Where exactly is it? Right in the centre of Old Town Folkestone, at the tip of the steeply cobbled Creative Quarter, and a swift ten-minute stroll down to the scenic harbour: blink and you could be in Cornwall. Honest.
The interior and vibes? Boutique accommodation aside (see below), Space is mostly a bar and gallery which, over the last few years, owners Andy and Sam Shorten have built up as an innovative platform for cutting-edge exhibitions. This summer they rebooted their venue with an emphasis on revolving food pop-ups and lots of socially distanced seating inside, while the huge secret garden out back will be fully covered and heated by autumn proper.
What was good about the rooms? Room, actually: accommodation is singular here. A couple of years back the couple converted one of the outbuildings into a stylish luxury wood cabin nestled at the tip of the garden. There’s something so appealing about a hideaway, right? And this cosy retreat, painted black, is surrounded by bamboo trees, and has its own terrace (which catches the morning sun), dotted with geraniums, rosemary, olives and ferns.
Inside? Why, it’s a textural delight: bare brick, dark wood, exposed beams and pendants, with ochre linen. A handful of vintage Penguins line one shelf, industrial lights the other. The white-tiled bathroom is spacious enough for both of you and quirkily housed in black-stained weatherboarding, while Crittal-style windows glimpse the Kentish hills beyond the terrace. Tea, fresh coffee, cold water and milk are all present and correct in the fridge.
OK, let’s talk food. Ah, so this is the unconventional bit. All day you can order bagels made by local heroes Bobbies Bakehouse; while every weekend is a rotating schedule of cheffy pop-ups from the town’s most esteemed outlets. On our visit pioneering London burger dons Lucky Chip (now relocated permanently to the town) cooked up a four-course BBQ feast including blackened broccoli, octopus with black garlic creme fraiche and lamb with flatbreads. Mouth watering yet? Or you might get Turkish mezze, Slice Almighty’s artisan wood-fired pizzas, tacos, Bao buns, or hip local restaurant Folkestone Wine Company dishing up a four-course French spesh. Phew.
What’s the service like? It’s a relaxing kind of place and extremely chilled: the owners are hands-on, knowledgeable and very friendly. This is neither a hotel nor a boutique B & B: it’s more like an Airbnb hidden away on the edge of a beer garden. With Covid restrictions, the bar closes at 9pm so while your sleep won’t be disturbed, delicate souls should remember that it is a bar, so if you languish in the room in the afternoon or early evening, you will hear people having fun.
To drink? On-trend: Borough Wines on tap, bespoke cocktail list and lots of Kentish beers from Curious Brewery and elsewhere. Zeren Wilson, of feted blog Bitten Written, is also curating wines to accompany the food pop-ups.
Breakfast? Nope, but it’s barely a step to one of many local cafes in the Creative Quarter: extremely popular is the nearest, Steep Street (but be prepared to queue). We’re such early risers that we went to the old-school Hillside Cafe at 730am on a Sunday morning for a sausage white-bread sarnie (just £2.50). Tea in a mug is a quid, too.
Don’t miss… Space was in situ long before its glam neighbours, the spacious pizzeria Luben, pan-Asian diner Market Square (where we rated the pad Thai), and buttermilk fried chicken shop Tin & Tap. Incidentally, all three of these are under the same ownership as nearby pub The Pullman, also an essential pit stop, as is its waterside sister, the Harbour Inn. Folkestone’s food scene is really firing, and food-lovers will be spoilt: absolute top tip is Pick-Up Pintxos (which I reviewed in the Guardian here), whose squid-ink croquetas are fantastic, while first-time visitors might be seduced by the magnificent location of Mark Seargent’s pioneering Rocksalt. And there’s the acclaimed (aforementioned) Folkestone Wine Company, too.
Where else should I check out? There’s so much to explore in Folkestone you could easily spend a week here: don’t miss a wander round the historic houses and boutiques of The Bayle and the Creative Quarter, including ace long-standing vintage clothing store Bounce; while the Harbour Arm is a hotbed of streetfood stalls, dazzling coastal vistas, and decent coffee, with a weekly artisan market every Sunday morning (10am-5pm). Walk to the tip, beyond the impressive Gormley sculpture Another Time (follow the sign) and stop at the Lighthouse bar, with its tinkling classical soundtrack and panoramic views.
And then? Carry on south and you’ll reach the tropical feel of the Coastal Park; while dotted around town is a permanent trail of world-class art, featuring everyone from Tracey Emin To Lubaina Himid (above), courtesy of the town’s four well-received Triennials to date (next one: 2021; the last one I reviewed here in 2017). Particularly lovely is Cornelia Parker’s Folkestone Mermaid, at the tip of the Stade by Sunny Sands beach.
Three more tips? Old Bouverie, for the Bouverie Tap and the Rocksalt-owned Radnor Arms, with stunning interior; The Potting Shed, an antique store near Space, with late-night speakeasy behind (next door the Beer Shop is recommended, too); and the pretty waterfront village of Sandgate, half an hour’s enjoyable stroll along the attractive coastal path.
Like the Kent Coast? It’s one of our specialist destinations here at Weekendr. Read our guides to Deal, Margate, Broadstairs and Whitstable, as well as hotel reviews just inland at Wingham, Minster, Egerton and Sissinghurst, to name a few.