Hotel and food review: Best Western Clifton Hotel, Folkestone
- Credit: Archant
The Best Western combines Victorian detail with modern convenience and offers a cracking steak house too
Perched on the Leas, with views across the channel to France, the Best Western Clifton Hotel dates back to 1864 and is something of a Folkestone landmark. It's exceptionally well situated, too, just 50 paces from the Leas Cliff Hall Conference and Entertainment Centre and a short stroll to both East Cliff Beach and the town centre and harbour.
Here you'll enjoy Victorian character, albeit a little faded in parts, as well as modern convenience (there's a Costa and a very smart bar), with the bonus of outdoor seating - which has been hugely popular this summer.
Once you've parked, reception will create an electronic permit for 24 hours (costs £3), as the hotel doesn't have its own car park. Then it's up to your room in an exceptionally tiny lift with carpeted walls for some reason, praying that no one tries to get in with you. My large double had a lovely sea view; below walkers, joggers and cyclists were busily active, there was music in the air and the Leas flowerbeds looked as immaculate and colourful as ever.
A little on the minimalist side (no mini bar or bathrobe), with a compact bathroom (shower over the bath, plastic curtain) but the bed was very comfy (although I'd have ditched the orange velour cushions) and there was a decent-sized desk, which is always a plus for me, and a couple of armchairs.
After a couple of hours on the laptop I wandered down (the stairs this time) to the rather fine Ocean Bleu Bar, where food and beverage assistant Chris Evans mixed me a sharp, refreshing Gin Mare cocktail as I perched up at the bar to watch. Doors open out to the outside seating.
Bar menu dishes include an all-day breakfast, burgers, fish and chips and sandwiches, but I had my eye on a higher prize - dinner at the recently opened Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill. Moody pictures of the celebrated chef in his enfant terrible days adorn the walls and indeed announce the restaurant on giant boards outside the hotel.
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It's definitely the jewel in this Best Western's crown and it's a lovely, airy space in shades of blue and grey where big windows overlook a tree-filled public garden. Calm and elegant.
From an appealing choice of starters that included salt-roasted beetroot and goat's cheese salad and potted duck, I chose a delicious plate of seared scallops served with aromatic black pudding and a crisp slice of pancetta. My wine was a bit slow to catch up with service, but when it arrived the Antonio Rubini Pinot Grigio delle Venezie was the perfect slightly dry but delicate accompaniment.
A word of praise for the highly informative wine list, which has recommendations from MPW himself. His Nibs triumphed with a barrel selection Malbec from the Uco Valley in Argentina that went beautifully with my 35-day aged rib-eye steak, grilled just the way I like it and served with a standout Bearnaise sauce, sides of French beans with toasted almonds and buttered garden peas with mint.
And the chips - ah, those thrice-cooked, piping hot, golden lovelies, so good I wrote not once but twice in my notebook: 'best chips ever!'
Throwing caution to the winds, I went for Mr Coulson's sticky toffee pudding to finish, which proved big, bold and brilliantly bonfire-night reminiscent, the rich, hot butterscotch sauce cooled by good ice cream. I don't know who Mr C is, but sir, I salute you.
You will be relieved to know that after such an indulgent feast I went for a restrained bowl of cereal with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, which is an entirely D-I-Y affair. The inclusion of lots of different cold meats and cheeses is undoubtedly a nod to the many European guests who stay here - I was a lone Brit that morning.
Come here for the convenience but linger to relish the views and do sample the excellent food - especially those chips!
What: Seafront hotel with its own Marco Pierre White steakhouse
Where: Best Western Clifton Hotel, Clifton Gardens, The Leas, Folkestone CT20 2EB, 03330 034095, bestwestern.co.uk/hotels
When: Breakfast 7am-11pm, lunch 12-2.30pm, dinner 6pm-10pm
How much: French onion soup £7.95, steaks £27.50-£30.50, haddock and chips £16.95, steak and ale pie £15.50; lunch £12.50 (one course), £17.50 (two courses)
Meet the Chef
Mark Clement, head chef
Tell us a bit about you
I've worked in hospitality since I was 15 and extensively in Kent and Sussex in corporate hospitality and restaurants. I have recently been teaching chefs and front-of-house staff. I have been at the Clifton just six weeks and thoroughly enjoy my role, working in a prestige hotel and with a great restaurant brand. I have a brilliant team around me too.
Your main suppliers?
Campbells for meats, Salvatori, Direct seafood suppliers and C&M Hayes for our vegetables, Oliver Kay for dairy. We are constantly looking for more local producers for our specials and events within the hotel
Your current favourite dish?
I like most of the dishes on the menu - I have a sweet tooth so the Billionaire cake is a naughty, indulgent favourite. I really enjoy starters like our Scotch egg, and the steaks are really great quality
Top cookery tip for our readers?
Keep ingredients simple, buy fresh and keep to a maximum of three key ingredients in a dish, otherwise flavours and textures get confused. Where possible, forage for food.
Who has influenced you most?
I've been influenced by all the great chefs in my training, but I had the good fortune to be up close to many of the best in the industry. Mark Hix is a chef I greatly admire
Your breakfast this morning?
I had two double espressos - sorry! But usually it's a real Swiss muesli, an egg and Lapsang marmalade from Grandpa Oranjeboom on toast, with lots of butter.