The Ivy, Tunbridge Wells
London's celebrity favourite The Ivy has just opened a classy but relaxed outpost in Tunbridge Wells, read the Muddy review
Celebrity favourite The Ivy has just opened a classy but relaxed outpost in Tunbridge Wells. Muddy Kent editor Ali was among the first through the doors. Here’s her review full of showy and delicious food <sigh>
I’m such a slave to the job that I *cough* took the hit of sprinting as fast as my stilettos could carry me into spinky spanky new The Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells last week – just to keep you first in the know. (I know I’m soooo kind like that…) Here’s the first review you’ll read of the place.
Well, hello Tunbridge Wells! With sister town Canterbury already well-established for her fab foodie vibe, it’s wonderful to see how Tunny Wells is starting to really make its own mark on the foodie map too. To date this well-heeled area hasn’t been especially well known for its foodie offerings, but with new restaurants opening recently in this section of town (OWP, Framptons, The Warren) it’s becoming more of a foodie hub down near the lower end of the High Street. And that’s where you’ll find The Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells, in the premises previously occupied by Jamie’s Italian, just a few minutes walk from The Pantiles (pretty pedestrianised area at the chi-chi end of the High Street).
Very lively and buzzy. Obviously it was the first week so every table was booked, but it’s a really cool space with an elegant, curved bar at the front, moving to a mix of banquette seating and leather-chaired loungey tables. Some of the tables, like ours above, aren’t huge it has to be said. But then a priority for me is always large comfy seating – so this suited me just fine. Colourful artwork on the walls feels really vibrant, deco-ish and gives character and depth. If you look closely, there’s a local theme to a lot of it too, which is a nice touch. The sides are decked with large decorative flower urns and vintage mirrors and they’ve managed to recreate that artfully-knocked-together antique feel.
The interiors could sit very easily in London, and the serving staff all slick too. I was told that although staff are rightfully recruited locally, The Ivy loans head members of staff to their new restaurants for three weeks to get new staff trained and up to speed so that the standard and consistency of service is maintained throughout their rural restaurant outposts. It works well – the service has a slick, glamorous vibe and you feel you are being well looked after.
Point worth noting – the restaurant is split into little pockets of space – so if you want to be in the really buzzy bit maybe express your preference for the main dining area when you book. Or, if it’s a more intimate romantic occasion, you could ask to be seated in the smaller area (if that’s your style). I don’t think the booking staff can promise anything – but they’ll certainly do their best to honour your preference.
It was very good. I grabbed my lovely sister-in-law, Anna, to come and join me for lunch – I’ll start by saying we literally roooolled out of the place. The energy and vibe of the venue is translated into the food – there’s an element of showmanship to it all. My soup arrived with dainty seasonal veggies in the middle of the bowl and the rest of the liquid was poured on top at the table. Both our puddings had an element of spectacle about them too (see below). But this is not style over substance – because they taste really good too. There’s a lot of choice from the more interesting options of blackened cod fillet in banana leaf or aromatic duck curry you can order more mainstream options like hamburgers, fish and chips, the famous Ivy shepherd’s pie or, as I did, The Ivy Fish Pie special.
But before any of that we whetted our appetite with the hugely popular Zucchini fritti (crispy courgette fries with lemon, chilli and mint yoghurt) – yes it was a tasty as it sounds, though I didn’t quite master the finesse of pincering them onto my plate (go on, you try resisting the temptation to just shovel them straight into your mouth – there’s no better way!).
Puddings – Apple tart for me (baked apple tart with vanilla ice cream and Calvados flambé, which basically means it’s soaked in apple brandy that’s set on fire at your table). This. Tasted. Gooooood. And for Anna? Well she had the showstopper of course! The Chocolate Bomb (melting chocolate bombe with a vanilla ice cream and honeycomb centre with hot salted caramel sauce) – I absolutely challenge you to watch my video here on Instagram and not salivate… See? Impossible!
I’d say so, if you really wanted to, and if it was lunchtime. It definitely has a chi-chi thing going on, but there were some kids dining when we went and no-one choked on their negroni. Maybe you’d think twice with very small children but mainly because you won’t want the little buggers spoiling your fun!
OUT AND ABOUT
Tunbridge Wells is a day trip in its own right especially down by The Pantiles where, if you time it right, there’s open air markets on the weekends and lots of lovely independent boutiques.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone looking for an urbane, more London buzzy vibe that doesn’t cost the earth. Also, great for fish lovers like me, there’s a decent choice here.
Not for: Summer sun-worshipers wanting an outside garden space. There’s a small alfresco seating area at the front but the rest of the restaurant is all inside. Also the choice for vegetarians is quite limited – with only 2 starters and 2 mains to choose from you would work your way through the menu pretty quick!
The damage: Surprisingly reasonable – especially the Set Menu, which is a very decent £16.50 for Two Courses or £21.00 for Three Courses, making it very competitively priced when compared to other local eateries of the same calibre. Most entrees £7-10, mains are around the £14-16 mark, desserts £6-8.
The Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells, 46-50 High Street, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1XF. theivytunbridgewells.co