The Sportsman: Graham Craddock

grahamThis week Graham Craddock, Group Operations Manager, Crystal Hotels takes us for a trip to sea…

About Graham

Graham joined the Trust House Forte graduate scheme on leaving Hollings College in Manchester and has worked in the industry ever since. During this time he bought a hotel in Dorset with a rosetted restaurant which he ran with his wife for three years, and is now working for Crystal Hotels managing a group of 4 hotels in Bayswater, Paddington and Kensington.

It was back in 2008. I was going through the new Michelin star listings and I noticed that there was a pub in Faversham that had just won a star. My wife’s parents lived in Whitstable so I said we should go and visit. She asked me what it was called? ‘The Sportsman‘ – she said we’ve been there. It’s the one with the fabulous food but its not in Faversham, it’s at Seasalter. So we learnt two things about Michelin and their guide: firstly to get the coveted award its OK to order from the bar, in a distinctly ‘pubby’ environment as long as the food is up to scratch, and, secondly they use the same vague location atlas as Ryanair!

pic2Since that time we have been many times, all of them good; some of them simply amazing. In a hospitality business it is the most difficult thing to get that level of consistency. In this instance the pairing down of the service helps with a passionate concentration on the food. Having said that the service is very attentive, knowledgeable and precise but without all the ‘pointless faffing’, and ‘poncery’ as The Guardian put it in their recent glowing review. Have no doubt about the grounding and hard work that Stephen Harris and Dan and Philip Flavell put into this place they do an outstanding job – every day and with every service.

Most of the ingredients are sourced from the land and sea directly around the pub. To explain, the property is set in the salt flat marshy land that gave Seasalter its name and is just behind the high sea wall that keeps the flood tide at bay and the winter easterlies from freezing your eyeballs. Cast your eye around from the top of the sea wall and you see the Sportsman’s ‘home ground’ for ingredients. The French would call it ‘Terroirs’ but does that include the seashore and cappuccino coloured estuary waters? Of course there are Oysters, Mussels, Whelks and naturally the coastal fish: Bream, Turbot and Herring. Salt flat Lamb, and the best Pork I have ever tasted – the lack of luscious grazing means there is not much beef round here. Samphire and wild herbs foraged from the marshes frequently feature on a continually changing menu board. They also do their own home cured pork using natural seawater brine – amazing! Add to that a sublime selection of home baked breads. Stop! I am starting to dribble…

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