The Sportsman 4444

Faversham Road , Seasalter, CT5 4BP

5 reviews

54 Gastropub Kent

  • Sportsman exterior
  • The Sportsman
  • The Sportsman Kent restaurant bar
  • The Sportsman Kent restaurant bar
  • The Sportsman

SquareMeal Review of The Sportsman

SquareMeal award hall of fame 1999-2018 logo badgeStanding by the roadside overlooking the desolate Kent marshes, The Sportsman is still a bona fide shabby-chic pub with mismatched farmhouse furnishings, blackboard menus and real ales, but it’s also a maverick Michelin-starred eatery driven by chef Stephen Harris – a champion of local sourcing and self-sufficiency who even produces his own sea salt. Yes, it’s quirky and homespun, but the food reaches “sublime” heights without ever seeming prissy. We agree with readers who reckon that the must-order highlight is the “truly memorable” book-in-advance tasting menu, a procession of seasonal delicacies “evocative of the seaside and the surrounding salt marshes” – think tangy oysters (“two rock, one native”), each dressed separately, or turbot braised in vin jaune with smoked pork. The daily carte also yields delights galore: salt-baked celeriac with apple and ‘fresh cheese’; fillet of gurnard with bouillabaisse sauce and green olive tapenade; braised brill with mussel and bacon tartare; roast chicken with sausage and truffle cream sauce. On the sweet side, there might be a nostalgic combo of jasmine-tea junket with rosehip syrup and breakfast crunch or a textbook Bramley apple soufflé perfectly matched with salted caramel ice cream. Overall, this is deceptively complex and “absolutely flawless” cooking that far exceeds its come-as-you-please surroundings. “Affordable prices”, the warmest of welcomes, cheerfully informal service and a “surprising” wine list complete a remarkable package that fully deserves the SquareMeal Award for the Best UK Restaurant, 2017.

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8.0

Food & Drink: 8.6

Service: 8.2

Atmosphere: 7.6

Value: 8.8

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 4.0

Paul A. platinum reviewer 28 October 2016

The question that immediately sprang to mind on looking at the tasting menu, that showed quite a few similarities to the one we had had in the Spring, was how many signature dishes should a chef include throughout the year with apparently little regard for seasonality. Sadly our hope that the “sample” tasting menu might be changed on a daily basis was not realised, and, even more regrettably, a comparison of the photographs of the April dinner with what we were served in October confirmed our opinion that the former dishes appeared to be superior. Our review earlier in the year had been full of praise for the quality of the food, and the staff, and our favourable impression was the reason for our return to The Sportsman, so it was inevitable, given the fact that we had experienced five of the dishes before, that we would draw comparisons. What we had termed “a copious complement of nibbles” had been diminished by 50% in quantity and the biscuit with cheese and tomato filling, the Bramley apple jelly with smoked mackerel on a bread base, and the turbot with yoghurt tartare and soy foam were not bad but failed to reach the same heights. The oysters did though; two rock and one native, each dressed separately, one with chorizo, one poached and with caviar and cucumber, and the Whitstable native with a mild horseradish sauce. My wife’s aversion to oysters meant that she was treated to three smoked salmon delicacies with the same dressings. The white crab meat with strips of carrot and creamy sauce that followed, after the homemade bread and butter with Seasalter salt, was good, but the curry powder that had brought this dish up to the top level before was practically absent this time. The mushroom and celeriac tart had been so good that “masterpiece” was the key word in our last review. This time, despite the various elements such as the tart pastry being up to scratch, it suffered from being slightly undercooked and the dish was far from the right temperature. The next two dishes were also served rather cool, the signature slipsole on the bone, once more with no accompaniment bar the seaweed butter, still impressed, and the turbot braised in vin jaune and served with its sauce and with a smoked pork belly rasher and firm green bean shreds providing good texture made for a dish that was fine but which would have benefited from being hotter. When the slow-braised lamb shoulder (saddle in the Spring) came also requiring several degrees more heat to really enable us to fully appreciate the superb taste of the meat, we wondered if there was some trend being set or whether our food had simply been sitting around because we weren’t eating quickly enough for the kitchen. We enquired whether chef was in the kitchen, but it appeared not to be the case. Disappointingly, the ice lolly palate cleanser had been replaced by a runny, unset lemon verbena posset. Finally we got a hot dish, the signature soufflé, this time Bramley apple, making for a perfect match with salted caramel ice cream. A plus point was the continued competitive pricing of the wine list, although we had to pour our own glasses, and overall we came away distinctly less effusive about this Sportsman experience.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 5.0

