Posts Tagged ‘Emma Read’

The Sportsman, Seasalter

avril 9, 2010

The Sportsman was the third stop on my friend’s trip to London. After a lunch at the Square, and a dinner at the Ledbury, we took the train from Victoria to Faversham on a beautiful sunny day, in order to arrive just on time for lunch at Seasalter. After having opened our wines, we were greeted by Paul Weaver, who’s in charge of meat here, and cooks his stuff with incredible stability and precision. As Stephen Harris wasn’t in that day, I was quite interested in seeing how much the cooking would differ from days in which his presence graces the house. Let this be known, I wouldn’t have noticed his absence had I not known it, although he didn’t bring out the food, which he usually does.

Wine-wise, we started with a beautiful 2007 Grüner Veltliner Honigvogl from Franz Hirtzberger. Wow, I have tried a few GVs over the years, but this is a world apart. Incredibly concentrated, perfectly balanced with beautiful fruit as a base, this was a great wine. After this we had a bottle of 2006 Condrieu from Yves Gangloff. With an impressive 15% degrees of alcohol, this wine was a bomb. I absolutely adored it, and must say that I haven’t ever had a better Condrieu in my life. There was such an impressive structure in this wine, that I can’t say my words can describe it accurately. To accompany the meaty part of the meal, we had brought a 2001 Chateau Montrose. My first encounter with this wine, it was still a bit too young, but drank beautifully. One could see how much potential was in this wine. A great discovery.

The final glass as ordered from their list, a simple NV Pol Roger Champagne, which is a very enjoyable BSA and very fairly priced here at a mere £7 a glass. All in all, it was the third day in a row with outstanding bottles. Life can indeed be very enhjoyable!

But, the food here wasn’t bad at all today I must say, I’d even go as far as saying that it was the best meal I’ve had here so far. To kick us off, an oyster with apple sauce and a sliver of their own ham was served. A dish of immense beauty and great flavour, this was a beautiful way to start what was to become a memorable meal. The oyster, needless to say was simply exquisite, and the sauce worked magnificently well with it. Excellent.

Next up was the classic nibble board. As great as usual, this is always excellent.

The next little bite was one to remember. Look at the beauty of this simple composition, a baked oyster was topped with rhubarb granite and sprinkled with a buttery sauce. Absolutely perfect balance here, I loved this. Excellent.

The next course was no less good. A rather well-sized scallop came roasted, topped with morcilla and apple granite. If a dish ever featured 100% perfect balance, this was it. Every element was calculated to add to the whole, and made this an unforgettable little plate of food. The cooking and quality of the products was without doubt exceptional too, which made this a sublime combination. Outstanding.

The next scallop dish is disarmingly simple, even more so than the first we had. A single, large scallop came in its shell, dressed with some of Stephen’s seaweed butter. I’ve had it on my previous visit, and wouldn’t be able to tell a difference. Both times it was a very satisfying dish. Very good.

The last scallop was nearly as good as the first of the bunch: Roasted with a parsnip puree and crisp, it was another simply great dish. The parsnip’s sweetness matched the scallop perfectly and made for a very successful combination. Excellent.

Up next was the second time I had the wigeon. This time it was even better than the first, even if the meat looked a bit dry at first. It was more tender, juicy and the flavour was even more clean. This is a great piece of cooking, which is hard to beat. Excellent.

A few slivers of the Seasalter ham Stephen cures was better than on the last visit (it was cut thinner), and very pleasant.

One of the finest dishes of the day was this turbot. Of substantial size, the filled sat atop some cabbage, and came with caramelised fennel, crispy pork belly, and a Champagne sauce. Classical seafood cooking can not become any better! This was a truly perfect dish. The turbot had great flavour, superb texture and was timed in a masterful way. The sauce was so damn good, that I can’t say if I prefer this or the Vin jaune one. With the outrageous pork belly on top, I was in heaven. However, the cabbage underneath the fish was not to be forgotten, as it was cooked in order to have some bite to it, and was beautifully flavoured. DIVINE.

A welcome start to the meaty section of the menu was the deep-fried lamb shoulder. Just as on my first visit, I had to ask for more of this, only to find out, that we got the very last pieces of it. Hhhhhmm, sad sad, but well, it’s still bloody good.

I was glad to see the mashed potatoes disappear in the lamb dish, as they didn’t add much for me. This time all we had was great lamb (with the perfectly crisped skin I so much adore), and some hearty jus. A few greens, made this complete. Excellent.

Cheese today was very good again, with this great Ashmore. Very good.

A classic British dessert was to be the final part of the meal: A custard tart. Simple but delicious, this only confirmed my belief, that tarts are the finest desserts that the Sportsman serves. So far, the lemon, chocolate and custart tarts haven’t ever deceived me. Excellent.

Finally the mignardises tray arrived. This could still have some fine tuning done to it, as it has some weaknesses here and there, but it’s nonetheless very good.

A little walk on the beach made the day perfect. I would even go as far as saying that this might have been the finest meal, that I’ve eaten at the Sportsman so far. Everything was perfect, from the greeting, to the food, the wine and even the otherwise often lousy British weather. Such moments should be cherished and will not be forgotten. I love this place, and do so more and more.

The Sportsman, Seasalter

mars 7, 2010

Stephen Harris is passionate about the food he serves. He goes to remarkable lengths in order to serve his guests the best possible product in the most suitable way. There are no fireworks on the plate here, just perfect, simple dishes, that completely rely on absolutely top quality local products. By the way, local really means local here, as the vast majority of the stuff comes from either the sea in front of the restaurant, the salt marshes besides it, or the garden next to it. This is serious, and the experience of eating here is unique due to exactly this.

