Muddy eats: Graze Kitchen & Bar
When my sister-in-law heard that Graze, a trendy new eaterie and bar combo, was opening on Tonbridge High Street her delighted response was to whoop and do a little starjump at the same time (at least I think it was a delighted response – either that or she stood on the cat…) You see – I’m sure she won’t mind me saying – she likes her food and her drink (a girl after my own heart) and has often bemoaned the lack of decent options on her doorstep. So as your intrepid guzzler, I decided to give it a go, in the interests of *sniff* investigative journalism you understand…
Local aficionados will know that the white-walled riverside building in the centre of the High Street that is now home to Graze, was once the Castle pub. The husband and wife team behind this new venture (who also own a successful coffee shop in the heart of Goudhurst village) snapped up the former pub which had laid empty for a year, recognising its potential and the huge gap in the market for a fun, modern eating and meeting place in Tonbridge.
I don’t think anyone will disagree with them there. The town was crying out for somewhere like this (I could hear the wails from across the Weald). And well, well, well, I don’t think the locals (including my sister-in-law) will be disappointed. On the day I visited things immediately got off to a good start because a) the sun was shining and b) I realised there was a Waitrose carpark conveniently placed just around the corner and c) I stumbled across Little Blue Finch, a brand new gift shop that has also just opened up in the town centre, (gifty section downstairs, interiors upstairs). I bought myself a pair of nude leather ballet pumps for just £15.99 (yes, that’s right people, £15.99!).
Anyway I digress… Amazing how a spot of shopping works up an appetite, isn’t it? So Sarah (Miss Muddy Marketing) and I slipped into Graze and nabbed ourselves a window seat (overlooking Tonbridge Castle – hence the original pub name of this eaterie). We paused a moment to soak up the vibe – this place feels fresh and current and is all minimalistic wooden floors and exposed brick walls. Then, oh my giddy aunt, I realised I was ravenous – at exactly the moment the (very friendly and helpful) lady that served us told me about the Grazing Menu. You know that moment when you look at the menu and realise you fancy the sound of everything? Well the Grazing Menu makes that possible – you can choose three starter-sized dishes for £15 (or six dishes for £30 if you both order from it – although if we’d done that I think we might have needed a bigger table). And as it was it was already looking a little bit busy…
I know – total cochon, right? But there’s lots of fish on the table there, and I’m, er, upping my omega intake. I had Chicken Caesar Salad, Smoked Mackerel Pâté and Salmon Bites in Almond, Coconut and Sweet Chilli Dip. And I have to say it was all really good, full of flavour with fresh ingredients and well, wholesome, I guess is the word.
Sarah settled on the Warm Camembert Salad with cranberries and walnuts, £12, which she said was delicious and filing. We, *leans in and whispers*, also had a side of sweet potato fries. No, we did not need to eat again that day.
And that’s not even the best bit. Apparently if you come in the evening the team behind the bar make amazing cocktails – and will pretty much mix anything to order. And they must be good if their non alcoholic cocktails were anything to go by (yes, *sigh* dear friends I was driving). Now my favourite cocktail by a country mile is a Mojito – always so refreshing, and a little sharp rather than sickly sweet. So we just had to try the Apple Mojito. While I can’t promise it will miraculously transport you to a sun lounger on the white sands of Cuba, it was truly delicious, like taking little sips of sunshine. See below, can’t you almost taste it? Sluuurp!
So to sum up. I’d say Graze definitely hit the spot and has successfully packaged itself as a trendy-but-affordable-restaurant-by-day and buzzing-bar-by-night. And just to test my theory we vowed to return of an evening, to see the bar, below, totally transformed and put the cocktail connoisseur of a barman to the test. Salud!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Everyone I’d say. Casual drinkers, coffee lovers, business lunchers, busy shoppers, families… they’re all catered for. There’s a little outdoor space at the front, right on the river, which could be nice if tidied up for the summer, although obviously you can’t get away from the fact you are on a busy high street.
Not for: Fine diners. Though the food is really tasty, and this makes a perfect refuelling point for a town trip, it’s not a swanky fine dining joint (nor is it trying to be). Nor is this a comfy sofas and fireplace venue – but if you were after a country pub setting you’d probably look somewhere other than Tonbridge High Street anyway!
£££: Good value, mid-range and varied. Main Menu, £9 – £21. Grazing Menu selection of any three dishes for £15. There’s a special Steak Meal Deal For Two during the week (Mon – Thurs) when you get two Flat Iron Steaks, with Bernaise sauce, straw or sweet potato chips and a carafe of wine, all for £35 (the steaks and chips alone normally cost £19.50 each so this is a great deal.) Cocktails, £7 – £9, Non alcoholic, Apple Mojito, £5.