Rock Salt, 4-5 Fish Market, Folkestone, Kent

Can ex-Ramsay chef Mark Sargeant make Folkestone a foodie destination?

If you've glanced straight at the score for this restaurant, let me explain. The food at Rocksalt scores a straight eight. It's excellent: fresh, imaginative and very, very well cooked. But the service is woeful: I mean properly bad.

And it all started so well.

I'm partial to the south-east coast – my friends Ann and Rick live in Broadstairs, Sally is down the road in St Leonards and Whitstable is Clerkenwell-on-Sea, it seems. Now Folkestone is getting a bit of big-city zhoozsh in the form of Mark Sargeant, another of those ex-Gordon Ramsay chefs making a noise on his own. Rocksalt is the first of his two projects in the town; the other – Smokehouse fish and chips – is coming soon.

So a weekend jaunt down to Folkestone it is. A stroll along the front to the harbour, bathed in sunshine, builds the appetite and the expectation – the dark-wood-clad building, with its sleek title picked out in white, can be seen from some distance.

The austere entrance is guarded by a Bond villain straight out of central casting. He makes sure we're not unexpected (Rocksalt is a hot ticket just a week in), then we have the big reveal – through a doorway into a curved room, of which one side is completely glass, with views over the harbour and sea beyond.

Folkestone is hardly St Trop, but the view is charming. A narrow strip of terrace would be delightful to sit out at during daytime; inside, the blond-wood parquet floor and dark-wood modern tables and leather-cushioned chairs are very modish.

Miss T asks for cherry Coke. The waitress says no but then, moments later, brings normal Coke and a saucer with three plump cherries, which is thoughtful and fun. Like I said, it started so well.

We nibble on some Kentish sourdough bread with Rocksalt taramasalata for £1.50. It's very good indeed, pale-pink, tangy and rich, and sets us up for starters proper: a tankard of grilled prawns, potted crayfish tails, fish soup and dressed crab with harissa and toast (all around £7.50). The generous shell-load of mildly spiced crab is my favourite, but the more poky crayfish ensemble is a close second. And the soup is the real deal: rusty orange with dense, shellfishy flavours. I consider a prawn but the tankard (it's a half-pint) is already empty and P is holding his greasy, shrapnel-flecked hands aloft. There's no finger bowl. We flag down a waiter. "Uh, sorry, I should have brought one."

The debris of the starters remains in front of us for 10 minutes. No biggie, since we're people- and seagull-watching and anticipating the arrival of duck-fat chips. A word about the menu: Rocksalt is very keenly priced. All sides are £2.50 and only the catch of the day is north of £15. This is sensible – Folkestone doesn't have quite the allure of, say, Southwold, so much of the clientele will be local – who should expect value for money.

Here, they definitely get it – on the plates at least. My main, today's catch of Dover sole with asparagus and sauté potatoes, is wonderful – a good-sized fish, buttery without and soft inside, with lovely seasoning. Mr M's special, sea bream, comes with samphire, crushed potatoes and coriander pesto. The fish is fabulous – meaty and generous, although the seasoning's on the mild side. The kiddos make short work of squid with lime and chilli, and lemon-sole fingers with mushy peas: from my forkful, both are very good examples of their genres.

This time the plates linger even longer – not ideal in any circs, but with fishy scraps it quickly becomes unpleasant. A waiter drifts over thrice, only to show a couple to a nearby (uncleared) table and take the bill to another couple. Is it just that we're at one end of the long room?

From a 7.30pm start, we finally get puds at 9.45pm, when the children are flagging. Excellent pavlova, chunky Bakewell tart and an imaginative cold chocolate and sea-buckthorn fondant give us enough energy to propel us back to our B&B.

If Rocksalt is to work, Mark Sargeant needs to fix the service, and fast. He's not in tonight, I'm told. He's not cheffing here at all, in fact – Simon Dyer is, and he's very good. The dozy staff forgot to put our two mains on the bill – which I only notice a day later. I've contacted Mr Sargeant as I really want this place to succeed. The sweet lady in my B&B was so excited about a smart new restaurant in town. Rocksalt's got pulling power, but it's going to take more than sourdough and salmon to keep people coming back.

twitter.com/lisamarkwell

6.5/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10 as good as it gets

Rocksalt 4-5 Fish Market, Folkestone, Kent, tel: 01303 884 633 Lunch, daily. Dinner, Mon-Sat. About £100 for two, with wine

Bayside beauties

The Hambrough

Hambrough Road, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, tel: 01983 856 333

The view over the Channel is sensational, as is Robert Thompson's elaborate but delicate cooking at this fab hotel restaurant

The Seafood Restaurant

The Scores, Bruce Embankment, St Andrews, Fife, tel: 01334 479475

This striking glass box, hanging over the water, provides spectacular views over the bay, while its simple, fresh seafood is full of flavour

Portmeirion Hotel

Portmeirion, Gwynedd, north Wales, tel: 01766 772 440

This wonderfully located dining-room in this fantasy-Italianate village, offers fantastic cooking (if with too many smears and foams for some)

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2011' www.hardens.com

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week