harbourside at the Folkestone harbour

Folkestone’s Harbour has undergone extensive renovations since 2014 to become one of Kent’s most popular visitor attractions.  Folkestone is part of Kent’s Heritage Coast, which is the only UK destination mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide in their top 10 regions to visit in the world.  Each part of the Harbour Arm site has its own unique feel and Harbourside is no exception. Nestled on the eastern side of the Arm it boasts stunning views over Sunny Sands to The Warren and the White Cliffs.  On bright days France is crystal clear, but everyday is different and spectacular.  The newly-renovated containers are about to open with exciting food venues, some run by familiar faces.  Paulo Kingston-Correia is the Folkestone Harbour & Seafront Company’s General Manager and he spoke to Folkelife about Harbourside.

creating a feeling

“In everything we do on Folkestone Harbour we’re looking to support new creative people with their ideas.  We’re not afraid to take risks and see what works. What’s exciting about our first  business to move into the larger shipping containers on Harbourside is that they’re already part of our Harbour Arm family.  Mark Babins has run Sole Kitchen, Harbour Coffee Company and The Fish Shack in The Goods Yard.  He’s now growing into a new space here just next to Harbour Coffee Company.”

Harbourside March 2023 Credit Matt Rowe
Sailbox and Portenio towards The Warren


Mark Babins has been part of the Harbour Arm traders since it opened in 2015.  Sole Kitchen started by selling fresh fish and chips and their own Harbour Coffee.  Now, with Harbour Coffee and their roasting container, The Fish Shack and the latest venue Sailbox, Mark can share his love of good food and exceptional coffee with every visitor to the Arm.

“I’d taken a break from hospitality and was working as a builder in 2015 when we started up Sole Kitchen with my partner Michael.  I wasn’t really sure I wanted to get back into hospitality but we played around at weekends here, serving food for Salt Festival and other things and I really enjoyed it.  I’d bought a couple of small fryers off Ebay so we could serve our fish and chips and by the end of 2015 we’d made a little bit of money.   We were offered the gig to come back in 2016 so we bought some bigger fryers and did the same again. 

“Each year we’ve grown and grown, it’s been staggering actually.  I did worry that if there were more traders then it would dilute trade for everyone but each year more and more people have come, more traders have come and so more people have come.”

giving people what they want

“I like to offer food of a quality and standard that I would want to eat if I were going out.  So that’s my plan, and it seems to be working.  The next thing with the Harbour Arm is that you really need to have space to sit down inside.  This is a fantastic venue, whatever the weather, but sometimes you need to experience that weather from inside rather than out.  When we expanded Harbour Coffee to be able to have seating inside it doubled our takings.  

“Last year we extended upwards with the Terrace on top of Harbour Coffee which again works really well, in good weather.  Now we’ve got Sailbox where we can offer all those breakfast/brunch and beyond menus that we’ve trialed in our other venues, and there’s space to sit inside.  There are 60 covers inside, and when we open up outside it takes it to 150.”

seaside Pub classics

“We have a reputation for always being open, and that’s really important.  Expect that of Sailbox too.  Open for breakfast, brunch and on into the evening, and serving what I call seaside pub classics.  Fish and chips is a must, but I’ve left the menu open so that we can serve what people want.  Smoked kipper rolls and bacon butties for breakfast always went down well at Sole Kitchen, simple brioche and sausage rolls… there’s always been a demand and so that’s what we’ll do.

“Our coffee is an important part of what we do too.  There’ll be space to buy our roasted beans and it will be available from all our venues to drink too.  I’m all for organic growth.  I could push and push and market this, but it’s growing in popularity because people are coming and tasting it, enjoying it, and buying it because it’s good.”

views to the warren

What I love about being on this side of the Arm is the view.  Sailbox will have 40 foot bi-fold doors at the front which look out across the beach and to The Warren, and round to all along the Arm.   Once the doors are open and the tables outside there really isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be than here.  If it rains, come inside, there’s plenty of room.  We’ve also got our own toilets so you need never leave!  We’re going to do our best to provide food that makes you want to come back again and again.

I’ve been a part of the Harbour team for 6 years now and it’s a good community down here.  I’ve dusted off my tools and have got stuck in with some of the build here, and I’ll always help the others out too.  We’re like a family here, it’s something special.”

Photo Credits: Harbour Arm at Sunrise: Dirk Seyfried, Orange House on Harbourside: Tilly Milnes, Interiors: Matt Rowe.

Mark Babins Credit Matt Rowe
Mark Babins Sailbox Credit Matt Rowe

discover more about folkestone below

The Workshop – Inspiring The Business Community
Digital Office Space – The Glassworks
Rebuilding and Renovation – ACME
Shoreline – The Place To Live

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