The Sportsman

Gold Award
££££
British, Gastropub

The Sportsman
The Sportsman
The Sportsman
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SquareMeal Review of The Sportsman

Gold Award

It’s picked up a sackful of awards in recent years, but The Sportsman “hasn’t been spoiled by its celebrity” – so writes a fan of this unlikely Michelin-starred roadside pub overlooking the bleak Kent marshes.

We reckon the best way to arrive is to walk along the coast from nearby Whitstable – this way, you’ll have worked up an appetite for portions that “aren’t too stingy”. Don’t just drop in on the offchance, however; such is The Sportsman’s fame that tables should be booked far in advance, especially at the weekend.

Shabby-chic interiors, mismatched farmhouse furnishings, blackboard menus and real ales set the proper-pub tone and you’re still expected to order at the bar, but congenial laid-back service adds to the charm of the place and the cooking is never less than “sublime”.

Maverick chef Stephen Harris is a champion of local sourcing and self-sufficiency who bakes bread, cures fish, churns butter and even produces his own sea salt. Yes, it may sound “weird” and homespun, but the food hits the heights without ever seeming overly fussy.

We’re fans of the memorable book-in-advance tasting menu (a procession of pitch-perfect seasonal delicacies), but the daily carte also yields pleasures aplenty. Given the pub’s location right by the Thames Estuary, fish and seafood is a strength. The local Whitstable oysters are served on the shell as natives while rocks are poached with apple and seaweed or pickled cucumber and avruga caviar. Thornback ray comes with brown butter, cockles and sherry vinegar dressing, while braised turbot gets a mussel and bacon tartare.

Meat isn’t neglected, though. Smoked maple-cured pork loin with chorizo sauce, roast saddle of lamb with mint sauce and roast chicken with sausage and truffle cream sauce make it feel like Sunday lunch whatever day of the week it is.

For afters, there might be a nostalgic combo of jasmine-tea junket with rosehip syrup or a textbook raspberry soufflé with ripple ice cream. A final word on value from one reader: “you may not be getting the luxury and style that many starred restaurants provide, but you aren’t paying for it either”.

About The Sportsman

The Sportsman, based just outside the small seaside village of Seasalter, may not look like much from the outside but is in fact widely regarded as one of the UK’s finest gastropubs. Having held a Michelin star since 2008, the pub serves a menu of classic British food in a relaxed environment. Set in what feels like the middle of nowhere, The Sportsman gives guests a real sense of escape and also maintains the cosy feeling of a traditional country pub. This makes it a glorious spot to enjoy chef Steven Harris’s bold plates of food.

The outside of the large pub is painted white, with a large conservatory dining area running around two sides of the building. The interiors however, are far more rustic with large wooden tables surrounded by a variety of mismatching chairs spread out around the bar area and menus written up on a blackboard.

The Sportsman offers three different food menus: an a la carte, a daily 5-course tasting menu, and a longer full tasting menu which needs to be ordered in advance. The a la carte menu begins with starters such as salt baked celeriac, apple and fresh cheese, and slip sole grilled in seaweed butter, as well as a choice of local oysters. When it comes to main course options, expect big dishes like roast saddle of lamb with mint sauce, and roast chicken with sausage and truffle cream sauce. Whereas seafood dishes might include roast gurnard fillet with bouillabaisse sauce and green olive tapenade. If you have room for dessert, you might be tempted by the warm chocolate mousse with salted caramel and milk sorbet.

The food is of course accompanied by an extensive list of wines by both the bottle and glass, as well as a huge selection of local ales, spirits and soft drinks.

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - £50 - £79
Cuisines
British, Gastropub
Ambience
Cosy, Fun, Lively, Traditional
Other Awards
One Michelin star, SquareMeal UK Top 100
Food Occasions
Dinner, Lunch
Special Features
Vegetarian options
People
Birthdays, Celebrations, Special occasions
Food Hygiene Rating

Location for The Sportsman

Faversham Road, Seasalter, Kent, CT5 4BP

01227 273370

Website

Opening Times

Tues-Sun 12N-2pm (Sun – 2.45pm) Tues-Sat 7-9pm

Reviews of The Sportsman

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18 Reviews 
Food/Drink
Service
Atmosphere
Value

John H

09 April 2019  
Some of the most sublime food outside London. Described once by its owner/chef Stephen Harris as a grotty pub, the interior has been sensitively updated but the exterior remains unremarkable. The food is wonderful and not too stingy The only problem is getting a table - especially at weekends when a table needs to booked several months ahead. Tremendous value.

Hannah M

24 April 2018  
Excellent food and service.

Petra T

24 April 2018  
Good food and service.

David H

Quality food in a surprising context
22 April 2018  
The Sportsman isn't easy to reach in a couple of ways. First its along narrow coastal lanes a few miles west of Whitstable; when you get there, the place is busy and the car park is often close to full. And related to that my attempts to make reservations about a week in advance initially failed for both lunch and dinner (their wait-list worked for us and we were contacted the day before to indicate that there was a table the next day if we still wanted it. We did.) So book well ahead and allow time to get there. It doesn't look like a Michelin starred restaurant from the outside - an ordinary large pub crouched beneath the sea wall surrounded by lots of cars. Inside it was somewhat smarter, though still on the ordinary side. Its not plush, and it bears closer comparison to a large pub than Mayfair. Basically there is no printed menu so if your idea of joy is to sit comfortably at your table whilst making a leisurely choice that's not how this place seems to work, and instead you stand in front of a blackboard and make your first/main course selections and log these with the bar. There is a printed wine list though again ordering at the bar seems to be the way it goes. For me, I'd prefer not to have my introduction to their good food to go like this and I'd like a menu at my table please. Service was friendly throughout , but the gap between courses was a bit too long and we're not people who like to rush our restaurant visits. The food was pretty good. Is it Michelin standard? Yes it is. My mackerel starter and cod based main were both very pleasant, attractively presented and flavourful. If you put this place in London it would be an average one star, and might well not enjoy the accolades it gets in an area where frankly the competition is less. My wife's ox cheek was very nicely cooked with no sign of the residual fattiness or connective tissue that sometimes spoils this dish. We both enjoyed the apple souffle. A word on value. You may not be getting the luxury and style that many starred restaurants provide, but you aren't paying for it either. Our five course between us, a very decent southern French red, and service came to £106, which we were very happy to pay for food of this quality. Portion sizes are larger than we're used to in starred restaurants too. Would we revisit? If we were staying nearby then yes, we would. Is it good enough to stimulate a trip to Whitstable that we would not otherwise make, then possibly not. We did enjoy it.
Food & Drink
Service
Atmosphere
Value

Samantha C

27 March 2018  
Wonderful tasting menu, paired with fantastic wines and great ambience.

Deanne

27 March 2018  
Friendly service and nice atmosphere.

Simon B

21 March 2018  
Fantastic service, delicious food and great wines.

Philip H

21 March 2018  
Great roasts dinner and lots to chose on al a carte, great events and singers, good choice of private rooms, skilled cocktail and bartenders and friendly staff.

Martin A

21 March 2018  
Lovely setting. Food to die for. Not rushed.

Sonia T

21 March 2018  
Incredible unique setting and scenery, wonderful service, excellent food and ambience. Well worth the trip.

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