Whenever I go here, I come with at least one friend, and we all bring wines. This time I brought a 2002 R.H. Coutier Grand Cru Ambonnay Champagne which great power (100% Pinot Noir from Ambonnay), was vinous and just beautiful. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to let it sit and open up a little, but it still was a stunning wine, especially when one considers its price (I paid around £45 for this). After this we had a few glasses of 2000 Chablis Grand Cru Bougros from William Fevre, which was, just like many other Chablis’ quite closed at first, but then grew and grew in the glass. For  the meaty part of the meal my friend brought a 2003 Alion, the second wine from Vega Sicilia, which was a very very enjoyable wine, that fitted the game we were served today brilliantly. The crown jewel today was a 2001 Yquem. Now, I know that it’s quite young to drink Yquem, but in such a vintage, it already tastes bloody damn good.

The meal started with the inevitable pork scratchings with herring, apple and soda bread. These are certainly some of the most enjoyable little nibbles around, and the quality of the pigs, reared just outside the restaurant, makes these scratchings easily the best I’ve come across. Their texture is simply astonishing: Crunchy on the outside, nearly creamy within, they have a somewhat slightly sweet taste. The herring was top quality, and worked brilliantly with the apple and soda bread. Excellent to outstanding.

Next up was a scallop with Seasalter ham and apple. the products were top quality here, the scallop having a delightful texture, and great taste, that was somewhat overwhelmed by the apple mousse. When one put the latter aside, the dish worked and was beautiful, so the second scallop was great. I would imagine this to be brilliant, if one slightly warms the ham, so that the fat is just melting… . This was very nice.

The next part of the scallop tasting was one cooked in seaweed butter, and the other cooked in Espelette butter. This was exemplary cooking of scallops: Uniformly perfectly cooked, they were stunning, that’s all one can say. The seaweed butter (made by Stephen, just like the Espelette one and the ham, among many other things) gave the one scallop a slightly iodine note, reminding you of it’s origin, whilst the Espelette butter gave the other scallop a very warm, slightly spicy note, which was beautiful too. This was brilliant minimalism, that lets the product stand for itself. And only for itself. Excellent.

Following this, maybe a little too late, as the butter in the shells would have been brilliant with the bread, came the house made bread. The foccacia here is stunning: The bottom is caramelised, so that it is crunchy, and its taste is very broad and rich. The other two types of bread are equally well-made, and are simply brilliant. The home-churned butter is in the same league: Fully-flavoured, rich and beautiful. Stephen’s self-collected salt finishes this butter beautifully. Excellent.

Salmagundy- a salad of winter vegetable with a smoked egg yolk. A traditional Kentish dish, that is something similar to the Garguillou from Michel Bras, or any other vegetable dishes like those Ducasse serves in Monaco or Passard in Paris. Here, a smoked egg yolk adds brilliance, and each of the cooked vegetables just tastes of itself. It’s just very well made, and shows again, how interesting, and good one can make a few vegetables taste. One of the highlights of the meal. Excellent.

The next highlight was just about to come: Smoked wigeon, puy lentils and quince. A very rare, if not raw, wigeon, was slightly smoked and served with a few lentils and a quince puree. This was a melt-in-your-mouth tender piece of wigeon, which had remarkable taste. I’ve never even heard of such a bird before, and I was more than surprised by its brilliant taste. Marvelous!

A little taster of Stephen’s Seasalter ham cured in January 2008 was good, although it still is a little tough on the teeth. The last fine tuning will probably still need some time. Very good.

The next dish showed just how good Stephen Harris can cook turbot: Turbot with Chestnuts, bacon and parsley sauce. This was a beautiful piece of turbot, perfectly cooked and seasoned. All it needed were a few, supporting elements, that made for a brilliant dish. The combination with the turbot and bacon particularly made the meaty character of the fish more pronounced. Excellent.

The Roast Saddle of Venison with watercress puree, bread sauce and red wine sauce was another winner. Perfectly cooked, the very tender meat was accompanied by very convincing little sprouts of broccoli, creamy polenta (or mashed potatoes, I don’t recall exactly) and watercress puree. The sauce was exemplary in both texture and taste, and in general it was another dish, that just let the ingredient shine, and boy did it shine bright. Excellent.

Moving on, we had some cheese, which was very good, as usual. Stephen still sometimes goes to Calais to get the cheese he wants, which is one more sign of his incredible commitment to his products.

The dessert round started with the Pear ice lolly with ginger cake-milk, which was as good as ever. The milk giving the light, slightly sour sorbet a more rich foundation. Good.

The Chocolate tart with tangerine ice cream was beautiful, with the lemon tart probably the best dessert I’ve eaten at the Sportsman so far. This was very powerful, and didn’t really work that well with the Yquem, but it was excellent.

To accompany the Yquem, Stephen was so kind to bring us a little piece of a fascinating tarte tatin. This was a very fine tarte tatin indeed, and worked brilliantly with the Yquem. Excellent.

To finish this amazing meal, we had the usual selection of little desserts: Apple sorbet, gypsy tart ice cream, shortbread and chocolate mousse with salted caramel. These were all very good, only the chocolate mousse still escapes me. It’s somewhat not really interesting, even if well made. Very good.

This was another very fine meal at the Sportsman. Stephen pulled out all the stops and I spent a very happy few hours down in Seasalter. As I, and a few other people already said: The Sportsman is an experience. It’s about the incredible products, the simple but perfect cooking, the place, the very friendly, but uncomplicated service, and the stark contrast to London, from which a number of diners come down. Come here and forget the rest of the world. You’ll not regret the somewhat complicated journey!


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