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Exploring Sandgate Sea and Food Festival 2013

By 27 August 2013 Folkestone, Food Festivals, Kent
Sandgate Food and Drink Festival 2013

An extremely wet Saturday was an inauspicious start to the Bank Holiday weekend but the foodie gods played their part and the clouds dispersed to allow the sun to shine down on the Sandgate Sea and Food Festival.  This annual festival started in 2004 and takes place on the seafront behind the historic Sandgate High Street.  There were a variety of stalls including a contingent from France who were serving a hoppy lager from the Boulogne-sur-Mer region of northern France.

There were a choice of food stalls from which to choose our lunch. All were tempting, including a very large piece of Spanish tortilla from Fresh and Easy (a patisserie and cafe and Folkestone) and a tapas stall. We plumped for burritos from Escondido, a Mexican restaurant in Sandgate itself. I went for a chicken burrito and Marc went for a pork and green chili burrito. They were served from a chafing dish that actually meant the tortillas were a bit hard, almost crunchy. This isn’t how burritos are normally served but actually it made for excellent street food. The burrito was easy to pick up and eat without the filling falling out, which is was normally happens. The filling was very tasty but not at all spicy. That’s good for me though because I can’t eat spicy food. The burrito contained chicken in a tomato based sauce, rice and re-fried beans. I added guacamole, salsa and sour cream. The first two tasted homemade and were delicious. Guacamole is one of my favourite dips and I always prefer homemade to shop bought. We tucked into our burritos while sitting on the beach.

Chicken burrito from Escondido Sandgate

Unfortunately we didn’t have long to look round the festival because I had to get home to cook Sunday lunch for my in-laws (braised beef with shallots and mushrooms, followed by tropical pineapple pudding). I saw on Twitter that a lady was planning to make peanut butter cupcakes and I was very excited! We managed to find the cupcake stall before going home but I was disappointed to learn she didn’t have peanut butter flavour. My mood soon lifted when I picked out a divine gingerbread latte cupcake. The cake was flavoured with both coffee and ginger, with a vanilla frosting. The sprinkles are tiny gingerbread men! So cute!

Gingerbread Latte Cupcake

It was a pretty good weekend all in all. Yummy treats on Sunday followed by a healthy dinner, and a naughty BBQ on Monday with friends. Only one month until the Canterbury Food and Drink Festival on 27th to 29th September. I’m really looking forward to that as it’s a proper big festival held in the Dane John Gardens. I’ve not been since I was at college about ten years ago! I remember buying a lovely rhubarb and ginger pie.

By Rachel Birchley x

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Rocksalt Folkestone’s Lunch Menu – A Honeymoon Treat

By 24 August 2013 Restaurant Review
Rocksalt restaurant Folkestone from across the harbour

When I first learnt that a contemporary seafood restaurant was planned for Folkestone harbour, replacing a run down old pub, I was pretty impressed.  To be very honest, I’d never heard of Mark Sargeant, the chef whose name is above the door.  He used to be head chef at Claridge’s in Mayfair, and Rocksalt is his first restaurant.  The building itself is a modern design but the dark wood cladding helps it to blend in with the old fisherman’s buildings in the area.  Ever since the restaurant opened I’ve wanted to try it out.  To begin with, some of the reviews were less than complimentary but most of the issues seem to be teething troubles.  Nearly two years on, I finally got to try it out.

the view from a window seat at rocksalt restaurant folkestone

The view from my seat

We visited on Tuesday 30th April, just three days after Marc and I’s wedding.  I booked online, which was a simple process, and pulled the newly-wed card to request a table by the window.  I am so glad I did because the view was stunning.

We went for the lunchtime set menu, which changes weekly. There is a small selection of seasonal food to choose from for each course. It costs £17 for two courses or £20 for three. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t spend the extra £3 for pudding personally! But then I do have a sweet tooth. We each had mackerel with new potato salad to start. It looked so amazing with the tiny soft boiled quail’s egg that I dug straight in and forgot to take a photo! Everything tasted very fresh; the dish didn’t last very long.

My husband and I also both chose the pork belly for our main course. This was truly divine. The pork was from a farm in Kent and had been deliciously slow-cooked so that it was melt-in-your-mouth tender. The baby leeks were al dente and garden fresh.

