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Pub review: Radnor Arms, Folkestone

PUBLISHED: 14:13 20 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:13 20 November 2018

Smoked haddock and salmon fish pie (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Smoked haddock and salmon fish pie (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

If you like fun with your food, you are going to love the new Radnor Arms in Folkestone, where the welcome is as generous-hearted as the food offer

The latest in the growing family that is the Ramblinns Group has a fresh urban edge to it. In contrast to its Kent country brothers and sisters The Five Bells at Brabourne and Warehorne’s The Woolpack, The Radnor Arms is the transformed former run-down Victorian pub The Frenchman in Folkestone.

Neither in the centre nor by the sea – location is the Bouverie ‘village’ area – yet on a weekday lunchtime it’s buzzing, and has been since the doors opened at the end of May. You can see why.

With the off-the-wall design and architectural skills of the irrepressible and talented John Rogers at work, you can definitely expect the unexpected here.

Old brick walls and high ceilings create the stage for mismatched, slightly school-lab furniture, a big wood-fired stove, open shelves stocked with Sugar & Spice pickled onions and chutneys for sale. There’s quite of lot of plumbing memorabilia. Don’t ask.

The main dining area leading to the bar (photo: Manu Palomeque)The main dining area leading to the bar (photo: Manu Palomeque)

We entered into a big, vibrant open dining space where a huge copper-topped long table facing the glass entrance was filled with a happy group tucking into the most gigantic home-made burgers you’ve ever seen.

It’s pure theatre here and My Work Colleague and I barely exchanged a coherent sentence for the first 10 minutes as our eyes darted everywhere, taking in the frankly crazy decor and drinking in the delicious aroma of food cooked over chestnut wafting from the open kitchen.

There’s a different area for every mood and combination of family, friends and the loved-up. Choose from cosy corners and intimate group spaces to the big central area and a smaller dedicated bar where you can try specialist beers served in one-third measures rather as you would sample wine.

Upstairs there’s a gallery space with further seating and an industrial feel to the painted corrugated iron-clad walls hung with regularly changing displays of work by local artists.

Dark chocolate and salted milk jam tart with caramelised bananas and pecans (photo: Manu Palomeque)Dark chocolate and salted milk jam tart with caramelised bananas and pecans (photo: Manu Palomeque)

You overlook the cute outside space – which proved such a boon in the super summer of 2018 – where cheery blue seating and seasonal plants in terracotta pots give this former shabby yard a positively continental vibe.

Visiting as late summer turned into autumn, executive chef Mark Pearson, who is responsible for the four Ramblinns kitchens (the fourth is over the border in Rye), had kindly prepared a sample menu that showcased four dishes you’ll be able to order right now.

A word of advice: bring a hearty appetite and don’t plan on eating later if you’re lunching or before if here for dinner. Portions are extremely generous and everything is cooked to order so it’s vibrantly fresh – and seasonal.

First up was a vegan starter of butterbean hummus, a new one on me but one I’ll certainly now make at home, served with maple syrup roasted carrots, crispy onion and Harissa oil cumin crackers.

Mark Pearson (photo: Manu Palomeque)Mark Pearson (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Very filling and all a bit beige, apart from those lovely baby carrots, so maybe treat it more as a main and perhaps add a few other side dishes. My glass of Chapel Down Flint Dry was spot on.

Next up was crispy fried squid with chorizo jam – a great combo – and the most deliciously refreshing salad of fennel and candied lemon that both cut through and complemented the big flavours superbly. Loved it.

Should anyone ask you what the mystery ingredient in the chorizo jam is, by the way, I can reveal that it’s four shots of espresso. No wonder I was bouncing off the walls.

When chef brought out a gigantic fish pie, piping hot in its cast-iron skillet, we both thought it was for the table – but no, we had one each. A thing of beauty, with its golden mashed potato hiding tasty pieces of salmon and haddock and topped with bright green kale and the tiniest, tastiest brown shrimps. A wodge of grilled savoy cabbage on the side was so wonderful it’s made me want to now char grill all my veg.

This was a splendid dish but even I couldn’t manage even half of it and we all know by now that I can Eat For England. Next time I must remember a doggy bag. The Artesa White Rioja Viura I drank was another fab recommendation.

And yes, there was pudding too, a sweet treat of dark chocolate and salted milk jam tart with caramelised banana and pecans – plus clotted cream, just in case you hadn’t absorbed enough calories.

I had a train to catch, otherwise I’d have lingered until evening and can’t wait to return to see what the pub is like at night. I bet it’s magical, especially in cosy winter.

There’s a huge generosity of spirit here, and that’s not just in the portion sizes. The staff seem genuinely interested in what you think and if you’re enjoying yourself. A young waiter took the trouble to sit down with an elderly pensioner happily tucking into lunch on her own to see if she was OK. I am sure it made her day – it most certainly made mine. Make sure you visit – and often. u

The essentials

What: Quirky town pub

Where: The Radnor Arms, Christ Church Road, Folkestone CT20 2SX, 01303 254435, visitus@radnorarmsoldbouverie.com, www.ramblinns.com/the-radnor-arms

When: meal times 8am-9.30pm, bar opens 10am

How much: South coast fish fingers and crushed peas on chargrilled bread £7.50, pork terrine with Kent cider £22.50, bonfire sourdough pizza £13.65, roasted butternut squash, Sussex blue cheese and roasted walnut risotto £12.50, dark chocolate and salted milk jam tart with clotted cream £7.50.

Meet the chef

Mark Pearson, executive chef

Tell us a bit about you

After leaving North Hertfordshire catering college in Letchworth, I moved to London at 18 and worked under chef David Nicholls at The Royal Garden Hotel and The Ritz. I then worked in Suffolk under chef Alan Ford at Hintlesham Hall but missed the excitement of London, so went to The White House Hotel under Clinton Lovell who now owns the Romney Bay House Hotel. I got offered a position at a Relais & Châteaux hotel in South Africa called The Plettenberg, was quickly made head chef but after four amazing years came back to the UK. I started work at The Lake Vyrnwy hotel in North Wales. I then went to The Starr in Great Dunmow, relocating to Kent in 2011 to work at The Mulberry Tree restaurant in Boughton Monchelsea.

And your new role here?

I’ve worked for the Ramblinns Group since July 2018. It’s a completely new challenge for me, getting my ideas across to our four different kitchens. I really enjoy writing menus and working with our talented chefs. I also admire owner John Rogers’ ethos of bringing back to life beautiful pubs which were closed and making them a hub of the community again.

And your principal local suppliers?

Brett at Johnsons for fruit and veg, Paul at P & H fish in Hastings, our butcher Jamie in Winchelsea and Christophe at Maws Fine Foods for our dry goods

Top cookery tip for our readers?

Use a ‘what’s in season’ calendar so you can buy things for the best quality, at the best price. Get your local producers’ advice, they will always be happy to help you. Then just let the produce do the talking.

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