19/03/2017: Dined here with my fiancé on Friday 17th. He had booked it ages ago after reading the rave reviews etc we have been to many other Michelin starred restaurants so this was a must. Disappointed is the only word I can use to describe it. Fair enough, the reviews said it wasn't pretty to look at, but, that doesn't matter as long as the food impresses. It didn't. I only gave 2 stars because I enjoyed the wine and the other was because of my intolerances, they changed the tasting menu to suit me. So many fish courses was overkill, the lamb was at least 50% fat, the dishes just didn't 'look' good on the plates. It was also very noisy due to 2 large parties being in. We had to wait a very long time between courses. We left 4 hours after arrival, feeling hungry and like we had been robbed of £180.I love Michelin starred restaurants and feel they are worth every penny when they get it right. Unfortunately the Sportsman didn't. Also, one of the other parties seemed to have a mixture of diners using a la carte and tasting menus? I would have preferred this due to my intolerances but was told the whole table had to have the same? Maybe if I had personally known the servers as these guests did it may have been an option.
15/03/2017: This ain't no gastro pub, this is fine dining!We visited The Sportsman yesterday for my husband's birthday to embark on a culinary journey through their full tasting menu.I was feeling a little apprehensive because my husband's last birthday treat had been The Fat Duck which was sheer perfection and was so sublime that I had an out of body experience. We had seen this pub in an episode of Tom Kerridge's tv show and decided to try it out.Although it's in a state of flux with a major refurb, the work is almost complete and it looks great. New tables, fab new conservatory and long gone are the old blue loos which have given way to glass, oak and monochrome tiled bathrooms that look smart and fresh.We were given a warm welcome upon our arrival by the ladies who work front of house. These women are a credit to this restaurant and take tremendous pride in working there. They are passionate about good food and its provenance and delight in telling you about the local ingredients, homemade curry powder, freshly churned butter, delectable apple jam, foraged seaweed, produce from the garden, homemade bread and other Kentish specialties when they announce each dish. We had an interesting conversation with our server about the Marmite qualities of sea buckthorn berries (!) which was a memorable treat.We decided to be surprised and not read about the dishes we were about to receive. What followed was so delightful, pleasing, sweet, airy, fishy, meaty, succulent, gooey, creamy, tart, pickled, buttery, crunchy, savoury, subtle and yet complex that I became almost giddy with joy.Ping! Those were my tastebuds as the first amuse bouche hit my palette. Had my mouth been hibernating all winter? Suddenly they were on high alert and screaming for more delicacies. Oh boy, they were not disappointed.The highlight of the meal was the oyster dish and the crab. The absolute pinnacle was the Bromley apple soufflé with salted caramel ice cream. This dessert was virtually a Spring day manifested on to a plate. The entire meal was pure pleasure from beginning to end.A few minor quibbles:1. The bread had a distinct chill to it and I was hoping it would be warm or at least room temperature. Warm bread and butter is one of life's luxuries.2. During lunch, the older waitress snatched away our bread board and said we wouldn't get anymore or we wouldn't have room for pudding. I'm sure it was said in a jokey way, but it seemed extremely rude. I was hoping for a little bread to mop up some of the lamb juices, but I was denied that guilty pleasure.3. When the bill arrived, a donation to the Water Aid charity had been added without my consent and no information was given about what the charity entailed. Luckily, I knew what it was and felt it was a worthy cause, but a little more information would be appreciated before it's automatically added to the bill.However, the definition of a 3 star Michelin restaurant is "exceptional cuisine that's worth a special journey". Given the fact that I would crawl across an ocean of discarded Whitstable oyster shells to get to this place again. I reckon it's got a couple of stars long overdue.Thank you so much to the staff and chefs for an outstanding meal and keep up the phenomenal work you are doing.The Sportsman is the best restaurant in Kent, hands down and has earned the accolade of my new favourite restaurant!