Whitstable is without doubt one of my favourite seaside towns of the South. Not least because it has an abundance of wonderful places to eat.
The problem is, word has spread and the really good ones now get booked up weeks, if not months in advance.
Take the Sportsman for instance, just along the coast from Whitstable in the village of Seasalter.
Set amongst fields of sheep, a pebbles throw from the beach, from the outside it looks just like any other run of the mill pub but it has proudly held a Michelin star since 2008, as well as various other foodie accolades, evident in the cluster of trophies that adorn one end of the bar.
I booked a table 3 months in advance to secure our preferred date.
The menu changes daily but will always include 3 fish and 3 meat options to choose between on the a la carte menu. A tasting menu (long) and daily tasting menu (shorter) are also available and these options must be taken by the whole table.
We started with
Whitstable native oysters
crab with carrot and hollandaise
slip sole grilled in smoked salt butter
roast chicken with sausage and truffle cream sauce, cabbage, goose fat roast potatoes
short rib beef slow braised in wine, mashed potato
and for dessert
chocolate mousse with salted caramel
Apart from the delicious food, the thing I loved most about The Sportsman was how relaxed the environment was. For a place so high in demand it was nice to see that they hadn’t attempted to cram a ton of tables into the space just to cash in on popularity, far from it.
This meant that service was impeccable and there was a genuine feeling of care and consideration towards the whole experience of eating there.
The following day, having stayed the night in Whitstable thoughts turned to lunch.
Wheelers Oyster Bar is the oldest restaurant in the town, dating back to 1856. Famed for it’s milkshake pink frontage and the freshest seafood brought in daily by local fisherman.
Another spot where securing a table can be tricky, on previous visits we have failed but this time we were in luck (potentially due to this being a grey, drizzly, windy, out of season February afternoon)
Inside there are a handful of seats at the counter, then two small dining rooms. It doesn’t take many people to fill the place up.
a plate of white crab meat with home made bread and guinness butter
1/2 a pint of prawns
Salmon fishcake with sweet chilli dipping sauce
Crispy fish goujons with wasabi mayo
Cod BLG Toastie - crispy cod, bacon jam, lettuce and gruyere rarebit with mustard aioli - I mean, THE DREAM!
and … lobster lasagne -with a leek and white crab ragout, cultivated mushrooms, tender stem broccoli, finished with lobster sauce and grated aged parmesan . . and YES it was every bit as good as it sounds.
No Michelin stars here but my word, there should be, absolute heaven on a plate!
To top it off there is no alcohol license so you can take your own wine (there’s an off license opposite if you realise this last minute) and no corkage or service charge is applied to the bill - Londoner’s rejoice!
Fast forward a few hours (and a few watering holes) later and we were once more in search of a nibble.
Earlier in the day we had called into The Cheese Box, a teeny little independent, award winning, British cheese shop.
On Friday and Saturday evenings the shop stays open and customers are welcome to drop in to enjoy cheese platters with a glass of wine or some local Kent beer or cider.
It’s a tiny space, lit with dripping wax candles and a soundtrack of laid back reggae beats. There’s only a handful of stools to perch at but it’s well worth it if you can nab a seat.
The owner asked what our preferences were before preparing a selection of cheeses with grapes, crackers and homemade piccalilli and gave us a run down of each cheese and where it had been produced.
Last but not least, one thing you just can’t miss when at the beach is great fish and chips and for this you need to head to V.CJones. Perfect every time
For my previous post on Whitstable including a great air bnb to stay at and some more recommendations on places to eat and drink click here