I haven't written one of these reviews for a while and, to be honest, I wondered whether I ever would again. There are only so many times you can be bothered to write something about crap food served by people who don't give a damn about good food or customer service. And, anyway, every time I did write a review of a place I loved it always closed down shortly afterwards.............
Well, it gives me great pleasure to say that Sandbanks is truly stunning. I don't mind admitting that J and I were nervous. The East Cliff Pavilion will be well known to most Folkestoners, probably most famous as a place you came to for tea and cake with your gran on damp March Sunday afternoons. It wasn't, with the greatest of respect, known for its culinary expertise. But, once we got there, we couldn't have been more reassured. Its had a facelift and a redesign inside. The new restaurant and its stylish separate bar area have their own entrance, away from the function rooms at the back of the building. Even if there were a wedding going on, you would have no idea from the restaurant or bar. The room itself is large, airy, elegantly decorated and with great views out across the channel and harbour.
But all of that is a bonus. What makes this place really special is the food. Its modern british, with a bit of french and italian thrown in as well and its classy. No surprise really when you discover the head chef is Chris, previously from the legendary Truffles in Hythe (now sadly gone and much missed). Locally sourced produce, particularly meat and fish, are transformed into dishes that are simply a level above the competition in Folkestone, Hythe etc. We both had the carpaccio of beef to start and it managed to be both light and gutsy. My main course of turbot with risotto and bacon foam was one of the nicest things I have eaten and J's rack of lamb proved what an interesting but great combination that lamb and black pudding can make. The desserts were pretty special as well. For the gluttonous or simply indecisive, we can heartily recommend the assiette, which is a combination of miniature versions of all of the desserts on the menu - the chocolate teardrop (which I am sure I remember as a Truffles' highlight) is to die for.
Unlike a lot of restaurants, the food isn't let down by a mediocre wine list. There is something for everyone here and a lot of thought has clearly gone in to trying to find interesting wine at a reasonable price that matches the food. For those with even more refined palates and deeper pockets, I understand that there is going to be a "reserve" wine list coming very soon which will feature an even greater selection of special wines for those that are interested. Sounds great.
I cannot speak too highly of this place. Iain, the general manager and Moira, the functions manager, have created an exciting environment and with the proven talents of the head chef Chris, it deserves to do really well. If you are thinking of eating out, just give it a try. I promise you won't be disappointed. Folkestone has waited far too long for a restaurant that is really special. I really hope that people will take the opportunity to support this place and keep it going.