Pork belly with baby leaks, creamed potato and apple sauce at Rocksalt Folkestone

Pork belly with baby leaks, creamed potato and apple sauce

For dessert we actually chose different things! I had lemon posset and Marc ordered chocolate and hazelnut pavlova. Both were scrummy.

Lemon posset with shortbread at Rocksalt Folkestone

Lemon posset with shortbread


Chocolate and hazelnut pavlova at Rocksalt Folkestone

Chocolate and hazelnut pavlova

Marc and I both loved our meal at Rocksalt. Not only was the food good but the service was impeccable and the toilets very cool. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I tend to judge a place on its loos! I am happy to report that the toilet facilities at Rocksalt are top notch. They play what sounds like the shipping forecast over speakers, but its actually names of fish! There are also lovely little hand towels to use to dry your hands, you use them and then drop them into a basket hidden under the sinks.

We’ll definitely be returning to Rocksalt but unfortunately our wallets can’t stretch to the a la carte menu so we’ll have to wait until we’ve both got some time off to experience the lunchtime menu again, or perhaps we’ll go for brunch or Sunday lunch one day. I find that these lower cost menus give you a great taster of the food that a restaurant offers without bankrupting you. We ate from the set lunch menu at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall a couple of years ago and it was perfect. We’d never be able to afford to eat in places like this otherwise.

By Rachel Birchley x

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How to Treat Yourself at the Weekend – Lunch at Blooms Restaurant in Folkestone

By 7 August 2013 Eating Out, Folkestone, Food

As someone who loves food, I’ve decided to make more of an effort to sample my local eateries.  There are plenty of restaurants in Folkestone, Kent but I’ve hardly been to any of them, which to be honest I’m quite ashamed of.  My grandparents always want to know where we can eat when they come to visit but we always end up going to the Beefeater in Ashford, which is even more shameful but a bit of a guilty pleasure!

On Saturday, Marc (my husband) treated me to a wonderful, fresh lunch at Blooms, a restaurant that opened earlier this year at the bottom of the Old High Street in Folkestone.  I’ve been meaning to visit ever since it opened but when you’re on a budget, you don’t get to eat out as often.  We chanced our arm Saturday afternoon and walked in without booking.  When we replied “no” to the lady who asked if we’d booked, she looked a bit concerned.  Looking around the restaurant, this was a bit strange since it was almost empty!  It turns out that most of the tables were booked but the diners obviously were after a late lunch since we got there about 1.30pm.

Once seated on the surprisingly comfortable yet massive wicker chairs we were able to take in our surroundings.  There were pictures of Folkestone adorning the walls, which reflected the locally sourced ingredients.  The menu is quite extensive and comes presented on a wooden clipboard.  In addition to the printed menu, they have a selection of daily specials including both meat and fish.  Since I’m on a diet I decided to go for salad, but of course Marc had a burger, his favourite!  To start with, we had the bread and oil, which had to be done because Blooms bake their own fresh bread every morning.  Even Marc’s burger bun was homemade.

Blooms Folkestone restaurant menu

The Avocado and Pancetta salad was a sight to behold.  The bright colours of the beautifully fresh food made the dish look particularly mouthwatering, and it certainly lived up to my expectations.  The boiled egg was perfectly cooked with a soft yolk, the avocado soft and ripe, the pancetta crunchy, and the croutons delicious.  All in all, I was very impressed.  The salad filled me up a treat and was one of the tastiest I’ve had in a long time.  It reminded me of the epic salads that you find in Europe.

Blooms Folkestone Avocado and Pancetta Salad

Marc’s burger came with fabulous chips that were perfectly crisp on the outside, yet fluffy on the inside, as well as fresh onion rings and a salsa that tasted a bit like mango chutney.  The burger was beautifully juicy and judging by the way it was wolfed down it must have tasted pretty good!

Blooms Folkestone 'Blooms Burger' beef burger with freshly baked seeded bun

It brilliant to be able to eat freshly cooked food that tastes so delicious.  You do have to wait a bit for your meal, because every dish is cooked to order but as long as you’re not in a rush then that’s not a problem, and the wait is worth it.  We took a look at the desert board but decided we were too stuffed to eat any more!  The chocolate fondant sounded amazing though.

