Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, England, CT5 4BP, United Kingdom

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Chef interview

Stephen Harris is chef/patron of The Sportsman in Kent, which has some of the most exciting food in the UK and has a well deserved Michelin star.

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The Sportsman takes the idea of using local produce to a level otherwise unknown on the UK restaurant scene. Vegetables are grown in the garden or come from a nearby farm, the pork is from the farm next door, lamb from the farm next to that; the salt comes from the beach outside the property. The fish are caught locally, and I suspect that if chef/owner Stephen Harris thought he could manage to source what he needs by dangling a fishing rod over the beach berm outside the property he would do that too. Dishes are stripped back to a minimum: you won’t find superfluous garnishes here, just a showcase for some lovely produce. 

I have written extensively about the food here, so will try not to repeat myself regarding the meal today. After some nibbles including herring and a vegetable tartlet, the first course from the tasting menu was a trio of oysters.  Chilled courgette soup followed, alongside the excellent bread that is made here: a choice of sourdough, focaccia and soda bread. Salt baked beetroot came with cheese made from scratch in the kitchen, along with stewed blackberries; this was fine but perhaps the least exciting dish of the day (15/20).  The signature slip sole in seaweed butter followed, as lovely as ever (17/20).

The star dish of the meal was brill topped with kitchen-smoked pork and vin jaune sauce. The fish was terrific, precisely cooked and with fine flavour, the pork adding an extra flavour note and the sauce lovely (18/20). Roast Aylesbury duck was cooked pink, alongside the slow-cooked leg and served with spiced cherries to add enough acidity to cut through the richness of the meat (17/20). After a strawberry ice-lolly, dessert was a superbly executed greengage soufflé with kernel ice cream, as light and airy as you could wish, cooked evenly through (17/20).

Service was friendly as ever, and the tasting menu itself cost £65, with wine extra (I was in a group that had negotiated to bring their own wines; I am not sure what the corkage charge was). If you shared a modest bottle from the pub list then a typical cost per head with a choice from the blackboard menu (rather than full tasting menu) would be perhaps £65, an absolute bargain given the superb ingredients and the amount of work that goes into the dishes here. The cooking at The Sportsman is deceptively simple but profoundly enjoyable, taking full advantage of the ultra-local produce that have been so carefully sourced. It is one of my favourite UK restaurants. 

Further reviews: 05th Jun 2024 | 20th Oct 2017 | 12th Aug 2014 | 09th May 2012

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User comments

  • Richard Bagnold

    I brought my '76 DP champagne to The Sportsman a few days before my Birthday celebration (04/06/16) which were safe-guarded and chilled by the staff, ready to be served with our oysters for our celebration lunch - the charge was £10 per bottle (irrespective of what it was) for corkage and this typifies the outstanding value of this venue.

  • Hamoudi Niff

    This a great review too Andy. We have enjoyed excellent value here over two separate visits. Superb cooking surely a 2 Star this 2017?

  • Jane Roberts

    We ate here on Sunday Had the tasting menu I it is without any doubt the best food I have eaten Perfect in every way

  • Manny Mifsud

    I ate at the sportsman last night. Had the tasting menu and barely had a similar course to yours. Without doubt the best value for money meal I've ever had. Truly outstanding.