Culi­nary dig­nity be­stowed on sim­ple food

TA­BLE FOR TWO A scep­ti­cal Flett was pleas­antly sur­prised by a hum­ble sea­side town THE FOLKE­STONE WINE COM­PANY £ 90 7/ 10

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - The Sunday Cook - Kathryn

Afew decades ago – its ex­act et­y­mol­ogy long since lost in the mists of time – the name “Ly­dia Folke­stone-hov­er­craft” evolved as my short­hand to de­scribe a girl who was very posh, very pretty and not ter­rif­i­cally bright; a few years later, and she would cer­tainly have moved in the same cir­cles as Harry En­field’s Tim Nice-but-dim. In the Nineties (if only in my head), Ly­dia be­came PA to the an­glophile US ty­coon Chevron Chi­cane and briefly dated the ac­tor Nau­gahyde Ban­quette – known as Hyde – be­fore fi­nally, and very hap­pily, mar­ry­ing French aristo Robert Roy­aume- Unis- Calais- Co­quellesCo­quilles -St-jacques, and mov­ing to a shabby chateau near Amiens, where she raised the twins, Babord and Tri­bord.

I once in­tro­duced the con­cept of Ly­dia to my sons (16 and 12) and was met with blankly un­com­pre­hend­ing ex­pres­sions on the grounds, pre­sum­ably, that the phrase “Folke­stone Hov­er­craft” was as mean­ing­less to them as, say, “eight-track car­tridge” or “dig­i­tal clock ra­dio”. In­deed, there are prob­a­bly 16-year-olds in Folke­stone it­self who have no idea that, in The Time Be­fore Youtube, it was per­fectly nor­mal to travel to Boulogne and back from their home town on a Cbee­bies-styled seago­ing ves­sel that, though in­vari­ably named af­ter a mem­ber of the Royal fam­ily, ought re­ally to have been called Hovery Mchover­face. Any­way, Folke­stone’s cross-chan­nel port closed in 2000 – as, ap­par­ently, did Folke­stone it­self.

I hadn’t vis­ited since the Tri­en­nial in 2011; how­ever, I had watched Danny Boyle’s mov­ing Ar­mistice Day cen­te­nary project, Pages of the Sea, in which Wil­fred Owen was drawn in the Folke­stone sands. A cou­ple of days later, an ac­quain­tance sug­gested I visit the im­prob­a­bly con­fi­dent-sound­ing Folke­stone Wine Com­pany – the kind of busi­ness that Ly­dia’s younger brother, Piers, might have set up in, say, the spring of 2008, only to have shut up shop that Oc­to­ber. In­deed, even with a rec­om­men­da­tion I trusted, I still sus­pected TFWC was get­ting ideas above its sta­tion – even if its sta­tion can now get you to/from St Pan­cras in well un­der an hour, thanks to HS1. This and the M20 makes the town (72 miles from Lon­don) very com­mutable – un­like Hast­ings (71 miles from Lon­don), which is where I live. There is – I con­fess – a part of me that ever-so-slightly wanted Folke­stone still to have “Loserville” tat­tooed on its knuck­les and for its epony­mous “Wine Com­pany” – Ha! – to be caught in the act of dis­ap­pear­ing up its own la-di-da, if not Ly­dia’s.

Given I had parked down by the seafront, the restau­rant’s lo­ca­tion be­hoved (though it’s noth­ing like Hove, for the record) that I wend my way through the “Creative Quar­ter”, in which the Steep Street Cof­fee House’s come-hither win­dows re­vealed lovely book-lined walls and a clien­tele of, pre­sum­ably, hap­pily caf­feinated cre­atives. My lunch date was fur­ther up the hill, past the funky greet­ings eet­ings card shop and the yarn-bombed ex­tex­te­rior of a chic hic an­ti­quary.

In pleas­ing con­ntrast to so many ress- tau­rants, TFWC’S ’s web­site boasts only ly “Sea­sonal. Fresh. sh. Good”. Chef David vid Hart has done time me at Kent’s finest, The Sports­man; but the e mod­estly white-painted d in­te­rior (bare floor­boards, s, scrubbed pine, black­board menu, reg­gae sound­track) is so generic cosy-lo­cal­restau­rant that it fails even to shout “Folke­stone” – no old framed Hover­speed post­cards, nor, in­deed, even “wine”. It feels ex­actly like a lentil­heavy Not­ting Hill eatery of the early Sev­en­ties, a time when “eatery” was a word you could not only still use, but use as the name of a restau­rant.

Worth men­tion­ing, too, that TFWC’S de­lib­er­ately mis­matched cut­lery in­cluded the big­gest fork I’ve ever seen – though it was no use when it came to my cau­li­flower soup starter, the colour of mash and the con­sis­tency of wall­pa­per paste but none the less hum­ming with a depth of flavour that be­stowed in­stant culi­nary dig­nity on a hum­ble veg­etable. It turned out that this is ab­so­lutely TFWCS USP. My part­ner’s starter-sized truf­fle gnoc­chi with leek and Parme­san clev­erly re­tained tex­tu­ral con­sis­tency, and slid down ac­com­pa­nied only by a mur­mu­ra­tion of “mm­mmm”s.

My con­fit shoul­der of col­lapsi­ble lamb with com­fort­ingly Seven­tiesstyle len­tils, au­tumn vegeta­bles and aioli was ex­actly what any­one who isn’t ve­gan will want for lunch in De­cem­ber, though only if they have noth­ing in the di­ary for the rest of the day. My part­ner’s cod fil­let with squid and gre­mo­lata also got the thumbs up. We had only one glass of a very nice sauv each, what with driv­ing, but made up for it by or­der­ing the gi­ant tarte Tatin with cin­na­mon ice cream (“for three-ish”), which needed a 25-minute head start and ar­rived look­ing as gor­geous and as inim­itably French as one of Ly­dia’s sis­ters-in-law. On an ad­ja­cent ta­ble a diner de­clared, “I’ve eaten a lot of tarte Tatin, and this is the best I’ve ever had,” and I’m fairly sure he wasn’t be­ing paid.

Bot­tom line: I en­joyed the cook­ing at TFWC so much that a gi­ant cup of fil­ter cof­fee barely b reg­is­tered; if I want “creat “creative” cof­fee in Folke­stone, ther there’s al­ways Steep Street. Truth is, I’m slightly an­noyed. When it co comes to rein­vented sea­side t towns, for­get your trendy M Mar­gate, el­e­gant East­bourne and ornery Hast­ings: Folke­stone is clearly the fu­ture, esp pe­cially if the mu­nif­i­cent lo­cal pa­tron, Sir Roger de Haan, ever de­cides to re­gen­er­ate ol’hovery.

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