The Sportsman, Seasalter

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.

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