Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Summer lunch at the Sportsman

Sometimes familiarity breeds content: a late spring lunch at the Sportsman at Seasalter with Sarah and Ian on a hot windless day was pure pleasure. Thanks to the new high-speed train, we'd arrived early, so we got a drink and sauntered out into the garden to soak up the sun and exchange news. The lovely waiting staff showed us where our table was, but asked if we'd like to relocate to the conservatory? Yes please.
The flowers on the table sum up one of the many things I love about the Sportman - these aren't hot house specimens, they're wild and local and look beautiful: celandine, yarrow, grasses and one of the many umbelifera whose name I don't know.
The Sportsman's bread and butter (both made on the premisis, along with the salt) is a vital start to any meal. This time we got the usual fantastic foccacia and a moreish soda bread. Ian kicked off with the pickled herring and cabbage salad, chosen because it reminded him of childhood days in Denmark. This revelation led to the inevitable Swedish chef impersonations.
Ian loved it, and he kindly gave me a forkful: I thought it was marvellous. The fish was sweetly cured, accompanied by a very finely shredded cabbage, again lightly cured. I'm having this next time.
Sarah was getting started on her slip sole with smoked salt: a divine little fish, she said.
I couldn't resist the chilled asparagas soup. It came with a tiny little tart filled with cream cheese and shredded sorrel. The flavour of the soup was sooo asparagasy - pure green heaven. Word cam from the kitchen that it wasn't a veggie stock, but the liquid base was milk. Hmmm - one to try and recreate at home.
Sarah had gone her usual route of two starters rather than starter then main. She said her mushroom tart was the most unusual she'd ever had. The mushroom base was toped with a cheesey custard, with swoosh of spinach puree at the side. She loved it and said the pastry was to die for - buttery and melt in the mouth.
Ian and I had both chosen the roast chicken with truffle cream sauce. It came with a further helping of asparagas and a roastie. This was as good as I remembered - moist tender chicken topped with crisp skin. Ian called it a 'juicy happy chicken'. For a moment we lapsed into the silence that good food gives.
Ian and I plumped for the same dessert: warm chocolate mousse with salted caramel and milk sorbet. The sorbet sank gently through the silky soft mousse, and a diving motion with the spoon reunited the two elements. I think this is the best pud I've had at the Sportsman - or at least up there with the creme brulee. Sarah, meanwhile, was polishing off her cheese cream ice cream, strawberry puree, meringue and shortbread crumbs with squeaks of delight.
This was a lovely, lovely meal - local seasonal food cooked with care and imagination, and served with thoughtful attention. Which is why we keep going back, and have yet to be disappointed.
Slightly stuffed and full of good cheer, we had a salty stagger through Whitstable, soaking up the sun and ending a fine Kent adventure.


peacockshock said...

It was a splendid day. Thanks for the evocative write-up Fran. It's made me feel very peckish.

Dan said...

So, So Jealous. I'm yet to get to The Sportsman...and your post makes me want to go even more Fran! All of the food looks bloody delicious.