Rocksalt Restaurant and Bar is a newly built destination restaurant in Folkestone Harbour and is the first restaurant venture for executive chef Mark Sargeant. The restaurant and bar forms a crucial milestone in the regeneration of Folkestone’s ‘Old Town’ and harbour, serving to reconnect visitors and the population of the coastal town with the working harbour and seafront. The restaurant is located on Folkestone’s harbour edge, adjacent to its working slipway where local fishermen unload their catch, delivering fresh fish to the restaurant daily.
Perched in the corner of the tidal harbour between a listed brick viaduct and cobbled street, the restaurant faces the former fish market. Folkestone boasts a small fishing fleet who off-load catches on to the slipway directly adjacent to the restaurant. The building sits on a new curved sea wall and borrows back land to form a wine cellar, and timber dolphin piles protect the building from stray boats. The building’s close proximity to the harbour waters meant that it was essential that the chosen materials were robust in order to withstand the marine environment.
On approach, the building presents itself from under a brick arch and then peels away from the cobbled street to reveal the harbour. Three curved walls, decreasing in height, are clad in shot-blasted black larch to echo the surrounding context. A slate plinth raises the building from the flood risk zone and elevates the views. Angled reveals on picture windows allow views into the kitchen, reflecting the working nature of the fish market, and offer views back to the street. The slate steps leading to the entrance merge into public bench seating at the top of the jetty facing out to sea.
At ground floor level, large glass sliding doors allow uninterrupted panoramic views of fishing boats at high tide and sandy shingle flats at low tide. Three large sliding doors expand the dining area to a cantilevered balcony with a glass balustrade and curved zinc soffit, ideal for alfresco dining. The interior of the restaurant takes strong influences from the immediate context. The interior colours emulate colours of the sea and sky – rising from dark, aquatic greens and dark tones of timber at ground floor; rising to a lighter palette of blues, greys and whites, contrasting with warmer shades of iroko on the first floor bar and terrace.
A steel frame construction was ideal for the architectural ambition of the building and allowed a tight programme to be achieved. Galvanized elements were a fundamental part of the steel frame in areas open and semi-exposed to the elements. On the ground floor balcony, iroko decking slats sit on large galvanized steel balcony support brackets bolted to the concrete slab, allowing the elegant structure to cantilever over the sea. Galvanized steel was also specified for semi-exposed areas of the external canopies on the ground and first floor terraces, helping to achieve slender cantilevered roof spans. The completed building sees its concept realised by re-engaging visitors and local residents alike with Folkestone’s rich coastal heritage, serving as a catalyst to revitalise the local area.
Architect: Guy Hollaway Architects
Image: Ashley Gendek