The Sportsman tops the 50 Best Gastropubs awards!
Stephen Harris’s Michelin-starred seaside pub wins again, thanks to its inspired, local menu
When the self-trained British chef, Stephen Harris, decided to set up his own place, he knew he wasn’t going to be ordering solid-sterling silverware or crystal chandeliers. “When I was looking for a site for my restaurant, before finding The Sportsman, I read an article in the trade press that said that it costs £1million to open a Michelin-starred restaurant,” he writes in his book, The Sportsman. “What they meant was a ‘posh’ restaurant, as the two were seen as the same – no relaxed restaurant had stars back then, not even the River Café or St. John.
This state of affairs reminded the ex-punk band member Harris of the mid-seventies, when to form a band would cost a fortune. "You needed a twenty-piece drum kit – complete with a gong – as well as banks of keyboards, synthesisers and emulators. That is why punk was so refreshing. It gave people the confidence to form bands with limited equipment but lots of talent.”
Today, Harris’s place, The Sportsman, in Seasalter, on the Kent Coast in Great Britain, has held a Michelin star for over a decade, and serves delicious, inspired, locally sourced food that best the menus of many more notable establishments. Nevertheless, The Sportsman still looks, from the outside, like the simple pub it once was, when Harris first took it over in 1999.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that The Sportsman has, again, topped the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list once again, having held on to the position in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
What secured Harris this latest win? The same elements that have attracted discerning diners for many years now: Harris’s obsession with English terroir, or as the citation puts it, “the idea that a restaurant’s menu should religiously reflect its surrounding geography, history and produce.
“As such, produce served at the Sportsman is sourced almost exclusively from the land surrounding the pub,” it goes on. “Don’t forget to try Harris’s famous slip sole grilled in seaweed butter. Although the chef himself has repeatedly expressed his dislike for the idea of ‘signature dishes’, this would be his. It’s the purest expression of what makes the Sportsman fantastic: simplicity, thoughtfulness and, most importantly, deliciousness.”
Unfortunately, The Sportsman won't reopen until Tuesday 18th May. However, if you want to try that slip sole dish before then, you can order a copy of The Sportsman here; and to try further signature dishes from around the world, take a look at our book, Signature Dishes That Matter.