In total, the bill came to just over £30 including my tomato juice and Marc’s pint of Heineken, which is not too bad really. It’s not somewhere we could afford to eat every weekend but for a treat it’s fantastic.  If you’re looking for a restaurant in Folkestone, you’ll struggle to find somewhere offering such scrummy food at such reasonable prices.

If you’re a fellow food lover and would like to share restaurant reviews, recipes and food photos, check out my newly created Google+ Community, Kent Foodies.
By Rachel Birchley

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How to Fill Up on Homely French Food on the Cheap.

By 25 October 2012 Eating Out, Food, France, Travel

In rural France there are bars in most villages.  Usually the domain of men drinking, at lunchtime many bars offer a fixed menu to cater for workers.  It is common place in France for employers to provide lunch vouchers for their employees, this is particularly the case with manual workers and drivers.  Bars offer a low cost but huge lunch for these workers to enjoy.  However, these menus are not solely for workers, anyone can walk in off the street and pig out on the cheap.  As long as you’re not scared of a few curious looks you too can enjoy a 4 or 5 course meal for about €12 – sometimes this even includes drinks!  This is perfect for when you’re on a budget.

Auberge du Lie, bar restaurant in La Cheze, Brittany, France

The first place we ate was the Auberge du Lie in La Cheze.  This is a small village in central Brittany close to where my parents live.  It’s a pretty town with a lake and a couple of little shops.  It’s normal in France for lunch only to be served between 12 and 2pm.  As their lunches tend to be on the longer side these bars fill up pretty quickly so you need to be seated shortly after 12.  When we got to this auberge there were only about 2 other tables in use at the restaurant, about 1 o’clock nearly every table was full.  The menus don’t offer much choice but that is how the owners are able to offer the food so cheaply.  Think of it as posh (and yummy!) school dinners.

Fresh vegetable salad as a starter in restaurant in Brittany, France

At the Auberge du Lie we could have either crudities or duck pate to start.  I chose crudities because I’m not a pate fan.  What I got was a plate of lovely fresh salad: definitely a good choice.  Next up was a slice of hot quiche lorraine before our main course of sautéed veal and pasta.  The meat was a little fatty but very tender.  The sauce was delicious.  Before desert we were given a plate of cheese to help ourselves to.  Of course, all of this food is accompanied by a big basket of fresh bread!

Veal casserole with macaroni pasta cheap main meal in Breton bar
Veal and macaroni

During our stay we ate out twice more.  The second time was at a big place just outside of Pontivy, which is one of the bigger towns in the area.  The restaurant was called “Le 1703” and was the French version of a greasy spoon cafe.  There was a big car park with work vans, trucks and lorries.  The menu here included drinks and was 4 courses.  There was a buffet for the starter with all sorts of salad and cold cuts.  We then had meat and chips, followed by cheese, desert and then coffee.  My parents drank a carafe of red wine and our bread basket was replenished twice!  This massive and very filling lunch was just €11 each and in these establishments you’re not expected to tip so it really is cheap.  We went to McDonald’s and it cost us nearly €8 each for just an extra value meal.

Busy restaurant in France at lunchtime.
One packed restaurant! Photo taken using the  self-portrait mode on my phone!

Our final lunch out was in a tiny little village called L’Hermitage Lorge at “Chez Marylene”.  Once again and unassuming bar with a restaurant out back.  This place was packed and many tables were reserved so we were sat on a little table next to the loo unfortunately.  This was another 4 course jobby again with drinks included.  There was a bottle of water and red wine on the table and soft drinks to help yourself to.  It was a bit random just picking up a 1.5l bottle of Fanta and taking it back to the table but I was told by the waitress to do so!  The tarte aux pommes was so yummy here.    

Lamb and chips for lunch in France
Lamb and chips. Nom nom nom!

While the food available on these budget menus may not be haute cuisine it is fresh and tasty.  Just like home cooking.  It’s also a little scary going in to these places that are busy with mostly male workers and the staff generally don’t speak any English.  I’m not sure I would have done it on my own but with my parents who have been to these places before it was ok!  My fiancé wasn’t sure about the food because he’s a bit of a burger man but generally it was good.  If you’re in France and on a budget why not try these places?  You won’t need any dinner so that will save you even more money!

Read about driving in France in my previous post.

By Rachel Birchley

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