In the interests of trying not to look like a stuffed sausage during the Great London Swim, I have been trying (halfheartedly) trying not eat out for more than one meal a day. Pah! Epic fail, with my recent double dinner at Duck Soup and Cay Tre, and again today…
Whilst I probably should have been doing laps of the pool, instead I embarked on a food marathon beginning at St John hotel for breakfast, lunch at The Sportsman in Seasalter followed by a home cooked three course dinner back in London.
08:30 – Breakfast at St John Hotel
An oasis of whitewashed calm amid the bustle of Chinatown and the well-dressed peeps of the W hotel, SJH is my kind of place for breakfast. Not fussy, just great food and service. I love the simple, sparse setting. Maybe it’s because I’m such an untidy person and a serial hoarder; my house could never look like this.
We started with the breakfast buns, comped by our lovely waiter when he saw me greedily eyeing the fresh buns stacked prettily on a tiered cake stand, which were buttery and crispy. Like a croissant shaped into a brioche. Rich and delicious on their own, they definitely didn’t need the extra butter (broke the diet to confirm this for you!).
The pancakes with rhubarb and vanilla compote and yoghurt were spot on. When your dining companion‘s eyes light up, says “mmmm” and immediately tells you “no, you won’t like these” you know they’re good. They were light, fluffy and slightly crispy on the outside. Only gripe was that there wasn’t enough of them, for the amount of yoghurt served alongside. But our waiter (did I mention he was lovely?) picked up on this and seeing the leftover yoghurt asked what was wrong and offered us more pancakes. Now, that’s service.
But, no more pancakes for me as I had some soft boiled eggs and anchovy toast to tuck into. The anchovy spread was incredibly generous and probably overly-so even for this anchovy fan. The butter loving theme continued when I put some into my soft boiled egg, causing much gasping. Tell me, am I the only person to put butter in their eggs!?
Breakfast ended with a dozen madeleines which we took as sustenance for our travelling companions on the way to The Sportsman (I hope you didn’t start reading that sentence and think that I ate the dozen!).
12:30 – Lunch at The Sportsman
The Sportsman and I have a lot of history. Good history, mind. The weather has always been sunny when I’ve visited, even mid-February (touch wood) and I’ve had some great meals here with family, friends and friends-to-be. Today was a trip with my fabulous aunties and some new friends, so we thought it right that they be introduced to the ways of The Sportsman via the tasting menu.
Other people have written much more comprehensive reviews than me, so all I’ll tell you is that the smoked pork and mustard sauce needs scratch-n-sniff photography to do it justice, and that my revelation was the meringue ice cream with sea buckthorn sauce and crystallised seaweed, which reminded me of those salty-sweet-seaweed coated japanese crackers that I was addicted to as a kid!
Yes, there were dishes that I didn’t like and a couple of occasions where I didn’t think they’d quite pulled off what they were intending to. I’ll probably order from the a la carte menu in future to construct my perfect meal, but don’t let that put you off the tasting menu. It’s generous, it’s sourced locally, it’s fun (those pink things in the dessert photo are rhubarb lollipops in cake-flavoured milk!), and you can see what you’re eating, e.g. sea salt made from the sea that you can see from your seat (!).
I still love the unpretentiousness of The Sportsman, its ramshackle appearance and its location amidst the marshlands and nestling behind some beachhuts and a caravan park. My favourite table remains the 4 seater in the left corner as you enter, with the wide comfy wicker chairs. And I’ll be coming back, because it’s only 90 minutes from London to get to the seaside and because the sun always shines when I’m at The Sportsman.
19:30 – Dinner
You’d think that by dinnertime on a day like today I’d be in a deep food coma and clutching my belly. Turns out all the eating has trained me well, and aided by a power nap on the train back to London, I was on fine form for dinner.
The ever-beautiful Melat wowed us with puy lentil-filled galettes, lamb cutlets and a delicious fish curry. Creme caramel for dessert was lovingly made by her fiance, despite having been banished to the cinema to allow our girls night in!
Eating dinner with my friends – who I realised I met almost precisely 10 years ago – makes me remember that it’s not just what or where you eat, it’s who you eat it with.
And on a food marathon day like today, I couldn’t have asked for more delicious food, and certainly not better company.
23:59 – Home, happier and heavier!
St John Hotel, 1 Leicester Street, London WC2H 7BL http://www.stjohnhotellondon.com/
Rating: 4 out of 5
Good for: people who dig the utilitarian look, breakfast meetings, seasonal eats
The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter, Kent CT5 4BP
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Good for: day trips out of London, seafood lovers, low-key dates, people who don’t like to dress up to eat well