Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thackeray's, Tunbridge Wells

85 London Rd
Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1EA


Thackeray's had a Michelin star until about two years ago and if our excursion there on Saturday night is anything to go by, they should get it back pretty pronto.

The restaurant is about a five minute walk from our front door and is in a cottage overlooking Mount Ephraim and the Common in Tunbridge Wells. It has the distinction of having been stayed in by the author of Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, hence the name.

The restaurant has a couple of downstairs rooms, nicely laid out (although a couple of tables are close enough that the waiters need to be quite slim to pass between them) and pleasantly lit. There is also a small bar tucked away in the corner. Upstairs, there are a couple of private dining rooms and another bar.

We were seated and we sipped a couple of drinks while perusing the menu. I had the luxury of my own vegetarian menu, which had a choice of two starters and two mains on it. I'm in two minds about separate vegetarian menus as I always feel as though a meat free dish should just fit nicely into a standard menu. It works in Italy, so why not everywhere else?

So, we ordered our food and very shortly we were presented with a choice of bread (black pepper, red pepper and olive) and then an espresso cup containing an amuse bouche of watermelon and ginger soup with a swirl of crème fraiche arrived. It was amazing. I'm not usually one for cold soups, but this was really light and refreshing.

For my starter I had a goats’ cheese and beetroot parfait. Now, goats’ cheese seems to be de rigour as a veggie option, so I wasn't expecting much but what arrived was quite different. In the centre of the plate was a small tower of alternating layers of goats’ cheese and thin beetroot slices. Atop this was a very tiny salad and the whole thing was surrounded by dots of a sauce topped by a tiny piece of walnut. The presentation was immaculate. The taste? It was pretty amazing. The cheese and beetroot were a perfect match.

My wife had chosen scallops and her plate arrived with four of them, each on top of a different puree, potato and mustard, spinach cauliflower and creamed corn. Again, the presentation was immaculate and her opinion upon tasting it was that it was “stunning”.

Thackery's have quite a lot of wines by the glass on their Wine List, so we asked the sommelier to recommend a wine from the list for each course. For the starters my wife had a Chablis and I had a Riesling. Both worked very well with the food.

For the main course, my wife ordered lamb. Perfectly cooked (she said) and accompanied by roast potato (just the one – perfectly cuboid...) a crispy aubergine skin topped with an aubergine puree, and caramelised onions with olives. Once again, the presentation was very picturesque.

My veggie option was gnocchi with wild mushrooms, a parmesan crisp and globe artichokes. It was presented very imaginatively. The gnocchi and mushrooms were bound together with a sauce in a sort of tower upon which was the parmesan crisp. On top of this was a couple of sections of quartered globe artichokes. Elsewhere on the plate was a puree. The gnocchi was great. However, as much as I love artichokes, and tasty as they were, they were out of place with this dish.

Wine wise, I had a Rioja and my wife had a Pinot Noir. Again, both matched the main courses very well.

Before the dessert, a small dish arrived for each of us containing a small banana and ginger roulade and very nice it was too.

And so to dessert. They all sounded very nice, so what to choose? Luckily, Thackery's do what they call a “Sharing Plate” which contains a selection of all the desserts. So, between us we sampled Trio of Chocolate Cannelloni, Raspberry Soufflé with Raspberry Jus, Apple Tart Tatin and Mango and Mascarpone Terrine. All very tasty and all accompanied by an extremely nice Californian black muscat.

Once we had finished the meal, we retired with coffee and Balvenie Doublewood (myself) and Tawny Port (my wife) to the upstairs bar, where we then proceeded to demolish a plate of petit fours.

We both agreed that we'd had a great evening and that we would return. The bill for the two of us came to £175 which included the tip that they had added on for us.

However, there was one more pleasant surprise to come.

As I handed over the bill and credit card, the waitress asked if we had enjoyed the evening.

“Excellent,” I replied, “and if your chef ever has a moment of madness and decides to do a vegetarian tasting menu, I'll give you my number.”

“No problem,” she replies. “Give us a ring a few days before your next visit and he'll sort one out for you.”

“I'm not a veggie,” says my wife. “Would I be able to have the normal tasting menu if my husband has the vegetarian one?”

“Of course,” replies the waitress.

We'll be back.

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