Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells is in a lovely, albeit slightly difficult-to-get-to part of Tunbridge Wells and situated in a beautiful building named after novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, who once resided in the 300-year-old building.
A quirky building that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Home Alone remake but with a one way system making it slightly difficult to find parking.
Inside is warm and cosy and much like a family home with slightly wonky floorboards, odd angles, sloped ceilings and subtle warm colour tones to the walls, it feels welcoming and humble.
The tables are large and simply dressed but situated well enough way from other parties so you aren’t squashed into one area but the space is big, somewhat banquet in style.
Thackeray’s has been open for around 20 years and has a fantastic customer base, mainly locals from the area but a strong connection to others residing in Kent and from afar. It’s a popular restaurant that takes pride in welcoming and supporting their customer base which is why they introduced ‘The Honesty Menu’. It’s a concept that is incredibly new to me and I have to say, not something I would have thought restaurants would be brave enough to do.
It’s a concept – possibly a first in England – that allows the customer to pay what they think their meal was worth.
When talking to Gary, General Manager, he was very excited by this concept. It’s intention was to encourage people of all ages to come and enjoy food and that was quite simply it. It didn’t seem that it was about the money, it was about experiencing good food and leaving it completely down to the customer without any judgement on what they could or could not afford.
At the end of the meal, my guest and I talked about the concept in great detail. It opened up a line of very engaging conversation that I had never had before; how much you think a meal is worth and it’s not just about what you ate, it’s about how it looked, how it was presented, what story it told, how it made you feel, the care of the staff, the location in which you are eating and it was such a thrilling conversation.
Once sat down, on the table was an envelope sealed with a wax seal and once opened, revealed your menu. It’s not something you will know until you arrive but the menu online gives you a guide of what to expect. I did mention that I was pescatarian in advance so I knew that all of my choices would be around my dietary requirements.
Once opened I was so impressed to see such a sophisticated yet playful menu. A mix of creative cuisines to get the taste-buds going.
You Make Miso Happy
The first course was a total surprise and a very bold start to the menu. Zhejiang pickled vegetable Bao Bun, Lemongrass and Ginger Thai Broth and a Loch Duart Salmon Teriyaki. Three individual plates to get the taste buds buzzing and boy did they buzz. The delicious milky goodness of the Bao Bun full of sweet and sour nodes from the pickled vegetables, before the delightful flavours coming from the salmon teriyaki. A total crowd pleaser and if I could have had a buffet full of them I would have done. Then to top it off, a sweet savory broth packed full of lemongrass and ginger bringing the whole first course into a big cuddle.
The second course was not a takeaway from McDonald’s, it was McDonald’s worst nightmare – a decent fish burger and by decent, I mean completely creative, tasty and totally fun. Panko Fillet of Cod, Milk Bun, Seaweed Mayonnaise and Pickled Red Cabbage and it really was quite the delight. This dish felt like the creativeness that the chef’s have deep within them was coming out to play. Often in restaurants, you have to maintain a theme throughout that the customer expects but sometimes it’s just brilliant to let the chef’s have a bit of fun and create something bubbling with their own vibes.
Don’t Be Shellfish
The third course was a show-stopper and back to sophisticated cooking. The first two courses were playful and fun but this dish was serious and very, very eye-catching. Hand Dived Scallop Ceviche, Buttermilk, Dill Oil, Pickled Shallot and Horseradish. The flavours in this were just incredible. Fresh, spring like flavours that were a complete palate cleanser and the horseradish and buttermilk foam mixed with the pickling of the shallot and shards of ice that were hidden in the scallop were divine and very clever, and not at all texturally challenging.
Cornwall eat your heart out. Who doesn’t just love a good pasty? Wild Mushroom Pithivier, King Oyster, Leek, Mushroom and Soy Cream. A plate that when it arrived I wondered how on earth I was going to enjoy two more courses after this as it was quite large but the answer was quite easy. Celebrating the humble mushroom is a wonderful move, turning something that can be overlooked into the heart and soul of a dish is quite special and the pastry was beautifully golden, thin and flaky too.
Back to playful and rightly so. What I love about this dish is that it feels like a cheeky extra, it isn’t necessary because all of the other dishes were filling and more than enough to please an audience before going straight into the pud but who doesn’t love a bit of generosity? This dish feels just like that; fun and very British. All that’s needed is a little cup of tea served with it and a trailer for a good movie. Doughy, heavy and full of Worcestershire Sauce and cheese; what isn’t to love?
Pink To Make The Boys Wink!
One of the best desserts I have ever had the pleasure of eating and one I would go back for, in a heart beat. Ruby Chocolate Pavé, Strawberry Sorbet, Thai Basil and Gariguette Strawberries was a trip to heaven and back. The melting delicate goodness of the Pavé mixed with the punchy flavours of the sorbet before getting that delicious Thai basil seeping through was quite the party and totally mind-blowing. A dish I won’t ever forget and the perfect way to finish a delicious tasting menu.
A treasure pot of a restaurant with a wide ranging menu to suit everyone. I love this concept though, it’s fantastic and such a bold, brave and creative idea. There’s a lot of uncertain times at the moment and offering something so innovative like this offers guests something else that’s different, something that is unique and intriguing and it is certainly something I would love to experience again.
The service is lovely as well which makes all of the difference when going somewhere and what’s great about a menu like this is you leave it up to the chef’s. You don’t ponder over a menu, you leave it all to them and their capable hands and what could be more relaxing and enjoyable than that?
If you want to try this amazing menu out, you only have until the end of March 2020 – so be quick!
Thackeray’s, 85 London Rd, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 1EA
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Disclaimer: The Honesty Menu was an Invite.