Monday, 9 March 2009


A: 85 London Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England TN1 1EA
T: (01892) 511921
"Busy plates." Man of Kent
Novelist William Makepeace Thackeray once lived in this listed Georgian house on Tunbridge Wells common – and there’s a blue plaque to prove it. The building has done duty as a top-class restaurant for many years, and current chef/co-proprietor Richard Phillips is not about to let its reputation slip. The interior has a cool, elegant feel, with ancient low ceilings and shiny floorboards blending with subtle colours and more up-to-the-minute design flourishes; outside is a seductive Japanese terrace garden for tranquil al fresco meals.

Highly polished modern French food is the order of the day, whether you pick from the carte or the midweek ‘menu du jour’. Fish from the South Coast ports is generally a good bet. The possibilities might range from an assiette of hand-dived scallops with creamed corn, cauliflower purée and chive beurre blanc to medallions of monkfish with butternut and sage risotto and spiced red wine dressing. Fillet of Sussex Breed beef is there for local meat aficionados, while Old Black Spot pork with creamed cabbage, apple compote, ginger and clove jus points up the kitchen’s loyalties to traditional breeds.

A sharing plate of desserts brings all manner of sweet delights for two to drool over – otherwise apricot soufflé with milk chocolate and Grand Marnier ice cream might tempt. Thackeray’s Selection provides a choice of two dozen eclectic wines from £13.95 (£4.50 a glass), and the full list balances French regional classics with some lively stuff from other countries.

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