Rocksalt, Folkestone – a review

Well what to do on your Birthday is never a problem for yours truly… it has become something of a tradition now that with Mrs HC we go out for a rather nice lunch. Last year we went to JoJo’s in Whitstable this year we chose to go to Rocksalt in Folkestone. (Please note we do go out in between and are not just special occasion diners!)

It has been something of a chalk and cheese experience!!! Jojo’s was a real eye opener and we were impressed by it’s simplicity and the fact you could bring your own wine – it was the standard of the food and the quality of the produce that stood out for us.

Now this year we have just got back from a leisurely lunch at Rocksalt. It is a purpose built modern restaurant that sits right in the heart of Folkestone Harbour and was opened by British chef Mark Sargeant who is from Maidstone and made his name as one of Gordon’s boys!!! He worked for Ramsey most notably at Claridges where he gained a Michelin star. In June 2011 he opened his first eatery in Folkestone.

Rocksalt is a very modern edifice and has stunning views of the harbour. There is a lovely terrace for summer alfresco dining and then large picture windows mean the place has a light and airy feel to it. The menu highlights local Kentish produce from artisan suppliers and well the fresh fish could not be fresher from the local fleet and landed right in front of it. The menu read well and the choice was exciting… It all promised to deliver.

Well I have to say it all was a bit disappointing in the end… Mrs HC chose to have the set lunch menu either 2 or 3 courses. She kicked off with a salad of ham hock that was served with pickled carrot and raison chutney… it was a good simple dish that was well conceived balanced textures and seasoning. I decided to have a couple of their appetiser platters to nibble on as I had chosen one of their specials of the day. My choice was the fresh radishes with an anchovy cream and then a “Josper” (a special wood fired oven) smoked aubergine puree that was served with toast. Well anchovy cream was excellent but radishes were far from fresh… left with their green tops they had gone decidedly yellow and not vey appealing to look at. Aubergine puree was good cream with a hint of smoke and then some rather flaccid toast. It was all OK but lacked attention to detail!

Now this is a term I am sure I will return to! Next Mrs HC had chosen the Slip Sole Veronique on her set priced menu. Now this is a classic dish normally poached fillets of sole with a white wine veloute sauce. Her version was a grilled fish on the bone with a smattering of sauce and some white grapes… it looked a bit scant to me but Mrs HC was pleased with it. We asked our waiter what did it come with and he said broccoli… no effort made to up sell us vegetables so we chose a portion of buttered Jersey Royals.

My main was a fresh fillet of Brill with a mussel broth. Now I appreciate Brill like turbot is an expensive fish because of its premium nature and I felt for £26.50 I would get a good sized portion. Well one small piece that was possibly no more than 80-90gms before cooking sat in the centre of the plate surrounded by some 6 poached mussels in their shells with a creamy sauce laced with herbs and fine vegetables diced.

It looked a picture but under delivered in terms of being anything special! No other garnish and veg was to be extra – if I had of ordered spinach and my own portion of new potatoes it would have pushed this one plate through the £30 barrier. It was not worth it. My fish was fresh and great quality but it was well coloured from its pan frying but had been ever so slightly overcooked so needed the pool of sauce to keep it moist!

The Jersey royals were however good and full of flavour.

Next we decided to both go for the a la carte puddings. Mrs HC went for a vanilla cheesecake with passion fruit and I went for the cold chocolate with a sea buckthorn fondant.

Well lets start with Mrs HC For £7.25 I would have expected something with a bit more finesse than a crumb base that had what could best be described as a white cowpat plopped on top with a scattering of passion fruit seeds over it. It tasted OK but had no visual impact than a cowpat! Again not worth the money

I was presented with mine – a large cylindrical chocolate mousse that was rather placed on the plate with a dusting of chocolate shavings. The sea buckthorn fondant had been inserted into the centre by having a chunk hollowed out and a lid placed back on it – I possibly have not described this too well but it all looked a bit mucked around with and when I dug my spoon in and opened it the sea buckthorn oozed out. It is like a hot chocolate fondant and it had a good visual impact but Mrs HC thought the flavours did not work together. I was less so critical as the citric flavour did help to cut the richness of the chocolate. Overall it was OK but again not worth the money.

Finally a latte and a double espresso were ordered and delivered. This time they went straight back as the espresso was cold – replaced with a supposed fresh one I had lost the will to battle for a hot one drank it quickly and told out waiter it was still not very hot and I thought they should get their machine checked! He could not have been less interested. With it came two small squares of homemade fudge.

Well it’s soft and grainy texture illustrated well that someone had not yet mastered its preparation and somewhat summed up the whole experience. – The lack of attention to detail yet again!

Mrs HC kept saying she thought it was all rather amateurish. I felt this was a rather harsh critique – the place looks fab but it lacked a leadership especially in service whereby you felt they demonstrated professionalism. For example they tried to deliver the starters to another table to us, forgot our order for Jersey Royals and needed reminding and we both generally felt the front of house service staff could have benefitted with some decent training.

The bill arrived and in total was £75.66 and even this was incorrect. In our favour admittedly but again this illustrated something to me. Was it worth it? No it wasn’t it should have been with the omitted item over £90 and with only a carafe of a open wine we had not gone overboard on drinks. Overall I reckon we could have spent easily £120 for two on a lunch!

I will not rush back and what was something I was really looking forward to ended up being a bit of a damp squib (not Squid)

Oh well there is now next year, where will it be next year I wonder?