Paul A. platinum reviewer 19 April 2016

Quirky it certainly is and to begin with the distinction between pub and restaurant was confusing; initially the staff seemed slightly unprepared for service, although they soon got going, worked well together and were properly knowledgeable about the food. We were disappointed with the fact that dogs are allowed into the dining area, but in practice there was no problem, and we found solace in the remarkably friendly prices of the wine selection which added to the pleasure we took from two of the best dishes ever. A sizeable hint of what was to come was presented in the copious complement of nibbles comprising pork puffs, outstanding light pork scratchings with apple and mustard, excellent smoked herring, duck liver on toast, super pork in brick pastry with onion and shallot, and lamb on a biscuit base. Then masterpiece number one - the best oysters ever, two native and one rock, each dressed separately, one rhubarb, one chorizo, one roe and cucumber, all of them top class, tender, juicy, with that unmistakeable tang of the sea and beautifully balanced by a beurre blanc of perfect consistency. When I booked the tasting menu I offered to have my wife’s oysters, but she was quite rightly allowed her own starter, which proved to be salmon slices dressed in the same way as the oysters, and equally delicious. The voice of experience showed next as home-made bread and butter were served with Seasalter salt to allow the oyster experience to linger and be fully appreciated. Then came white crab meat with strips of carrot, a creamy hollandaise and a sprinkle of home-made curry powder, a dish remarkable for its freshness and the super taste combination, and this was followed by masterpiece number two - a mushroom and celeriac tart with a taste surprise of runny egg inside, a topping of mushroom foam and perfect pastry. This was just unctuous umami brilliance, and it was balanced and contrasted by the next dish, simple local slipsole in a seaweed butter - pure fish, perfectly cooked and needing no accompaniments to tart it up. The following fish dish continued the stellar quality of the cooking with superb braised brill in a wonderful smoked roe sauce set off to perfection by fresh tender leek. The main was excellent roast saddle of Kentish lamb basking in a proper selection of vegetables, cauliflower, romaresco, celeriac and crispy spring onion, which demonstrated the kitchen’s versatility once again. The very good palate cleanser was an imaginative pear and ginger ice lolly, which left us in just the right condition to attack the superb rhubarb soufflé, its texture the perfect basis for the ripple ice cream to invade it and form a perfect pair. This was a resounding fine-dining success and one that we will hope to repeat as soon as the promised on-site accommodation is completed.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Gourmand Gunno platinum reviewer 20 January 2015

What does a restaurant or pub need to do in order to get a Michelin star? This was the question I mused as a group of five us set out for a recent lunch at the one-starred Sportsman near Whitstable. Since the Sportsman has had this accolade since 2008, it clearly must be doing something right. Indeed, it is one of a relatively exclusive club of just 56 establishments outside of London to hold such an award. According to the Michelin guide, the Sportsman and its ilk provide “a good place to stop on your journey” where “you can appreciate fine cooking at a reasonable price.” While it would be hard to disagree with the former (as much as anything given the absence of nearby competing alternatives), the latter is more open to question. Our conclusion was that the Sportsman is a decent enough establishment, but far from stand-out and certainly not evidently cheap. Moreover, it could be argued that simply being able to say that it has a Michelin star allows the Sportsman to charge a premium above what might normally be merited. Approached from the outside, the building looks somewhat nondescript, isolated on the Kent coast in subdued surroundings. Perhaps, we thought, the secret to its success lies within. Inside, however, the décor could be described as pleasant if just functional; think exposed wood, walls with a few black and white photos, but not a lot else. Onto the food, and obviously the main reason why we had made such an excursion. The menu reads well and the a la carte offers a range of around eight starters, mains and desserts, largely using local produce. In addition, there is a tasting menu available, although this must be ordered by the whole table. One initial disappointment was that one of the dishes available on the tasting menu could not be converted to an a la carte offering despite it being the same fish, prepared in the same way (braised brill), just with a different sauce (crab bisque rather than mussel and bacon tartare). Beyond this quibble, we all ordered happily and enjoyed a delicious basket of homemade bread while waiting for the food to arrive. Some of our group began with local oysters, served beautifully and tasting how they should. Overall, presentation was first-class throughout the meal, even if there were some subsequent let-downs. On the culinary side, a starter of smoked mackerel with bramley apple jelly was discordant, while a roast cod fillet main was somewhat overpoweringly salty according to one of our group. The Sportsman scored better with other mains of local lamb and also pork belly, and we all fell in love with the pudding selection. A beautifully light apple sorbet with burnt cream was a highlight, combining sophistication with a certain flavour sensation reminiscent of childhood sweets. Just as the food was somewhat hit-and-miss, so too did the service have its lapses, most egregiously when some, but not all of our mains were left sitting on the table, festering and gradually going cold, while one of our group was using the bathroom. Surely any establishment with a bit of common sense might wait until our entire group had returned. When the bill came, we were looking at around £75/head. Admittedly, a certain amount of alcohol was consumed (from a praiseworthy wine list), but one could not help thinking, we could perhaps have got better value for money and/or had a superior culinary experience for a similar price elsewhere.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 5.0

Andrew H. 16 September 2011

This place is generating alot of hype – and rightly so! The environs outside give the area and the restaurant a feeling of being past it's best. But the outside appearences are very deceptive. The inside feels warm and relaxed. The tables are rustic pine and feel right for the location. There is no feeling of cramped dining as you are a good distance from your fellow diners. The wine list very well planned and for anyone used to london pricing, a revalation We opted for the tasting menu and we were not let down Everything is sourced locally where possible. There is a very healthy looking kitchen garden to the rear and a farm a short ride away where they keep pigs and cure their bacon The highlights for me were the oysters rapped in bacon and the Slip sole cooked with butter and seaweed We travelled down from London and it was well worth the trip A must for all lovers of food

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 5.0

nelly pride. bronze reviewer 13 October 2010

I heard a alot about this place and by the time I got to it I hoped it would be good to justify the 2 hour journey.On first viewing I thought i got the wrong place as the outside could do with a complete makeover to stop it looking such a dump!!! Then we entered and it all changed. Service was excellant informative friendly and efficient. Again I was fooled by the first impression of a girl covered in tats with a skirt and Doc Martins!!! The food is quite simply the best I have eaten for ages. A good use of local produce which is beautifuly put together with great care and attention, Wine list dissapoints as it is bland and predictable. Overall this is a must place to eat at and unlike me do not let first impressions fool you

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Private Dining Room
Capacity: 20