Much printer ink has been spilled in extolling the wonders of Som Saa‘s Thai food. I’m not going to waste words here by focusing on the rich flavours of the pork belly curry when Marina O’Loughlin conjured them up so well in her Guardian review (see here) or the crisp, zesty delights of the deep-fried seabass, as described on Chris Pople’s cheesenbiscuits blog (see here). Suffice to say the food’s good. Damn good. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a toss up between Som Saa and The Begging Bowl for the title of funkiest Thai restaurant in London (I plan to write up a review of The Begging Bowl soon.)
I’m the first to admit that my jeunesse was pretty dorée (especially given that I was a kid who was always greedy, both for new experiences and interesting food). My parents, both mad foodies long before the term was ever invented, used to haul my sister and I along to meals at a veritable United Nations of restaurants in an era when a trip to Angus Steak House was considered to be exotic by most. We got to travel, too; to France in particular.
Some of my earliest memories are of watching my father spend his evenings poring over Michelin guides, both green and red, the Guide Routier and publications by Relais et Châteaux as he tried to work out routes down to southern France that would take us via as many extraordinary restaurants as possible.
I’ve always had a soft spot for a bit of architectural salvage, so when I pass a LASSCO showroom, I tend come over all faint at the knees. Not that I ever buy anything there (you need to be a zillionaire before you could even consider splurging on their divine reconditioned radiators, shiny parquet floors or Belle Epoque mirrors). So when my good mate Jen invited me to meet her for a drink at Brunswick House last year, I was on my way before she’d had a chance to hang up the phone.
I’ve been going to the Sportsman for years, long before it became a famous foodie haunt. I’d heard rumours about this magic place on the Kentish coast, but have to admit I wasn’t hugely impressed the first time I rocked up. The pub is a ramshackle old building situated on a particularly bleak stretch of rocky beach. But, as it turns out, they’re right – you shouldn’t judge a pub by its paintwork.
Once you’re inside, the Sportsman is a pleasant, welcoming space with a traditional bar and various spaces strewn with tables and chairs. My favourite spot is in the whitewashed back room, which is usually flooded with light, whatever the weather.