Places To Eat In Kent: The Folkestone Wine Company, Folkestone

After experiencing what was probably one of the worst eating out experiences we’d collectively ever had the previous Sunday on my mothers birthday, the following Friday night found the four of us attempting a re-do of sorts at a local spot I’d been planning on visiting for years, and based on reputation alone we very much hoped would restore our faith in our collective love of eating out: meet The Folkestone Wine Company.

Tucked away up by the high street and away from the harbour where you’d usually head for a spot of Harbour Arm street food or some fantastic tapas at Pick Up Pinxtos, The Folkestone Wine Company promises good, simply cooking done with the very best ingredients, served of course, with a frankly killer wine list.

We kicked things off with a beautiful bottle of natural rose from Roussillon who started off a little funky but still fresh on the nose, but ripened and matured the longer it was in the glass and as the bottle warmed throughout our meal. Certainly an interesting as well as drinkable wine, but if you’re after simply the latter just ask – Polly, the front of house sommelier is frankly brilliant, and she did not steer us wrong on a single thing we drank, even with such disparate tastes at the table ordering lots of different things off the menu.

Oh, and get the bread. The butter is good: served at the perfect temperature as well as being luxuriously creamy and seasoned with just the right amount of salt, and the white sourdough is fresh, light, and benefits from the baker not being too heavy handed with the starter. However, it is the dense, malty, slightly sweet brown bread that was the star, rather addictive and the perfect partner for good wine and even better conversation.

One of the criticisms I’ve heard of The Folkestone Wine Company is that their small blackboard menu does not afford much choice; I disagree, because I know keeping things small helps keep the food as good as it is (in case you’ve not realised it yet, dinner at The Folkestone Wine Company did indeed restore our faith in eating out), and because it also meant we got to try a bit of everything: we shared both starters, and a wonderful light, not too meaty, not too fatty fennel salami from the bar snacks section.

The locally grown Sevenscore asparagus was simply served with a toasted hazelnut crumb, good extra virgin olive oil, and draped with melting slices of guancial. My father, who has only just been tentatively turned onto a love for the green stuff devoured most of the plate, and my only criticism was that I wanted more guancial to revel in.

One of the start dishes was the scallops. Served with their roes still attached (also perfectly cooked, a creamy reminder of the sea) and a generous amount of samphire, the whole dish was generously finished with a fresh sauce vierge – a preparation of fresh tomatoes, grassy extra virgin, lemon juice, lots of fresh basil and a few toasted and crushed coriander seeds – that was so good I used what of my bread that was left to mop the plate. Simple, and lively.

Moving into our mains, the fish option continued to be excellent. Perfectly cooked, insanely fresh sea bass fillets were served over herbs and a rich yet airy langoustine bisque with an accompanying tangle of thick, slightly salted cucumber ribbons to complement the lightness of the fish and cut through the richness of the sauce. Honestly, it gave that sea bass at 360 Dubrovnik I’d had earlier in the month a run for its money.

I was only allowed a slight bite of the boys rump of lamb – enough to confirm it was a very good piece of meat, perfectly cooked with a good rosemary-spiked jus, the same delicious tangle of greens, and young garlic creamed flageolet beans to round everything off – I’m a firm believer in beans instead of potatoes on the side of a good piece of meat (though we had the potatoes on the side too which were excellent, very crisp but with fluffy, tender middles) and at least in this house the countdown to fresh borlotti bean season has officially begun!

We switched to dessert wines to finish off the meal, all chosen with Polly’s guiding hand. I can’t say about everyone else, but I think that my honey-light Sauternes paired beautifully with my Creme Brûlée, accentuating the burnt sugar notes, but proving just refreshing enough to cut through all that sweetness.

Needless to say that creme brûlée was perfect – just like the very best examples I’ve enjoyed as part of plat du jour back in Brittany – but I actually think the real star was the pillow light but still exceptionally rich and creamy chocolate marquise, served with raspberries, thick local Ottie’s cream and a delicious syrup. The cheese was also apparently rather good too, served with a quite exceptional piece of quince paste, and good grapes. So often it is clear when a cheese plate arrives that no one has bothered to check the sweetness and quality of the grapes.

I think it must be obvious by now that I wholeheartedly recommend a trip to The Folkestone Wine Company. It is pretty small, with about four tables in the front and another four in the back, so I also recommend you call them up to book in advance – they don’t have an online booking system.