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Muddy Eats: Pick Up Pintxos

Say hello to a real foodie gem loved by those in-the-know! Pick-Up Pintxos is a Basque-inspired restaurant sitting in the heart of the Creative Quarter in Folkestone. So what did we think? Read on!

If you need some holiday vibes in your life, why not immerse yourself in Pick Up Pintxos for some seriously good Basque-inspired cuisine set in the vibrant Creative Quarter of Folkestone.

THE LOCATION 

Folkestone is steadily becoming known as a foodie-destination ever since Rocksalt set the bar high with its arrival in 2011 and now there is a wealth of independent restaurants throughout the town.

Folkestone Harbour Arm has nurtured a lot of this foodie talent within its pop-up’s over the years with many going onto set up shop elsewhere due to the desire for more space to accommodate the flocking punters.  

Pick Up Pintxos is a good case in point after launching in one of the old station rooms on Folkestone Harbour Arm, and with an ever-increasing following, this Basque-inspired restaurant recently opened its doors just a couple of minutes away in Folkestone Harbour, at the foot of the old high street known as the Creative Quarter. They still have a sea view but with plenty of room to spread out. 

THE LOWDOWN 

The Times restaurant critic, Giles Coren notoriously said Pick Up Pintxos was the best Spanish food that he’d had outside of Spain, so it was high-time for us to see what all the fuss was about. The uber talented Gianni Modena is at the helm, having worked at world famous Arzãk, in San Sebastián, Spain, widely hailed as one of the top ten restaurants in the world. And before that he worked with Gary Rhodes – so you’re in super safe hands here!

Time for your Spanish lesson. One of the most amazing sights and tastes of the Basque Country are the bars laden with pintxos (pronounced pin-chos). Traditionally these small bites are served on a slice of bread with a stick through the middle, with many bars also serving small plates, a bit like tapas.

Pick Up Pintxos is recreating these flavoursome bar snacks (and more meatier dishes) which have been cooked to perfection. There’s an all-Spanish wine list too so if authenticity is a key driver for you when it comes to picking out new foodie destinations, this is the one for you. 

THE VIBE 

If you are missing some Spanish flair in your life, may we recommend you just soak up the colours in Pick Up Pintxos before you settle in for your feasting. Bold primary colours are used throughout, and you almost feel that you have walked onto the set of a Pedro Almodóvar film as he famously embraces primary blue, reds and yellows in his work. Authentic Spanish tiles and tropical plants complete the look, and our only gripe is that the space is maybe too large for the demand.

I’m sure it is packed to the rafters each evening, but our Friday lunchtime visit had only a few other tables booked so the emptiness of the other tables was a little underwhelming. But that’s where our Muddy readers come in as we are here to slip you the goss about the best independent foodie places in Kent so get in there quick and grab those other tables.  

SCOFF AND QUAFF 

Ok – first things first, go hungry as there is a lot of inspiring food on the menu and we did our best to work our way through the extensive menu. Pick Up Pintxos’ ordering philosophy is all about going ‘slow and low’ so slip into Spanish time here and take your time by staggering your ordering so you can relish each dish as it comes.  

We suggest you opt for The Gilda (anchovy, guindilla pickled chilli and gordal olive) whilst sipping on your Spanish wine and working out what to try next. The Boquerones are also a must – Sardines marinated in sea salt, Valdespino Jerez sherry vinegar and Arbequina extra virgin olive oil. The die-hard Pintxos experts will know that it is typically anchovies used instead of sardines in this dish, but the meatier aspect of the sardines normally wins them over.  

We opted for some classics such as the Jamón Croquetas (filled with the silkiest of bechamel sauces and jamón from Turel) and Gambas Pil Pil (King Prawns cooked in a garlic and parsley sauce on Dockers sour dough bread which is a local Folkestone supplier) as well as more unusual choices such as Tempura Lamb (slow-cooked lamb cutlet, tempura crispy vegetables, pea and mint puree) and Salt Cod Fritters with Saffron Aioli with the salt cod sourced from San Sebastian. Be bold in your choices as much as you can as you will be rewarded with some exquisite combinations.  

A return visit is already on the horizon whereby we shall be heading straight for the Morcilla and Membrillo Balls and their more substantial dishes – Basque Vegetable Stew consists of peas, violet artichokes and piquillo pepper with parsley and a soft slow cooked egg as well and Pick Up Pintxos die-hard fans swear by the pan-fried hake in a squid ink sauce made with Rioja sauce with crispy sweet guindillas.

You should also know about their asador oven, a traditional wood and charcoal burning grill widely used in the Basque country, and our Instagram intelligence illustrates the fancy ways they cook a wild whole turbot in a clasp with a truffle and Vermut (Spanish’s answer to Vermouth) dressing.  

There is only one pudding on the menu and quite frankly, I am not sure anything else should bother to compete. The Tarta de Queso Crema, aka a traditional Basque baked cheesecake, is sublime and should be attacked with a spoon – from all angles. 

ANYTHING ELSE? 

If you have time to linger in Folkestone, make sure you drag yourself up the Old High Street in the Creative Quarter (and you might be grateful for the exercise) for a potter around some really decent independent shops. Muddy favourites include Objectables for borderline distasteful but seriously funny greetings cards, Kitty McCall for colourful interiors and Moo Like a Monkey for cute and sustainably sourced kiddie items. 

Also incorporate a trip to Folkestone Harbour Arm as since opening in 2015, it has cemented itself as a major destination on the Kent coast. Soak up this unique cultural attraction as you can absorb live music, sample the goods from nearly 30 independent food and drink vendors, admire the Anthony Gormley statue set beneath it and our (personal fave) enjoy a drink and the views the tiny Lighthouse Champagne Bar, tucked at the end of the arm and winner of Best Bar in Kent in the 2021 Muddy Awards. 

THE MUDDY VERDICT   

GOOD FOR? Foodies (of course), day-trippers to Folkestone as you are in the midst of the action, date night especially with so much fodder to talk about and would also work well for a big group booking as it then gives you a chance to work your way through the entire menu.  

NOT FOR? Unless you have adventurous small children in your midst, this is not the one for them BUT a great way to initiate teens/young adults into discovering new tastes as you can order a medley of Pintxos for them to sample.   

THE DAMAGE   

Pintxos plates range from £4 to £12 and if you are after the more substantial meal options, prices can range from £17 to £26. Spanish wine list is extensive and starts from £19.50 up to £105.00 for the Remelluri Blanco and Gran Reserva from Rioja Alavesa.  

2-4 South St, Folkestone, CT20 1RW, pickuppintxos.com, 01303 250 544, reservations@pickuppintxos.com 

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