‘Grotty rundown pub’ named UK’s best restaurant

A Michelin-starred gastro pub described by its owner as a “grotty rundown pub by the sea” has been named the UK’s best restaurant at the 2016 National Restaurant Awards.

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The Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent

The Sportsman in Seasalter, Kent, stole the crown from last year’s best restaurant, Barrafina, at an awards ceremony in London on 27 June, moving from second to first.

Self-taught chef and owner of The Sportsman, Stephen Harris, entered the culinary world in 1996 at the age of 34, having turned his back on a lucrative career in finance. Three years later he opened The Sportsman.

The unassuming looking restaurant, which Harris describes as a “grotty rundown pub by the sea” on its official Twitter account, is essentially a pub with a dining room, that also offers a £65 tasting menu designed to showcases local produce. Dishes include roast partridge with celeriac risotte, slip sole grilled in seaweed butter and turbot braised in vin jaune with smoked pork.

“Stephen Harris once described The Sportsman as a ‘grotty boozer by the sea'”, said restaurant editor Stefan Chomka. “But it’s certainly way more than that. The former history teacher is one of a handful of UK chefs to practice genuine terroir cooking down in the Kent estuary. A magnificent restaurant and a very worthy number one, congratulations to The Sportsman.”

While it was not able to secure the top spot, London did dominate the top 10, with The Ledbury and Hedone took third and fourth places respectively. The Clove Club in Shoreditch came in at sixth place.

Allan Pickett and Andre Blais’s London restaurant Piquet, which opened last year, was awarded highest new entry (7th) while Lake Road Kitchen in Ambleside (7th) was named highest climber after climbing up 70 places from last year.

Other awards, for service, cocktail list of the year and wine list of the year, were given to The Clove Club, Social Eating House and Noble Rot respectively.

Votes for the best restaurants were collected from 150 industry experts from across the UK, including chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and critics. Each voter is given seven votes based on their best restaurant experiences from the last 12 months, with votes listed in order of preference and must include restaurants both in their ‘home’ region and outside it.

The Restaurant Magazine’s National Restaurant Awards were held at The Hurlingham Club in London on 27 June.

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