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Restaurant review: The Cliffe restaurant at The View Hotel, Folkestone

PUBLISHED: 11:58 15 April 2019

The hotel and restaurant command a fine seafront position on The Leas (photo: Manu Palomeque)

The hotel and restaurant command a fine seafront position on The Leas (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

A great location on Folkestone's famous Leas, a dedicated young team and really tasty food awaits at The View Hotel

The Leas in Folkestone is arguably the most beautiful area in the whole town and on my recent visit, I was mightily impressed by the uniformly sparkling frontages along the lengthy promenade, originally owned by Lord Radnor, who designed it for the upper classes.

Luckily that's no longer the case and ordinary people like you and me are allowed in these days. Which is A Good Thing as I was staying the night at the pristine View Hotel, perched right on the Leas and fronted by immaculate and colourful flowerbeds.

Greeted by the lovely Philippa on reception, I was thrilled when I realised my exceptionally grand second-floor room for the night had brilliant sea views from its floor to ceiling windows and immediately vowed I'd leap out of bed to greet the sunrise the next day. That didn't happen; I blame a far too comfy kingsize bed. And the hospitality …

The Cliffe Restaurant is smartly contemporary (photo: Manu Palomeque)The Cliffe Restaurant is smartly contemporary (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Suitably abluted – the en suite has a standalone bath as well as a large shower – after a little bit of corridor confusion I found my way to the boutique bar adjoining The Cliffe Restaurant. It has its own entrance from The Leas, while the hotel entrance is on a side street, just so you know.

The strategy works, as lots of people came in that way to either enjoy the bar menu (tapas, fish and chips, halloumi and vegetable skewers) with drinks or just a cocktail or beer after work.

A mix of families, solo business guests, girls on a night out and Channel workers created a good buzz and I was soon relaxing on a velour sofa with a pink grapefruit gin in hand (barman Filip Budny's excellent recommendation) watching the sky turn the same colour as my drink.

Meals are tasty and generously served (photo: Manu Palomeque)Meals are tasty and generously served (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Young, bubbly restaurant manager Holly Pearce, a mere 24 but with the confidence of someone twice her age, came to usher me to my table and I learnt that she's worked in restaurants since she was 14 and loves it so much one day she'd like to open her own. I suspect she will too.

The dining room is a tad bland – plain dark wood square or round tables, a mix of grey and turquoise velour chairs, big canvas seascape prints on the walls, quite a lot of chandeliers – but Holly adds the charisma it lacks and the food is very tasty.

From a choice of six starters that included ham hock arancini and local rope-grown mussels, I chose the soft-shell crab.

My handsome suite for the night overlooking the coast (photo: Manu Palomeque)My handsome suite for the night overlooking the coast (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Prepared tempura style and presented whole on a generous pool of coriander emulsion dotted with micro cress, it was a light, crispy and fun start to dinner. Rather nice too with a glass of Picpoul De Pinet.

Tempted, as ever, by the sea bass, I tore myself away and opted for chef's favourite – an uncompromisingly robust plateful of lamb shank.

Braised long and slow in red wine until the meat just fell off the bone, it perched proudly on a bed of champ mash studded with whole roasted garlic and accompanied by a rich Rosemary, red pepper and olive jus. Only a mighty Argentinian Malbec could do that amount of flavour justice.

Head chef Amir McNeill (photo: Manu Palomeque)Head chef Amir McNeill (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Very grateful for Holly's nicely judged pauses between courses, although startled anew every time she appeared from behind me through some kind of secret door, I completed the feast with a wildly indulgent warm chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream and pistachio crumb.

The following morning, after breakfast in an unremarkable basement of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon draped over the top rather than cooked as part of the dish – on disappointing toast (a choice of 'white' or 'brown' thin sliced these days ain't good enough) – I went for a much-needed walk along The Leas.

And jolly fine it was. Town is suprisingly close – I'd soon passed the bandstand and Leas Cliff Hall, with whom the hotel has a special arrangement for discounted pre-theatre meals – and was heading for the striking Step Short Memorial Arch.

It all made sense now that the hotel has recently added lunches and an already-popular brunch menu to its repertoire. I'm coming back to try that, then I'll head for the intriguing little beach I could see from my room via The Zig Zag Path built after the First World War to allow access to the shore.

Folkestone is fab, obviously, and The View is a great addition to its charms, with a dedicated young team at the helm and some exciting cooking emerging.

The essentials

What: Boutique hotel with in-house restaurant and great sea views

Where: The Cliffe restaurant and The View Hotel, The Leas, Folkestone CT20 2EF, 01303 252102, www.viewhotelfolkestone.co.uk

When: Mon-Fri, 5pm-9pm, Sat 12pm-4pm and 5pm-9pm, Sun 5pm-8pm

How much: pan-roasted duck breast £21.20, Folkestone seafood chowder £18.50, oven-roasted pork belly £18.40, lemon meringue pie with raspberry coulis £7.80

Meet the chef: Amir McNeill, head chef

Tell us a bit about you

I started my chef career 11 years ago, when I was 17, working as a kitchen porter in a gastro pub in London. I began cooking quite soon after that as I was eager to learn and help the team out as much as I could. I have since worked in a few London restaurants and gained experience before moving to Kent. I enjoy reading cookery books and researching new methods and recipes for the restaurant, where I have worked since October 2016. I love the creative aspect of my job, using ingredients in a different way and presenting dishes to a high standard.

Your main local suppliers?

Our fruit and veg are from David Catt & Sons, based in Maidstone, and our meat from Sevenoaks. The quality and service from both is fantastic.

Current favourite dish on the menu?

That's a difficult question as I love them all equally, but I would say the pan-roasted duck breast with blackberry and ruby Port jus is the one that stands out for me. But the pork belly is also a winner, so it's very difficult to choose just one.

Who has influenced you most?

My mum has influenced me quite a bit, I grew up watching her cook in the kitchen and helping with bits of pastry and cutting and chopping. She taught me that cooking and eating is about family and doing it with love makes a massive difference.

I would also like to thank my previous head chefs for inspiring me: Eric for being hard but fair and teaching me how to lead; Greig Hughes for his passion for ingredients and local produce and Nathan Greenstreet for his foraging knowledge.

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