Muddy Eats: The Warren, Tunbridge Wells
On one sunny September lunch time I visited this new restaurant right in the middle of Tunbridge Wells that is offering something never been seen (or tasted) before on the High Street. Food at The Warren comes straight from farm to fork. To my knowledge they are the first food establishment to do this in Kent, giving them the kudos of originality and great green credentials. So Tunbridge Wells (and surrounds) – are you game? (Yes, pun intended!)
Not so long ago, Chris and Martin, the owners of the Crowborough Warren Estate – 650 acres of wood and farmland boarding the Ashdown Forest – had an idea. With their estate rich in livestock, from Sussex cattle to wild boar, didn’t it make sense to combine both restaurant and farm to produce a free-range and locally sourced menu? Of course it did! The Warren restaurant was the result. It sits above Kitch (you know, the winner of Muddy Stilettos Best Boutique in Kent…) and just opposite Hoopers. Some of you may remember there used to be an Italian restaurant here – but the inside is now barely recognisable having recently undergone a complete refurbishment.
It now features an eclectic range of pictures and taxidermy. There’s more than a touch of drama in the decor here – think Bavarian hunting lodge with the odd sprinkle of Communist-socialist chic. Manager Magdalena is very friendly and personable as is the Head Bar man or ‘mixologist’ Olivier, who makes me an apple juice, lychee and cherry syrup mocktail with a flourish. Food is as seasonal as possible and if it’s not directly from the estate then it’s from the local region.
So if you’re a fan of gamey food, like Mr Muddy Kent, then you are going to be in your element. But there’s also a strong ethic here – fresh cuts of meat going straight from the field to the plate- this is what great food is supposed to be about. There’s no carbon footprint here!
There’s a little outside terrace area overlooking the High Street. I bet, if you don’t mind being in the centre of things, there’s a certain buzz here on a warm summer’s evening. So on to the food! We went for the lunchtime Express Menu, which was brilliant value for money at £9.95 – especially when I tell you it was delicious and bursting with flavours. You can add in an extra course for just an additional £5 – how good is that?
For Starter I had Salad of Endive and Poached Pear, Candied Hazelnut and Dolce Latte Dressing, (above top). My Muddy K opted for Rillettes of Smoked Mackerel Horseradish, Shallot and Melba Toast (above). And let me tell you it tasted goooood.
Then, on to the reason Mr Muddy K wanted to eat here in the first place. Pan Seared Warren Steak, Triple Cooked Chips, Roast Cherry Tomatoes and Roasting Juices (see above). He was not disappointed – his steak (cut into medallions) – came exactly as he’d requested (rare) and was melt-in-the-mouth stuff. My Pan Roasted Cod, With Braised Lentils du Puy, Charred Red Pepper Ketchup, Baby Fennel and 5 Spice Jus (see below) was big, meaty and fleshy and fell apart when I showed it the fork. The red pepper ketchup lightly circling my plate was so delicous I asked for extra (to be honest I’d quite like a whole bottle to take home).
After all of that we were far too full for puddings and there was the small issue of getting back to the Mini Muddies.
We ate there at lunchtime and it was very quiet, but friends have reported more of a buzz in the evenings and it’s still very early days. This is a food-lovers restaurant – those that get the ‘nature to table’ thing will really appreciate what the owners are trying to achieve here. There’s nothing else like this restaurant in Tunbridge Wells and I love that. Anyone that comes along and tries to create something different – and does it this well – gets a big, fat tick in my book. It’s a bit different and a bit trendy – I hope you’re ready for it Tunbridge Wells!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Foodies will love the local free-ranging produce that goes directly to the restaurant (the chef tries to use everything with very little waste, to show respect for the animals that are served). Perfect for dates or meals out with the family – although not kiddies – this would be entirely wasted on them.
Not for: The unadventurous or those that don’t like game. Or anyone who wants a more relaxed puby place – this is a restaurant and dining out here is an event. There’s more a sense of drama than laid-back ingle-nook fires.
£££: Good value the Express Menu costs £9.95 for a Main and an extra £5 per course. Starters on the A la carte Menu cost between £6 – £8, Mains between £16 and £24.
The Warren, 5A High St, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 1UL, Tel: 01892 328191, thewarren.restaurant. Closed Mon (except Bank Hols) & Tues.