Scores out of 5: Veggie friendly : 3/5; Vegan-options available: TBC; Value for money: 4/5, Quality of cooking : 3.25/5; Ambience : 5/5; Service: 4/5 ;Atmosphere: 3.5/5
The Grand in Folkestone is a regal, part-residential , part holiday let venue with a fascinating history that stretches back over a 100 years.
According to its website it "...was constructed as gentlemen’s residential chambers, ..... King, Edward VII, became a frequent visitor, so much so that the locals would wander along The Leas in front of the building peering into the glasshouse to catch a glimpse of him; apparently because he and his friends were heavily bearded, it became likened to looking at monkeys in a cage, hence the sobriquet Monkey House".
And the Monkey House, now the Palm Court restaurant is where we ate.
The whole place evokes the gentle grandeur of bygone times and has an 'old-money', decadent feel . The restaurant's windows are set against the azure coastline, with clamouring seagulls to be heard and the white cliffs of Dover visible in the distance. I could well imagine the Scarlet Pimpernel popping in here for a drink with his aristocratic mates, before sailing off to rescue 'the Frenchies'.
I loved the casual glamour of the high creamy drape-lined ceilings and felt the restaurant evokes a sophisticated 60's filmstar chic that was definitely in keeping with our sprightly 70-something host, A, who was a model in her time .
Knowing I am veggie she had pre-booked vegetarian meals for us. I was also reliably informed that a vegetarian option is regularly available on the menu every day and is best pre-booked but is often not particularly imaginative.
Our table was simply decorated with proper table linen and crisp, white napkins.
Nearby, the central carvery area which was set in a grand hall boasted a huge buffet, with a number of vegetarian starter options (not labelled vegetarian, but the helpful staff will identify veggie-friendly options if in doubt). We tried the avocado slices, coleslaw, melon slices, bread rolls, pasta salad, new potatoes in mayonnaise and the tomato salad. The starters were all made to a good standard - freshly prepared , simple and nicely presented. My favourites were the thin-sliced melon which was a lovely palate cleanser and the light, yet creamy coleslaw.
Our main was a specially prepared dish of tomatoey-sauted vegetables, wedged between two slices of grilled aubergine (very close to a Melanzane Parmigiana but without the cheese). It was perfectly seasoned. For veggie sides, the carvery table is loaded with roast potatoes (cooked in oil) and steamed veggies. The potatoes were a bit cold and had the texture of cardboard, the veggies were filling but very plain. I didn't mind though; I ate every morsel of my main. I think the bracing sea air and the beautiful sunny day made it hard to find fault with anything and the simplicity of the flavours worked well for me on the day. The food wasn't as "grand" as the setting but it was perfectly nice.
Our waitress , a very young and charming girl, talked us through the veggie options amongst the puddings. I settled on the tiramisu, which was just so-so. I heard the chocolate mousse (unsuitable for veggies) and the strawberry tart (also unsuitable for veggies due to a gelatinous glaze) are the better pudding options.
The cheese board although touted as veggie, held a fairly dusty bunch of grapes (possibly left over from a royal banquet a couple of hundred years ago) and what appeared to be a pile-up of veggie-friendly and unfriendly cheeses. I was unsure if the other waiting staff were even vaguely aware if any cheese-s contained animal rennet, so I steadfastly avoided it.
The meal drew to a close with large, reasonably priced pots of tea and cafetieres of coffee which cost no more than a couple of quid each.
The verdict - At about £22 a head for the meal alone, the Sunday lunch is certainly not the cheapest option in Folkestone. But The Grand and The Palm Court restaurant are both definitely worth a visit- for the simple, homely food but perhaps more so for the splendid, coastal views and the harking back to the good old days, which to me form the perfect backdrop for my picture postcard memories of a great, relaxed day out with old and new friends.