Thursday, August 4, 2011
Rocksalt: Posh fish in Folkestone
Living in Bristol, it’s not often I contemplate lunch in Folkestone 4 1/2 hours away but once I’d heard about Sarge’s mackerel pasty, that was it.
Sarge (aka Mark Sargeant), of course, is not just any old cook. He was Gordon Ramsay’s right hand man for years but has now gone off, as so many of Ramsay’s former acolytes have, and set up a restaurant of his own called Rocksalt.
But in Folkestone, a south coast port which can hardly be described as Britain’s most glamourous seaside resort?
Albeit with a certain faded grandeur . . .
Well, turns out he comes from that neck of the woods and maybe it’s a smart move. You get the sense that Folkestone is busy reinventing itself now it has a new high speed rail link to St Pancras (just an hour). And now is a good time to go as it’s in the middle of its Triennial (of which see more below)
Anyway, That Pasty. When I first heard about the fact that it contained mackerel and sausage my reaction was *eeew*, followed by an avid curiosity to see what it tasted like. I can never resist a good pie. As you see it’s mackerel shaped and full of flaky fish with just the merest hint of something savoury and porky and the most fabulous pastry which I suspect you couldn’t possibly replicate despite the fact that the recipe is available online. At £14.50 it must be the most expensive pasty in Britain but it’s so, so worth it. Order it as a main or one between two. (If you can. Have learnt it isn't always on.)
There were some other nice things on the menu: some good nibbles such as radishes with anchovy sauce (anchovy mayo with a little cream, I’d guess) and steamed broad beans served edamame style with mint sea salt (great idea)
Smoked coley brandade with spring onions which was a bit like a mini fish pie. (Delicious)
And a superb, sweet Dover sole.
I was marginally less impressed by the steamed sea bass with samphire and fish cream mainly because I was expecting a samphire and fish cream instead of Samphire. And fish cream. And it was very slightly underdone. I like my sea bass seared. But it could have been that I was too full of pasty to appreciate it.
Red herring was not the East Anglian speciality but a very smokey mackerel tinged with beetroot. Not quite as exciting as it sounded.
And you probably won't like the Famous Folkestone whelks unless you're into whelks. Which I am. Sort of. When I'm in Folkestone at any rate.
Rhubarb fool, while pretty, was a bit too creamy and not rhubarby enough for my taste.
But elderflower and strawberry jelly was divine.
But the thing that made it such a wonderful meal was the setting. It overlooks the harbour and on a blissfully sunny day felt just like being on the Med.
I don’t think you’d want to stay in Folkestone for long, but for an overnight stay, particularly until September 25th when the Triennial ends it would be great. This was an installation in an old church (below). There are many other exhibitions and installations we were sorry we didn't have time to explore.
Rocksalt has rooms in a neighbouring building which also houses Sarge’s posh chippie. Small but nicely decorated and good value though one of them smelt slightly worryingly of fish (a Fawlty Towers kipper moment but I’m sure they’ll sort that out). Book the top room if you can.
And find time for a drink in the bar which has been cleverly designed to feel like sitting on a pebble beach.
Rocksalt is at 4-5 Fishmarket, Folkestone, Kent, CT19. Tel: 01303 884 633. A meal with wine will probably set you back around £60 a head from the a la carte menu. There's a set lunch for £14.50 for two courses, £17.50 for three.
I ate at Rocksalt as a guest of the restaurant.