The British Seaside is currently heavily oversubscribed, and it can be more fun just sitting on your couch watching Google Images scenes from Broadstairs, Margate or Hastings than braving the crowds. But there is something hardwired in the British psyche that whenever the sun shines forces us to run as far as possible to the edge of our island without falling. And then we eat ice cream.
Or, in the case of Folkestone, we eat gyros, tacos, poke, and acai in a gigantic recreation area called The Goods Yard that lives in a huge parking lot. Just park, then follow the scent of designer hot dogs and the suave tones of Fat Man Scoop begging you to put your hands up.
I like Folkestone. I love the lighthouse with its champagne bar and the once disused railway line that can now be turned back by crossing the Channel. I love the old steep, jumble and arty Main Street full of independent cafes, craft shops and lots of upcycled and vintage clothing stores. The town is also home to the largely unrecognized Folkestone Wine Company, which looks a bit like a dusty dungeon owned by a liquor importer, but it’s actually a wonderful restaurant where I’ve had one of the best lunches I have ever had. ‘have. have pushed my esophagus in the past five years. Homemade gnocchi followed by sweet, raspberry-scalloped French toast with whipped cream, as you ask, made in one of those kitchens where he’s literally a chef, on his own, doing everything as he would like himself.
The local food scene is on fire. Rocksalt on the Harbor is consciously chic, with its cute versions of whipped cockles, whelks and cod roe, while well-established burger chain Lucky Chip has opened a branch in town serving El Chappo and Kevin Bacon. Dr Legumes, Sole Kitchen and many other independents fill the Harbor Arm, making it nearly impossible to visit Folkestone and end up with just a Styrofoam box of fish and chips.
There are also more important things to come. We headed to the new Basque restaurant Pick Up Pintxos, which serves Txuleton beef ribs from San Sebastian and whole turbot cooked in a clasp, as well as a variety of cold and hot pintxos, which could roughly translate to “Small, delicious things to nibble on”, or at least when you reverberate in the alleys of Gros, fed by butter Basque cider and txalupa (AKA langoustine).
Whether the culture of eating pintxos could one day translate into a sit-down restaurant in Blighty, decorated like a slightly chic Nando’s, is debatable, but on a Saturday midday in August, when all the other restaurants in Folkestone were lifting, Pick Up Pintxos served gildas, boquerones, and morcilla and membrillo balls, and it was very, very quiet. It would help if they had staff who could enthusiastically sell the concept, or even act like they had been to a restaurant before, but it was more of a weird and rambling experience, with cracked glasses, stacked plates. on tables or whipped halfway through, 182-month-old Pyrenean beef served without a sharp knife, and so on.
To be fair, I have eaten at several other places that are so incredibly run, or not, lately, not least because staff issues are severe across the country. But it’s especially a shame here, as there is spirited cuisine and fantastic products, like silky, silvery-skinned sardines marinated in sea salt and Sherry Valdespino vinegar and served in a glorious glut of olive oil. ‘extra virgin olive Arbequina. Gildas are excellent salted anchovies stuffed inside plump Gordal olives and fierce pickled pepper skewers.
Chef Gianni Modena has a perfect mastery of seasonings, textures and presentation, and I doubt you will find a better piece of txuleton in the UK today. That said, a good side of the inexperienced staff is that none of them recited the long life story of the cow, which was all the rage in London in 2017, when all Galician beef was accompanied by a traumatic Pixar plot. Charles, who cares little for such sentimentality, brought the leftovers home with us and spent the night on the sofa looking like Captain Caveman. Turbot, a truffle and vermouth vinaigrette, has been less successful. A beef tomato salad with crisp, meaty and exemplary red fruits was wonderful. The pudding was a slice of queso cream piea, or Basque cheesecake to you and me, followed by a long wait for the bill.
After about an hour in this somewhat soulless and rather dark restaurant, I rather wanted to go. The place means good and is full of great ideas, but it needs some kind of reboot. And I sympathize because, on some level, isn’t it all of us?
Pick up pintxos 2-4 South Street, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1RW, 01303 250544. Open Wed-Sun, noon-11pm (5pm Sunday). Around £ 35 per person, plus drinks and service.
The title of this article was changed on September 3, 2021 to correct the spelling of Pintxos. The caption for the penultimate photo has also been changed to correctly identify the dish as salt cod fritters with aioli, rather than morcilla and membrillo dumplings as an earlier version said.