Places To Eat In Folkestone: Pick Up Pintxos

Welcome to my review of a fantastic (sort of) new Spanish joint in Folkestone where we massively over ordered but regretted nothing: Pick Up Pintxos. Originally located in one of the old station rooms on Folkestone Harbour Arm they have now set up permanent home at the foot of the old high street, still with an ocean view but also with plenty of room to spread out. Their classic hot and cold pintxos menu is happily still intact, but there are now some larger plates in the mix, too.

You can sit in the bar area or if the weather is good in front of the restaurant in the street outside, but as we were really there to sample the menu we opted for the dining room. Kicking off with some wine, I was very impressed with the selection. I think pretty much everything on it is Spanish, and most importantly all excellent quality at every price point – bottles span from £19.50 to £100, and glasses run from £5-£14. Both glasses we had were delicious – red Tempranillo both to bring back memories of the last time I enjoyed pintxos in Spain (I was in Rioja) and as it was a cloudy day, and a fresh but still sweet Antxiola Rosado.

Okay, the pintxos. Essentially posh bar snacks, in Northern Spain sometimes you find a bar counter filled with a selection to enjoy socially with your wine, and sometimes each bar has one house speciality that people flock to. Sometimes the pintxos is a free perk that comes with the wine, sometimes a glass of house wine is provided for you if you’re buying pintxos. Regardless, they’re utterly delicious, formed the cornerstone of one of the best food experiences I’ve ever had, and at Pick of Pintxos there is a hot and cold pintxos menu to enjoy.

For me good Spanish jamón is always a must, but it is the Jamón Croquetas that had me a little obsessed with Pick Up Pintxos back when they were only a tiny establishment, so of course I’m over the moon they’re still on the menu. Filled with little pieces of jamón and the most etherial bechamel sauce before being fried with their crispy coating I ordered double – ‘melt in the mouth’ is a phrase typically overused in food writing, but here it is not only an apt description, but also the perfect one.

Something else I doubled up on and remembered from their old location where the ‘gilda’: gordal olives stuffed with a briny anchovy and wrapped with a guindilla pickled chilli. A traditional pintxos (on a stick) it’s bright, bold, sharp and spicy, perfect with drinks and providing the perfect savoury aftertaste once you’ve eaten through the olive and the anchovy hits your tongue. Not for everyone, but I adore these.

As we essentially ordered everything on both the hot and cold pintxos menus we got both tortillas. The chorizo tortilla (bottom) had a lovely flavour and just the right balance of potato to soft egg (though the potato could have been cooked a little longer, I missed the melting tortilla texture I have enjoyed in Spain) but the Basque tortilla is the one I’d recommend: flavoured with green peppers and onions the flavour was deep and distinctive, and the ultimate veggie option from among such a meat-focused menu.

Really we realised we’d already had a fair bit for lunch and in future we think we will go just for the pintxos, but with a traditional wood oven and charcoal grill installed, how could we not go for some of the bigger plates? They were all perfectly, beautifully cooked. This was the Pluma Iberico Pork, served with a slow cooked onion and pine nut puree (I know I’ve already used ‘etherial’ as a descriptor in this review, but what the hell I’m going to use it again), burnt orange and piquillo pepper. The pork was impossibly tender and full of flavour, and all the accompaniments provided different notes of colour and brightness. A lovely dish.

However, the pork was eclipsed by the duck, served with a heirloom carrot puree. The puree was fine, tasty but nothing exciting. But that piece of duck, I’m going to order it again next time if it is still on alongside my feast of pintxos: beautifully, meltingly tender with sharp, crisp skin, a masterclass in how to cook a piece of duck and a dish not to be missed.

On the vegetable side of things we also had round courgettes, stuffed with a light, bright, oily (in a good, rich way) summer ratatouille which offset the natural bitterness of this variety of courgette well, but the real stars were the light, crisp tempura courgette flowers stuffed not with ricotta, but with light, creamy goats cheese to really offset the richness of the rest of the dish.

Literally, the only let down of the whole menu was the confit potatoes: don’t bother ordering these, at not quite crisp, not quite meltingly tender as ‘confit’ would suggest they’re a waste of space in your stomach when the rest of the menu is so very delicious.