In a nutshell
An historical building with a modern approach to casual dining. The seasonal and varied menu offers something for everyone in a relaxed, family-friendly environment.
Sat atop a hill overlooking Royal Tunbridge Wells, the newly refurbished Royal Wells Hotel is a harmonious meeting of Victorian elegance and modern luxury. The building dates back to the 19th century, but the brasserie is part of the hotel’s recent £2.4 million refurbishment undertaken by famed Kent brewery Shepherd Neame. With both roof and walls made mainly of glass, the dining room is a bright, airy and welcoming space – even on a typically English (read: overcast) spring day.
David Holmes, who has been with the hotel for over 20 years, and Peter Napier-Clark have created an eclectic and seasonal menu which is sure to please a wide range of diners. The menu focuses on seasonal British ingredients, wherever possible using those produced in Kent, but the two head chefs also take inspiration from cuisines around the world with dishes such as chorizo with herb croutons (must try!) and grilled halloumi with coconut and cabbage slaw.
While you’re perusing the sizeable menu, order the housemade garlic fougasse. It comes out warm and is perfect for sharing — if you’re willing to relinquish any golden crumbs to anyone else. Dishes such as the pork belly with caramelised apple, sour cream and chive potato puree; and the pan-fried salmon with pesto, brown shrimp and samphire were well presented and well put together.
The wine list is interesting, yet still very reasonably priced — you can easily get a great bottle for less than £20. The only downside was the lack of English wine on offer, especially with vineyards including Biddenden and Chapel Down less than 25 miles away. Having said that, the Three Choirs Coleridge Hill 2013 from the Cotswolds, the only English wine that made the cut, was fantastic.
Dessert is a more traditional affair with choices such as citrus posset and brioche, or croissant bread and butter pudding, but the local star is the Kentish cheese board. And if you’re a brownie connoisseur, the warm chocolate and walnut brownie with vanilla cream will not disappoint.
As with all new openings, the service is still a work in progress… but with such a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, they are sure to find their feet soon.
Bullseye: The homemade garlic fougasse with oil and vinegar dipping sauce, £5.95, is crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It’s the perfect thing to help soak up a glass of the Three Choirs Coleridge Hill.
Total price: £120 for 3 people
The Royal Wells Hotel, 59 Mount Ephraim, Royal Tunbridge Wells
By Pami Hoggatt, acrusteaten.com