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Once home to Victorian writer and satirist William Makepeace Thackeray, this “Tunbridge Wells institution” makes an immediate impact with its all-white, New England exterior. Inside, it’s beautifully maintained with glowing lamps, muted colours and exuberantly furnished private rooms – a smart backdrop for some meticulously crafted modern French cooking. There’s plenty of creativity on show here, although it never goes over the top – witness a tantalising starter of poached lobster with chilled ‘white tomato broth, sorrel and smoked haddock mousse. After that, you might go for dry-aged beef fillet, roast salt marsh lamb or pot-roast guinea fowl with Brighton Blue cheese macaroni, Kentish asparagus, broad beans and baby artichokes. To finish, try the apple mousse paired with blackberries, a tonka-bean flapjack and green apple sorbet. The tasting menu is “an adventure into the unknown (in a good way)”, the sommelier “deserves a pat on the back” for his astute wine pairings, and there’s a gorgeous Japanese terrace garden for fine days – no wonder readers say it’s “well worth the trip out of London”.
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