Eat here: The Twenty Six
I think I’m right in saying that this restaurant is Mr Muddy K’s favourite place to eat (do correct me if I’m wrong there, dear. Heaven only knows, *eye roll*, you usually do)… If you haven’t yet discovered the joys of The Twenty Six, then step this way, and let me show you around – you’ll soon see what’s to love…
Cosy as a Swiss chalet in ski season and furnished with loads of cool, quirky touches (currently wondering if I could replicate this upside down wine bottle light fixture at home…) – this place was doing hygge way before the rest of us Brits had even heard of the word. It’s owned by the I’ll Be Mother group (the team behind those other great gems The Beacon and The Swan at Chapel Down) and Scott Goss, the executive chef of all three restaurants, resides here. Scott is one passionate and talented chef – and definitely deserves his reputation amongst those in the foodie trade as ‘one to watch’.
It’s called The Twenty Six because there are literally Twenty six chairs for twenty six people. Yup, I said it was cosy. The whole restaurant, while beautifully designed, and far from cramped, is basically just the kitchen upstairs and the dining room downstairs. So Scott cooks up his culinary treats in the kitchen before jogging down the stairs, plate in hand, to personally deliver it to your table. Yes, you heard that right – the chef himself serves you most of your food here, so you can chat away, ask him stuff if you want (or not if you just want to get on with the business of chowing down without the niceties)…
The menu changes regularly depending on seasons or what’s fresh and tasty that week. Food piccies don’t ever do the dishes justice when taken at night without the full light of day. But I think these still give the general idea. And to really enjoy the warmth, atmosphere and indulgence of this place I think a grown up adult meal in the evening is the best option. Pidgeon, Liver mayonnaise & Pickled Blackberries for Mr Muddy K (above) and Leek, Baked Potato & Black Truffle for me (below).
Fillet of Brill, Seaweed Butter: Fennel from Land & Sea for me and Saddle of Venison, Barley Cereal, Beetroot & Juniper Salt for Mr Muddy. Followed by White Chocolate Mousse, Yoghurt, Maple Syrup & Beetroot pudding, below. The flavours were diii-vine.
The Twenty Six is also referred to as The Test Kitchen because this is where Scott Goss tries out new dishes on his ever changing menu. Come on certain days of the month and you can enjoy a Wine Pairing dinner or try and book a seat on Guest Chefs’ Night where Scott Goss basically has a cook off with another quality chef. Here is Scott Goss, (below right) with Andrew Clarke, (below left) Head Chef at London restaurant, Brunswick House. It’s competitive yes, but all done in good humour (er, can’t you tell?).
Also, sitting next to the kitchen upstairs is a private dining room, pictured above, which seats up to sixteen guests. Perfect for foodie fans who want to book somewhere for a special occasion – enjoy great cooking and watch the theatre of the kitchen from your table.
I’ll be honest, before I’d been to The Twenty Six I wasn’t sure how I’d find the intimacy of the dining space – I mean there’s no private little corners in this restaurant and if you go on Tasting Nights it’s one long table for all. But actually I loved it. The space between the tables and set up is such that you can get involved with those around you as much or as little as you want. It’s all up to you – and that pretty much sums up this place. On several of the mirrors decorating the wall, and on the menu, it reads: ‘I owe it all to you’ – another cool, charming touch that typifies just how much the customer is at the heart of everything in this restaurant.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Grown up nights out – with the other half or friends. On the night we visited the 6/7 tables were split fairly evenly between groups and couples. Intimacy and attention to detail are two of the main unique features of this place. If you like fine food, good wine and being pampered then this is for you.
Not for: Anyone wanting the anonymity of a big restaurant and a simple fish n’ chips supper – this place is small and intimate and very foodie. Also not really for, er, rowdy hen nights or gaggles of mini muddies – this is a grown up space. Think relaxed cool – and would be totally wasted on anyone that wasn’t there to appreciate the dishes.
££: Prices are really pretty good when you consider the level of service and quality of the cooking. Starters start from £6.50, Mains between £14 – £23 and Desserts around the £7 – £8 mark.
15a Church Road, Southborough, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 0RX, Tel: 01892 544607, thetwenty-six.co.uk