The most serious food-lovers who visit Great Britain manage to make the pilgrimage down to Whitstable on the south coast (a ninety-minute train journey from London). Cab drivers at the station are used to ferrying diners out to The Sportsman, a pub with a Michelin star and some of the best food in the country.
The chef and owner, Stephen Harris, is entirely self-taught and his food truly is a “cuisine de terroir.” He cures pork from the pigs that eat in the apple orchards nearby and drags buckets of seawater up the beach to make his own salt. Over the years he has taken inspiration (and technique) from many French chefs, but in the last decade or so he has been learning from chefs in Scandinavia, Belgium and the Netherlands—and many of the top chefs from these countries make regular visits to The Sportsman.
Some of his dishes are perfectly executed versions of simple British classics, such as roast pork belly with apple sauce; others are his own, dishes for which he has become well known, like slip soles in seaweed butter. Harris is obsessed with technique, but not out of cheffy posturing, only in the pursuit of better flavors.
He eschews fame so you won’t find him on the television or doing pop-ups in Lima (though he has just written his first book, The Sportsman). One of the most intelligent chefs I know, he truly cares about food and is happiest in his kitchen. Get on that train.
Do you have a favorite restaurant just outside of London? Tell us in the comments!