I’ve been lax in posting to this blog for various personal reasons and hope to take it up again soon.
One recent restaurant visit I can’t possibly miss to put on the blog was The Sportsman near Seasalter/Whitstable right on the Kent coast. I’d had too many both raving reviews and personal accounts from friends and acquaintances with similar tastes in food that I couldn’t push a visit off any longer so I took a day off in late September and braved a morning train to London. I managed to get a seat on the London train so the start was less painful than it could have been. The train from London Victoria is quite pleasant as it trundles through the Kent countryside, especially as it turned to be a fine day indeed. Whitstable station was quite deserted so I had to call for a taxi which arrived about 10 minutes later. The ride on the coast road was also quite pleasant, lasted about 15 minutes and cost 8.30 (!, cheaper than a taxi from Cambridge station to my house). I got to the Sportsman a bit early so had a drink in the conservatory.
After I had taken my seat in the light and airy room, I ordered the tasting menu and a glass of Picpoul and relaxed. The first nibbles soon arrived and gave an indication of what was to come in terms of both freshness of ingredients and flavour.
Poached egg, smoked eel, parsley sauce
Poached rock oyster on the left, raw native oyster with chorizo on the right. The native one won for me but both were excellent.
Foccaccia, soda bread, sourdough, butter, all made in house. These were replenished throughout the meal as most dishes didn’t have a carb accompaniment.
Crab, carrot, Hollandaise. The Hollandaise was very light and there was just enough to bring everything together. The crab naturally was as fresh as could be and an utter joy.
Salt baked celeriac, stewed apple, mustard, fresh cheese. I’m not a huge fan of celeriac but both the slow baking and the combination with the tart apple took away that particular flavour and made it a lovely dish.
Slip sole in seaweed butter. This simple dish was my favourite. Letting the ingredient speak for itself, the fish was cooked on the spot and that’s all you needed, except a little bread to soak up the juices.
Brill braised in oxidised meursault with smoked pork belly. This was another highlight, the dense fish and the pork harmonised beautifully and the best beurre blanc I’ve ever had brought everything together.
After all this glorious seafood, the lamb main was almost a letdown but only almost as the flavours were great, the meat cooked nicely and it was sourced from the farm across the road, so probably even closer than most of the seafood. The little extra course of the braised lamb croquette with mint sauce was a nice touch.
Then the puddings, oh the puddings:
The pre-dessert was an apple and blackberry ice lolly with crumble. Fresh and tart, this was the perfect palate cleanser after the rich lamb.
Plum soufflé and kernel ice cream. A beautifully cooked, fluffy souffle with excellent plum flavour, complemented by the ice cream made with plum kernels, a flavour similar to almond.
And finally, an espresso with little tartlets: custard/raspberry and chocolate/salted caramel.
Service was friendly and efficient throughout the just over three hours I spent there and made the stay pleasant indeed.
A note to those who like myself rely on public transport: There are two local taxi firms but they don’t have many cars so booking in advance is highly encouraged, although a breakdown like in my case propbably won’t help there, either.