Once the home of writer & satirist William Makepeace Thackeray, the oldest building in Tunbridge Wells looks good with its all-white, New England exterior. Inside, it’s beautifully maintained with glowing lamps, muted colours & exuberantly furnished private rooms – although the place can exude a certain stuffiness. However, Richard Phillips’ modern French cooking deserves its exalted reputation. Hare & ham hock ballottine served with pickled wild mushrooms, quince jelly, baby leeks & toasted sourdough makes for a tantalising starter followed, perhaps, by an assiette of Berkshire pork teamed with pomme purée, braised cabbage, apple compote, ginger & clove jus. Desserts could feature loganberry soufflé with pistachio ice cream, & the cheese list has a fine balance of both British & French specimens. Prices can sting, but the set lunch is a bargain.
No reason for the green-pen brigade of Tunbridge Wells to be disgusted with the wine list at their local eatery. Thackeray’s has a well-chosen medium-sized list that mixes the well-priced and recognisable with showier offerings to great effect. The highlight of the list is the 30-or-so wines on the Selection pages – all of which are available by the glass.