Places To Eat In Kent: The London and Paris Hotel, Folkestone
I’ve had some mixed experiences over the past few years in local seafood restaurants, so in The London and Paris Hotel – a (relatively) new bar, restaurant and of course hotel in Folkestone Harbour we were delighted last month to find one near us we’d happily go back to. Okay, so not everything was perfect but we had an absolutely lovely meal with some flashes of brilliance, and as I mentioned, they’re relatively new. So join us there on a chilly Wednesday lunchtime back in December for a steak, and a whole bunch of fresh local seafood!
The dining room is beautiful, the service absolutely fantastic, and everything manages to be both modern and light, as well as warm and cosy. Sit by the window, and you’ll get a good view of the harbour outside, but with the demi curtains you also won’t feel like the people outside will be interrupting your meal.
Always a great start, there is good champagne by the glass (as well as a selection of more local English sparkling wines) and their frankly excellent and all too drinkable Bloody Mary comes in both regular and virgin.
Starting with some snacks, from the specials board we had some frankly excellent popcorn mussels with a good meat to batter ratio, perfectly crisp and served with an excellent kimchee mayo for dipping. If these are on when you’re visiting, get these! They also do oysters many ways – and whilst I believe the best way to ruin an oyster is to cook it their flavour pairings did look fun (panko fried with yuzu mayo and kimchee, and ‘nduja crumbed with crispy garlic and pickled sea vegetables) – I can report their raw ones (Maldon Rock, if you were curious) were served perfectly with all the right trimmings.
The sourdough is also tasty, and the seaweed butter a nice touch, creamy, savoury and tasty without being overwhelming.
Moving onto our starters, the Konro grill fired king scallops with chorizo were fantastic: sweet, plump, and doused in a beautiful butter which complimented rather than overwhelmed. Also get these.
However, the dressed brown crab with pickled cucumber, brown crab aioli, pickled sea vegetables and a ‘nduja butter brioche for mopping proved controversial at the table. Starting with that brioche it was tasty, though I think unnecessary: it was also really oily, coating your fingers unpleasantly as you tore into it. Moving onto the actual dressed crab itself, for the dressed crab purist who ordered it it was a serious let down as the garnishes seemed to number more than actual crab meat, making it more of a pickle platter with crab, rather than crab with pickles. For me, the pickle lover who loves new flavours at the table, it was lesser, but still a disappointment. You really had to work to taste the crab amongst all the (delicious) pickles and I think for such a delicate crustacean, too much was thrown at it. All the flavours were good, I just don’t think they were balanced right.
With our mains, we switched to a beautiful French white which we were pleased to note came in a carafe, perfect for lighter lunchtime sipping: this is so uncommon (but what we were used to having a home in France) it was notably enjoyable.
I know you don’t go to a seafood restaurant for a steak, but it is common when a group of seafood eaters get together there will be a significant other or family member who is not that way inclined: just how a steakhouse needs a strong veggie option, a seafood joint needs a strong meat offering. In the plus column, The London & Paris not only offers steak but a meat (on the day of visiting chicken and leeks with griolles) and veggie (roasted squash with chickpeas and salsa verde) option amongst all the fish. The potatoes alongside said steak are also excellent, an the peppercorn sauce, to be a little cliched for a moment, is to die for. However, in the negative column the steak was on the medium side of medium rare, and the charred sweet shallot was still raw inside.
Use fish eating folk zeroed in on the winter star of the menu, the salmon, lobster and white fish pithivier with pave potatoes and a creamy fish sauce. Now again, the potatoes were excellent and the pie itself had a beautiful flavour – each fish element standing out – and was perfectly executed. But, the charred leek was again on the raw side of cooked, and the sauce was somewhat ruined by the rather liberal use of seaweed salt on top of the pie and potatoes: it had a somewhat overwhelming flavour – tasty when it appeared on our popcorn mussels, but taking the edge off of that perfect pie here. A shame.
Both of the puddings we ordered were absolutely lovely, a smooth, rich, dense chocolate ganache with perfect homemade honeycomb and surprising little bursts of candied nuts and pink peppercorns, and an orange and chocolate fondant with a perfectly gooey but still cooked middle.
Okay so some of the food was a bit mixed, but lunch at The London & Paris was overall a lovely experience, with a beautiful atmosphere, brilliant staff, great drinks and food which I think is going to keep getting better and better. And as our last meal at Folkestone’s other fine dining waterfront seafood restaurant was so bad we walked out before dessert, The London & Paris is one you need to add to your ‘to try’ list asap. Book here!