Places To Eat In Kent: Rocksalt, Folkestone
I’ll always be happy if you present me with gin and seafood, so needless to say I was rather pleased to find myself sitting out on the terrace overlooking the harbour at Rocksalt in Folkestone on Tuesday afternoon enjoying a specially put together tasting menu, paired with Gin Mare cocktails. I’ve already shared my love for this Mediterranean gin in my recent Short Southside Fizz recipe, and I’ve already stated my love for Mark Sargent’s East Kent restaurants, so it was a match made in heaven. Also, while we did enjoy a special menu, I’ve eaten at Rocksalt before, and the dishes were very representative of the sort of food you’d expect visiting.
We kicked things off with gin and tonics garnished with lemon and samphire, paired with a platter of Rocksalt’s signature nibbles. One of the first things I noticed the first time I tried Gin Mare was the fruity, lemony tone, and the samphire added a bit saltiness to the drink, which actually proved to tone down the bitterness of the tonic water. I’m not usually a tonic person, but I had two of these! Food wise, we had Rocksalt’s house taramasalata, two different flavours of homemade butter, Rocksalt sea salt they make themselves from the harbour and seaweed crisps, all served with a basket of homemade sourdough.
To start, we had a Gin mare cured sea bass with a rather wonderful pickled cucumber (for me the star of the dish), black olives, chilli and a (perfectly cooked and tender) scallop beignet in a crisp tonic batter. The fish was sweet, tender and the texture was beautifully balanced by the oil the dish was finished with. I had a scallop ceviche the last time I dined at Rocksalt; they do this sort of thing very well. Also, gin makes a great cure (I used it in my Gin & Dill Cured Salmon last Christmas), and I want to start coming up with a gin cured, brighter white fish for the summer months. Perhaps something to go with fruit or tomatoes and soft herbs?
Our first cocktail proper that was paired with our starter was a ‘Sea Snapper’, a version of a snapper, but a bit lighter and more refined. Instead of tomato juice it was made with tomato water, mixed with gin, dry sherry, horseradish vodka and a bit of gomme, topped off with a few pretty floating micro herbs. A different, refreshing, savoury cocktail. It also surprisingly enhanced our starter, rather than overpowered it.
Our next cocktail was a melon ball cooler, designed to go with our main. Instead of ice cubes the glass was finished with frozen melon cubes which made for a very pretty and flavourful drink. They also absorbed the booze, so were great to much down on between courses! The glass was topped up with dry white wine, cucumber water, unusually a dash of Kentish rapeseed oil and yes, more gin. Oh, and some more gomme.
Local sea trout is really having a moment, isn’t it? Here it was served on a bed of celeriac mash (not really a summer vegetable, but here it really worked) and assorted foraged sea vegetables, before being topped off with local samphire and an absolutely to die for Gin Mare butter sauce. Just butter, gin, chicken stock and cream, it really brought everything together and rounded out the salty samphire.
For dessert we had, you’ve guessed it, a Gin Mare jelly, served with local strawberries and a lime and tonic sorbet. Light bright and refreshing, this was really made by the perfectly ripe and fragrant Kent strawberries. I’m a massive gin jelly fan, and I suggest you try Gin Mare in this recipe for G&T Jellies with Blueberries.
Slightly more unusually, our dessert was paired with a ‘sip and fix’, a glass of straight gin paired with another glass of beetroot, strawberries and basil juice pepper and sherry, all finished with a salt rim. To be perfectly honest, I was not sure about having them apart, but it was delicious once I poured one into the other!
I somehow managed to get us an extra course stuck in after our dessert. I mentioned how much I loved the Gypsy Tart with lemon cream at Rocksalt’s sister pub The Duke William in Ickham. I spoke, and a slice each appeared! This was paired with a couple of gold topped expresso martinis. I’m not a coffee drinker, so I got another gin and tonic! However, I had a few sips and I think it would be a treat if it is your sort of thing.
To finish up while we waited for our taxis there were gin chocolate truffles, and we cracked open a bottle of the English sparkling wine they serve at Rocksalt, Gusbourne’s 2011 Brut Reserve (you can read a bit more about it in my review of Wyatt & Jones here). I think every boozy lunch should be rounded off with homemade chocolates and English bubbles, to be honest.
Rocksalt is a great spot to head to if you’re looking to bask in the sunshine, and Gin Mare had taken up pride position on my bar cart long before they invited me to lunch. At the moment, I’m loving it mixed up with a bit of Bottlegreen’s Elderflower Tonic over lots of ice for a pre-dinner work.