Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Sportsman, Seasalter
This will be my third visit to this hidden Kentish gem. But I thought it best to pen my opinions after a more recent visit. I also fancied an afternoon of diet smashing gluttony and as the wife assured me she would pick me up in a couple of hours. I booked.
Top foodie tip here; if you want to eat in a busy, hard to get 'in' restuarant all you need to do is call an hour before lunch. That's it. Oh and you have to go alone. There's always one tiny table left in the corner.
I was going to call this place tucked away. But it's much much more remote than that, it's literally in the middle of nowhere. It sits on its own, two miles from the nearest town and about half a mile from the nearest building. It's a lonely looking place. But driving down the long isolated road the pub seems very inviting.
For a pub to achieve a Michelin star it needs to be doing something special. And the sportsman doesn't disappoint.
On blogs and reviews it's portrayed as having little or no service. The menu's on a chalk board and you have to order at the bar. There is no sommelier, there is no chair pulling and you pour your own wine .In short you're left to your own devices.This however is misleading. The waiting staff do have michelin traits. They continually smile. They look around themselves. They are totally aware of you at every point throughout your meal. they always give way to a passing toilet/table bound patron. And they know their menu well. They're happy to advise on dishes and they can work a room as well as many.The diverse wine list is well priced with very little mark-up ,and wines by the glass are kept in great condition.
They make their own butter here . Cure their own hams and grow veg out the back. The farm over the road supply's most of the meat and seawater is used to make salt. It's as local as local gets.
To the food.
Bread is homemade and was good. Sourdough had fine crust and a well made moist focaccia was hard to put down. 7/10
First course was 'poached oysters with beure blanc cucumber and caviar' served in the shell perched atop tiny sea shells in a rustic tin. I ordered these without reading the 'warm' bit. So i was surprised by the subtle heat. Instant creaminess with sharp seafoody saltiness coming from the caviar. You warm oysters-you lose the seaside taste. Add caviar and all's well again. A marvel. 9/10
Next up was 'pigeon risotto'. When I tasted this I was instantly aware that this place isn't all about Michelin stars. The rice would by some ,be deemed over cooked. But it wasn't. It was perfect. Michelin inspectors usually prefer their rice to have a chewy centre. Al-dente is all well and good but who wants to hide in the toilets picking grains out of their teeth. As perfectly seasoned as could be, this dish sang .The sous vide cooked (I think ) Breast was proper carnivor fare. Rare but not bloody. And the portion wasn't bad either. It was goooood. 8/10 more depth to the stock would have yielded top marks.
'Baked fillet of cod with a crab bisque ' was next and the plate looked great. Cooking cod this good is harder than people think. The crab sauce was deep and rich and surprisingly light , but the star was the broccoli. Hated by children and adored by me. Cooked to absolute perfection it was the best tasting green stuff this side of Jamaica. 8/10.
(10/10 for the green stuff)
At this point I was offered pudding but I decided to try 'belly pork, mash and apple sauce' The pork pulled into strands as you would expect from long cooked meat, and the apple sauce was nice and tart. They worked together as well as expected. It was nice to have real mash for once too, nothing like creamed potato, the spuds had great texture.The gravy could have been thicker and richer tho so only 7/10.
Next up was pud. 'Salted Caramel chocolate mousse with milk ice cream'
This was my third time eating this , but I forget how good it is every time.
The warm slightly salty chocolate mousse is served in a small glass bowl with a scoop of excellent light milk ice cream. If your not too full after dinner then this dish is truly world class 10/10.
I must admit that I love this place. It's informal enough for you to think its just a pub, yet the consideration that goes into the foodie side of things is remarkable. The service is sneakily subtle and the cooking is top drawer. If you like your food then you need to eat here, it's as simple as that. Come on a weekday and you can pre-order the tasting menu which is even better than the a la carte.