I ate many memorable meals in 2010, but really only three of them were truly memorable. In no particular order they were at Trinity in Clapham, Aux Lyonnais in Paris and The Sportsman in Seasalter.
All three of these meals were far superior to everything else I had eaten last year that they are forever embedded in my memory.
It wasn’t just the food at the Sportsman, or even the restaurant itself, or even the quirky manor that the menu is on a blackboard in the main bar that you are mixed with the other diners choosing your meal and then ordering it at the bar. Or even the fact that our view was looking out over the back garden of oyster shell paths. Or the surrounding area of deserted beaches and marshy fields. Or even the amazing drive through deserted roads that no restaurant should be at the end of it, or even that I had reserved it a month prior and was looking forward to it everyday. It was plain and simple everything.
The minute we walked inside I fell in love with it. What’s not to like about the place. Its quirkiness appealed to my weird sense of playfulness.
I like places where it’s my way or the highway. It’s a chef’s dream to be able to do something like this. To be able to serve the food you want in a style you want and also buck convention as well. Plus to win a Michelin star as well. I can just imagine those snotty Michelin reviewers having to get up from their tables and waddle over and choose their meals off a back of a door. Quality.
Our starters were light and beautiful. My chestnut and smoked goose soup lived up to and exceeded all expectations I had. The velvety texture of the soup with the slices of smoked goose delighted my taste buds. It was properly the best soup I had ever eaten. Ever.
Lina’s onion tart looked the part, but somehow it was not oniony enough for me. She loved it, but I like my onion tarts to pack a bigger punch. But don’t get me wrong the subtle flavours and the smoothness of the filling were of Michelin standard.
For the mains we went for a plate of Seared Thornback Ray, Brown Butter with Cockles and a Sherry Vinegar Dressing, the other was a Braised Brill Fillet with Chestnuts, Bacon and Parsley Sauce.
I really cannot fault either dish. Both were cooked fantastically. My Ray was probably the best piece of fish I had ever eaten. That soft white flesh came away with no effort from the bones. I love ray wings as it just never ends. You finish one side and then you just flip it over and begin again. Brill. The cockles with the sherry vinegar were a perfect combo. The chefs nailed this dish on the head. Perfect.
What I had of the brill fillet, which was not a lot, but it was damn good. They seem to have perfected those traditional combinations and taken them to new heights. Why do bacon and chestnuts work so well when paired with fish. So glad it does though.
We had no room for dessert, but I wish we had shared one, as they all looked really good as a string of them went to the large table in the corner. Next time.
We had a wander afterwards down to the beach. It was not a beachy day but who cares. It was the seaside and I kinda prefer beaches on cold, wet and windy days.
It doesn’t really matter to me that the Sportsman has a Michelin Star or not, as that book is kinda old hat now and has no relevance on the majority of diners in London today. The Sportsman however does serve great food in a quirky atmosphere, and should be on everyone’s list to dine at as soon as possible. I want to return as soon as I can.