strawberry element was somewhere between a soup and a light jam. It captured all the essence of strawberry, and without any undue sweetness. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Sportsman petits fours

And just when you think it's all over, the 'petits' (!) fours arrive... My. God. Assorted indulgences - chocolate mousse with salted caramel, jasmine tea junket with rosehip syrup, shortbread, truffle, summer fruit tartlets. Note to self: wear elasticated-waist slacks next time.

Sportsman fruit tartlet

A close-up of that tartlet. Isn't it pretty?

Sportsman Seasalter

THE END. The fresh air outside. Which you will need. Not that you'll be able to walk.

The overall verdict? Probably the finest meal I've eaten on these shores. I went with unfeasibly high expectations and they were blown out of the water. It was stupendously good, and words can't express just how fantastic all the flavours were - a real all-singing, all-dancing celebration of the ingredients. Here, I felt, was a chef who cares about his food in a way quite unlike any other whose food I've eaten, and who absolutely revels in it, too. It wasn't poncified food, it was extraordinarily joyous food, and the wonderful thing is that you can taste every single ounce of that delight. I will dream about it for a very, very long time.


Carl Legge said...

I'm on my way...

Debbie said...

Think I will definitely try to fit in a visit there during my week in Kent!

meemalee said...


Laura Nickoll said...

Argh, too good. I want to be there, now. The word 'joy' so rarely deserves to be used to describe a dish. For you to be impelled to employ it speaks volumes.
I was in Whitstable recently, but last-notice trip so no Sportsman booking. Special trip definitely required.
Not sure about the chocolate moose (?!).
Was the mint sauce vinegary or sweet? I rarely taste a decent one, and would love to get it perfect myself.

Laissez Fare said...

Really nice review - sparse, just like mine ;-) - and some great shots. I too had mightily high expectations, and they too were exceeded by some measure. Interesting to see that they seem to have stopped serving their home-cured ham (the one thing I didn't care for too much) solo, as it now resides atop courgette pasta. I would love to go back again at so point, as would my wife!

Tasting Pages said...

The beetroot soup looks and sounds incredible... you know a chef is skilled when a bowl a soup blows you away. Must. go. soon.

Bungalow Industries said...

Really enjoyed your review, and super photos too! Hoping to go there soon as we're in the process of moving to Seasalter... (very lucky!)

The Sportsman's chef/patron Stephen Harris was on The One Show yesterday evening making salt from seawater with Jay Rayner - you can see it at the link below, starting around 16m50s...

things we make said...

That looks like a fabulous meal. I really don't now how you manage to get such bright crisp photos of the food in restaurants. It's an art I haven't mastered.

....and yes, loose elasticated waists for meals out always.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What a wonderful meal and great place!



Dodobird said...

Sounds like I need to visit this place. Came across your blogg whilst looking at reviews for restaurants near The Globe e.g. Northbank. I'm looking for a good restaurant to visit with a few friends for my birthday in a couple of months. Preferably in South East or Central London. Any ideas?

Lizzie said...

oh god I love that place so much. It might actually be one of my favourite places in England.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Carl - good. I've put the kettle on

Debbie - do!

MiMi - isn't it?

Laura - mint sauce was amazing, neither solely sweet nor vinegary. Sweet to start with, then acidic as it goes to the back of the mouth

Laissez Faire - you must go back :)

Tasting Pages - I know, I know...

Bungalow - thank you and, er, thank you!

Claire - I dunno. I just point and shoot.

Rosa - it was and it is :)

Dodobirds - have a look at @CheeseandBiscuits blog

Lizzie - I know what you mean. Unique and very, very special

Cakelaw said...

You can't judge a book by its cover, and this place looks like a real gem.

Pia K said...

looks and sounds spectacular! and what a lovely place! if they have more vegetarian dishes i'd be there straight away:) the dessert looks lovely, although granted, i would never be able to eat all that, i'm impressed! main and dessert and i'm full and happy.

we're about to have a grand meal somewhere here in stockholm soon, i've heard rumours about someone having had a magical 8 course vegetarian meal at a gourmet restaurant here (although it simply can't be as magical as the vegan one i had in berlin recently). of course one doesn't have to have 8 courses, still it would be interesting...

Countrywoodsmoke said...

Looks wonderful, but I bet they get fed up washing all those different plates/slates!

Carter said...

Wow, I'm stunned that a meal like that came out of a shabby looking restaurant. I'd love to know how much a meal like that would cost one of us to have. You probably had it "on the house", you lucky b----d.

FF4DK said...

I’ve learned a lot from your blog here, Keep on going, my friend, I will keep an eye on it,

Sarah said...

Stunningly beautiful meal. Craving every bit of it.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Cakelaw - nope, absolutely right

Pia - you have to find that place!

Countrywoodsmoke - heh. Yep, I bet they do... Not ideal for dishwashers!

Carter - £65 a head. Paid for with me own money. I've never had a meal paid for me (for reviews, that is)

FF4DK - thank you

Sarah - I'm already craving having it again!

Janice said...

Oh for goodness sake, that is absolute torture - in a good way! You had me with the pickled herring but when you got to the petit fours I was about to dial to make a reservation! Fab photos and fabilicious food.

Nic said...

Wow, all looks fabulous! It's on my list, must go soon.

Choclette said...

Errr, I sort of get the impression, this was a good meal ;-)

It all looked pretty fab especially the puds, but the bread and home made butter particularly caught my fancy.

Sandra McKenzie said...

I ate at the Sportsman on my last trip to England, and still have cravings for the roast pork, the made-to-order strawberry ice cream, the ambience, everything about this place. I must return some day. Thanks for the memories!

Online Foods Menus said...

All the dishes are just superb, but above all I just loved the bright colored, rich-gorgeous chilled beet root soup.Amazing.

The Ginger Gourmand said...

I am now dribbling in anticipation of a long awaited lunch there next week... Your photos are stunning!

The Artisan Food Trail said...

Wow! That meal looks absolutely gorgeous. Looks like the next time we're down in Kent we'll have to try it for ourselves.
Love your photos too.

whilehewasout said...

Great review! And what a menu, wow, everything looks so pretty and delicious - even the beetroot soup I'd probably never think of ordering, haha!

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