Christopher Hirst

Christopher Hirst is an award-winning food writer and freelance journalist.

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My life in food: How a plate of shellfish set Christopher Hirst on course to become the nation's finest food writer

The Independent and Independent on Sunday's Christopher Hirst was recently voted Food Writer of the Year at the Fortnum & Mason Food & Drink Awards. Here, he reveals how he first discovered a taste for his profession…

The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent

Until last week, the best fish dish I have ever eaten was grilled slip sole in seaweed butter at the Sportsman in Seasalter in Kent. This maritime marvel formed the starter in a lunch that has echoed my memory for years, but I discovered that I had missed the pub's most esteemed offering, a tasting menu whose expertise and finesse are legendary among the food-obsessed. So I called the Sportsman to remedy this annoying omission (48 hours warning is required). "It starts at 7pm," I was informed, "and lasts for three and half hours." Good grief! I wasn't sure that I was quite as food-obsessed as all that.

Book review: The Sea Inside, By Philip Hoare

A circumnavigation of waters both tidal and metaphorical makes for a wondrous read

Paperback review: Walk the Lines, By Mark Mason

“The running total is 171.1 miles, not quite halfway,” groans Mason after the District Line, though this reader had the thought that no one forced him to do an overground trek of the Underground.

Paperback review: Time to Start Thinking, By Edward Luce

From the FT's chief Washington correspondent, this gloomy but absorbing view of US prospects combines interviews with sobering statistics ranging from education (twice as many are studying MBAs than engineering) to railways (Obama is investing $8 billion compared to China's $200 billion).

Paperback review: Higgs, By Jim Baggott

Baggott explains the significance of the Higgs boson: “it implies the existence of the Higgs field… without [it] nothing could be”, although “God Particle is a name heartily despised by practising scientists”.

Paperback review: Strands, By Jean Sprackland

The poetry of marine flotsam makes a perfect beach read

Paperback review: Walk the Lines, By Mark Mason

“The running total is 171.1 miles, not quite halfway,” groans Mason after the District Line, though this reader had the thought that no one forced him to do an overground trek of the Underground.

Paperback review: The Road Not Taken, By Frank McLynn

Frank McLynn's exploration of why British revolutions go pfft! is packed with interest. The collapse of Wat Tyler's rebellion is a mystery, though Richard II reacted “with a viciousness that always characterises elites [after] a narrow squeak”.

The Talbot Hotel, Yorkersgate, Malton, North Yorkshire

Following a deafening dinner at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen a few years ago, when twenty-somethings maintained a roundelay of "Happy Birthday" for much of the evening, I've steered clear of restaurants run by TV chefs. So it was with trepidation that I entered the refurbished mansion (Pevsner: "probably c.1840") that houses the Talbot Hotel in Malton, North Yorkshire, since the owners Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland and his son Tom have installed local boy James Martin, an ornament of Saturday Kitchen and other televisual bonbons, as executive chef.

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