Saturday, 23 July 2011
Mark Sargeant's new venture, Rocksalt, in Kent, sees him championing local produce with a nod in particular to fish, after all, it's located right on Folkestone harbour. There have been few positive reports since the opening in June but I found much of the food I tried to be well worth the trip out of London.
The setting is picturesque, if a little industrial, Folkestone is hardly the prettiest of backdrops but the glass walled room is flooded with light and there's a sprawling deck from which to observe the creeping tide. I very much enjoyed a pre lunch Rocksalt mary with samphire vodka.
Black olive bread served with olive oil was presented shortly after the menu, which is fish heavy but offers plenty of meaty dishes too. I started with the crab dressed with harissa, sprinkled with baby coriander with toasted bread. I order crab at any given opportunity and this was a fine dish. Other starters of goatscheese with heritage tomato salad and pork pate were perhaps less successful but my Mum's order of whelks were outstanding.
Onto mains, I couldn't resist the special of lobster with aioli and beef dripping chips. The finest example of the crustacean I have ever had, beautifully tender served simply with a wedge of lemon and tomato salad. Portions are generous here, always a bonus!
Other mains enjoyed included breaded plaice and chips with mushy peas, salt marsh lamb, mackerel with green sauce and another fishy special, monkfish with peas and smoked ham. The sides are fantastic, minted peas and potato gratin deserving special mention.
Desserts were the highlight of the meal for me. My mum's favourite, Kentish gyspy tart, was a no brainer of an order and was the finest pud I've tried all year, up there with the rice pudding at Pollen Street Social. I find I so rarely rave about a sweet dish but this really is special.
Also good were rhubarb fool and elderflower jelly with creme fraiche ice cream.
Whilst the food was really very enjoyable I was slightly irritated by the service on a couple of occasions. We were asked to order desserts and later coffees with half the table in the toilet, surely they didn't think we would readily order for our fellow diners? Twice. Also, plates were cleared as my Mum was still eating, very absentminded waiting staff. They were polite however, even when a member of our party lit a cigarette on the terrace, which is non smoking.
It's early days still so some tweaks need to be made but in all the experience was an enjoyable one. 3 courses each and a few glasses of wine came to around £50 a head. Were Rocksalt closer, I would happily return. Though South Eastern high speed trains from St Pancras can have you there in under an hour.