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
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Life and Style
Sony Computer Entertainment President and Group CEO Andrew House, executive in charge of Sony Network Entertainment, introduces PlayStation Now
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
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

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?