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Portenio – Harbourside Heaven For Amazing Argentinian Steak

Have you ever experienced an evening that felt like it couldn’t be any more perfect? The kind of magical night where you feel like pinching yourself to make sure it isn’t a dream? I had one of those evenings recently, seated at a table at Portenio, overlooking the tranquil waters of the Folkestone Harbourside, and it’s one I hope to repeat many more times.

Portenio Folkestone's view of the white cliffs

A breathtaking view

As the sun began its slow descent towards the horizon, its warm glow painted the sky in strokes of gold and pink, bathing the White Cliffs in intense orange hues. The salty breeze carried whispers of the sea as the waves lapped against the harbour wall and the distant calls of seagulls added a layer of seaside enchantment.

As we took in the breathtaking view, the soft buzz of conversation and laughter, and the clinking of glasses and cutlery gently enveloped us, infused with the tantalising sound of sizzling meats from the open kitchen. The fragrant smell of Argentine cuisine cooking on the traditional charcoal and woodfire grill beckoned the senses.

The amazing view of France and the harbour arm from Portenio Folkestone

The evening held the promise of not just a meal, but an experience. So when a perfectly grilled Argentinian steak adorned with a medley of vibrant vegetables was placed before us, and the sunset pink began to give way to fiery reds in the summer sky, we were captivated.

Ok, so I might be romanticising things a little, but the view is spectacular, especially on a warm summer evening. The viewpoint is fabulous from The Harbourside because you can take in Sunny Sands and the White Cliffs on one side, with views of France and The Harbour Arm on the other. Throw in some good Argentinian food and a few glasses of Malbec and you’ve got a thoroughly pleasant evening.

Portenio Folkestone inside, with it's open kitchen
Portenio Folkestone inside

The restaurant itself is constructed entirely from repurposed shipping containers, as are all the units on The Harbourside area of Folkestone Harbour Arm. Inside is a bright, quirky space characterised by a medley of mismatched furniture, with artefacts from Argentina adorning the walls. The vista is superb from the inside, great for those windy days, but if you are to truly appreciate the views, a table outside on a warm evening is unbeatable.

A love letter to Argentinian Cuisine

The menu, a symphony of Argentinian flavours, reads like a love letter to the country’s cuisine. Expect traditional empanadas, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and chimichurri to jump out at you from its pages.

The star of the show, of course, is the steaks. Beef from Argentina is arguably the best in the world, and a full page of the menu is dedicated to explaining exactly where your steak comes from. Argentine cattle graze on nutrient-rich grasses, resulting in meat that is not only exceptionally tender but also imbued with a distinct depth of flavour.

Portenio Folkestone - empanadas
Empanadas de Carne

We started with beef empanadas – pockets of pastry filled with beef mince, olives, boiled egg, peppers, onion, raisins and herbs – and they were divine. A crisp golden crust gave way to a flavourful meaty filling, and they were gone within seconds.

Portenio Folkestone Provoleta

This was very good. Provoleta is a provolone-style cheese that is firm and can hold its shape when grilled. Here it is cooked directly on the hot grill and seasoned with chimichurra. Crisp on the outside and gooey soft in the middle, it was a gloriously indulgent starter.

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Portenio Folkestone mixed grill for 4
Mixed Grill To Share (For 4 People)

And now for the ultimate showstopper – this absolute meat fest! We are not in the least bit ashamed to admit that we ordered the Mixed Grill for 4 between the two of us. Gluttonous as it seems, I don’t care! It was epic!

The Mixed Grill for 4 comes with a 10oz Prime Sirloin Steak, 10oz Prime Ribeye Steak, 2 Chorizos (Argentine-style sausage) with chimichurri on top, a Morcilla (Argentine black pudding), mixed grilled vegetables and 4 portions of fries.

Portenio Folkestone Mixed Grill for 4

They had to bring out an extra table to hold the pan full of grilled meat and vegetables, which gives you an idea of the size! The steak was to die for, and I’m salivating as I write this. The bbq grill really imparts a beautiful smokey flavour to the meat, which was perfectly seared on the outside and juicy tender on the inside.

One thing to note – instead of using the global standard for how you would like your steak cooked, i.e. rare, medium-rare, medium, well done etc, at Portenio they have gone with their own scale of doneness, namely “bloody, juicy or cooked”.

In most parts of the world, it is generally accepted that medium-rare is a perfectly cooked steak. In Argentina though, the preferred ideal for a steak is medium. So if you order a “juicy” steak at Portenio, it will be cooked medium. We ordered “juicy” without knowing this, and whilst they were beautiful and gorgeously tender, I have a feeling we would have enjoyed them even more if we ordered them “bloody”, so don’t be put off by the description if you prefer a medium-rare steak.

Whilst the food here is top-notch quality, it’s not cheap. The lowest price steak here is a 10oz Sirloin for £30.95, with a 10oz fillet steak priced at £39.95. Our Mixed Grill for 4 was an eye-watering £98.95, so when you order, make sure you talk to the friendly staff to make sure they know exactly how you want your steak cooked.

Portenio folkestone mixed grill

We really enjoyed the Argentinian Chorizo sausage topped with chimichurri. This is not to be confused with your more typical Spanish Chorizo sausage. Argentinian Chorizo is much meatier and more delicately seasoned, and the flavours are beautiful. These were butterflied and grilled for a satisfying crispier exterior and perfectly cooked meaty interior.

The Morcilla was deliciously fragrant, very similar to black pudding with a slightly different flavour and texture. With all this meat right in front of us, I could not have been happier.

And not to forget the wonderfully flavoured grilled vegetables – the tender green beans with a satisfying, crisp bite, the sweet and lightly blackened peppers and a huge hunk of seared butternut squash all topped with more chimichurri – it was gorgeous. Along with a mountain of fries, we were glad we arrived hungry!

Portenio Folkestone churros
Churros with Dulce de leche

You would think after that absolute mountain of food that we would refrain from dessert. Whether it was the beautiful sunset, the charming waitress or the need for something sweet after all that meat, I don’t know. But we couldn’t resist ordering a portion of Churros each.

I ordered mine with the traditional Dulce de leche (creamy Argentine caramel), and Mrs FF decided on a chocolate sauce. Both were a sweet cinnamon sensation, and the perfect way to round off a wonderful evening.

Portenio Folkestone Quilmes Argentinian Lager
Quilmes Argentinian Lager
Portenia Folkestone Fernet Branca & Coke
Fernet Branca & Coke

We enjoyed some delicious Argentinian Malbec with our steak of course, but we were also tempted by some other national favourites. Quilmes is similar to a German-style pilsner and has a light, refreshing flavour.

Fernet Branca is an Italian herbal liqueur, often enjoyed as a digestif. Mixed with coke, it becomes a popular Argentinian cocktail. It has a menthol and liquorice flavour that brings out the spice in the coke – an interesting concoction that’s well worth a try.

Portenio Folkestone Harbour View walking home

I almost felt sad to leave Portenio, but after all that indulgence we needed a good walk. The picture above was the view we were greeted with as we left, and it reminded us of how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful town.

You can book a table at Portenio via their website or by calling 01303 656065. Don’t forget to follow them on Instagram @portenio_argentine_grill

Visiting from out of town? Why not book a stay?

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