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Published: 07:00, 28 June 2016
| Updated: 07:03, 28 June 2016
A Kent restaurant once dubbed by its owner a "grotty boozer by the sea" has been hailed as the best in the country.
The Sportsman in Seasalter beat off competition from top notch eateries including Michel Roux's Le Gavroche, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and the elite Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.
It can now claim to be National Restaurant of the Year, as decided at Restaurant magazine's National Restaurant Awards at the Hurlingham Club in London.
It can add the honour to its heaving trophy cabinet: in January this year it was named the top gastropub in Britain at theEstrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs Awards.
The Sportsman, which has held a Michelin star for eight years, took second place in last year’s National Restaurant Awards.
Head chef Stephen Harris runs the business in Faversham Road, Whitstable with his brother Phil.
The restaurant, once described by chef-patron Stephen as a “grotty boozer by the sea”, claimed the prestigious top spot, taking the crown away from London.
A former history teacher, he is one of a handful of UK chefs to practise terroir cooking - specialising in fresh, local ingredients.
At The Sportsman hams hang in the cellar, the butter is churned in house and the team even boils down seawater to make salt.
Stefan Chomka, editor of Restaurant magazine, said: “It might not look much from the outside, but The Sportsman is a magnificent place and Stephen Harris a well deserving recipient of this award.
"The Sportsman’s journey to the top of this list highlights the eclecticism of today’s eating out market and proves that you don’t need slick PR, cutting edge restaurant design or a flashy London postcode to run an establishment that’s best in class.”
Also in the top 50 were the Waterside Inn at Bray, run by Michael and Alain Roux, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Hibiscus in London.
More by this authorKentOnline reporter