Restaurant review: L'Amore, One Warwick Park hotel
PUBLISHED: 09:28 19 August 2016 | UPDATED: 12:18 19 August 2016
One Warwick Park has emerged from the scaffolding to reveal a sleek, modern hotel with a shiny new Italian restaurant at its heart
Hiding in the southern Pantiles Quarter of Tunbridge Wells, One Warwick Park (OWP) hotel and its Italian-themed restaurant L’Amore has been long awaited by town residents and visitors. Hidden by scaffolding for the past three years, its recent unveiling was much anticipated.
Mashing together three oddly matched buildings, including a Victorian-era school, a wine merchant dating back to 1900 and a hotel, OWP is a statement of intent reflected in its logo, stridently written in capital letters.
L’Amore, the Italian for love, is its sleek, modern restaurant with a shiny new stainless-steel kitchen run by executive head chef Marco Goldin.
The bringing together of these distinct buildings as one coherent destination must have been an engineering and design challenge. A brightly lit, James-Bondesque tunnel under a pedestrian walkway links the two main parts of the hotel, creating one destination with 39 luxuriously appointed bedrooms and a 180-capacity function space in the old school hall.
The palette of materials used in the internal decorations is very contemporary, with lots of grey wallpaper, limestone flooring and deep brown doors, ash wood panelling and glass.
Head chef Marco has an impeccable Italian heritage. Born in Venice his family relocated to Umbria, where he maintains close contact with family and friends. He comes with a strong culinary pedigree and desire to cook, inspired at an early age making pasta at his grandmother’s lap. Today, the innovative British chef Heston Blumenthal is one of Marco’s food heroes.
L’Amore’s menu is firmly based on his Italian heritage with a bias, certainly on our visit, to highlight the versatility of vegetables; roasted, baked and stuffed in pasta, and salad.
However, while the restaurant’s early menu has many tempting dishes, a little tweaking is necessary. Talking later with My Dining Companion and I, Marco says specialist chefs, including a pastry cook, will be a welcome addition very soon.
Our hors d’oeuvre of celery, onion, carrots and assorted pickled veg was sharp, erring on a little too much vinegar being splashed. Great idea, just needs toning down a little.
From a choice of four starters or anti-pastis, MDC choose baked beetroot salad. Except it wasn’t, it was boiled beetroot. No it wasn’t, said Marco, the deliciously purple root had been baked unpeeled, baking in its own juice! Salted, the beet was served with a mix leaf and feta cheese salad, drizzled in thyme dressing.
My dish of baked goat’s cheese served with seasoned roasted vegetables and chilli marmalade was much better put together. The marmalade added the heat that set the dish alight, successfully combining the salty goat’s cheese in its filo pastry pillow with a Mediterranean mix of vegetables.
While there were no beef-based dishes on our menu, Marco assured us that several are being tested behind the swing doors of the kitchen. To prove his point, we were unexpectedly served a plate of 50-day aged topside beef carpaccio flavoured with black pepper and liquorice that filtered a delicate aniseed flavour.
Marco grated, and grated … and grated more truffle than I have ever eaten on to my plate! Its musky, earthy smell and flavour eventually overwhelmed the delicate meat, but I was reluctant for Marco to stop shredding the black, knobbly fungi. It was a winning combination that will surely star in future menus.
Four choices of secondi, or main dishes, included chicken skewers flavoured with saffron on red and black rice, and baked aubergine in a fresh tomato sauce. Choosing artichoke tortellini, I was surprised to bite into pasta slightly uncooked and lacking consistency, with some parcels packed with filling and other sadly lacking.
However, finished with walnut butter, shaved pecorino and marjoram seasoning, the dish will work for future diners if treated with a little more L’Amore. And while MDC’s hake in crepinet cooked ‘cartoccio’ with sea and land salad did hold its fleshy structure, a little extra seasoning would have made this the standout dish that defined the menu. The salad was sadly limp, the briny life of the samphire boiled out.
Minor irritations will be ironed out through customer feedback. Perhaps some will ask for sparkling water to be served in glass jugs, not screw-top bottles. Others might suggest tables are set further apart, offering space and privacy.
Diners’ furtive glances to neighbouring tables became too obvious, with our fellow guests loudly displaying ‘portion envy.’
“He’s got more pasta than me,” squealed one, who then interrupted our conversation at every opportunity. ‘What’s that? Answer: shaved truffle. Can I have some? Answer: a polite ‘no’ with a suggestion of asking the waiter instead.
Dominated by Old World French and Italian bottles with one Chilean (Sauvignon), one Argentine (Malbec) and a single South African (Chenin) fighting for attention, the wine list offers strong flavours and familiarity – although, alas, no Kent wines as of yet.
Our choices of a white Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie with its lemon, grapefruit notes and a glass of red Romeo from the Tommasi estates in Verona imbued with sweet cherry and chocolate flavours did not disappoint.
Turning our attention to the dolce, I chose limoncello tart and MDC opted for chocolate mousse and caramelised popcorn. Luckily we opted to share the dishes, as the mousse was a ‘triumph’ with the deep chocolaty flavours with the perfect pairing of popcorn, while my tart suffered from a lack of citrusy sharpness and soggy bottom. I was left with my own version of ‘portion envy’, only managing to grab a small spoon of the closely guarded mousse.
Three years in the construction and with Marco recruited three months before opening, L’Amore has been worth waiting for, but just be a little more patient for the food to catch-up with its own and chef’s lofty ambitions.
Where: L’Amore, One Warwick Park Hotel, 17 Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN2 5TA
01892 520587 or firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Sleek new hotel and restaurant servicing Italian-inspired food
When: Restaurant. Breakfast Mon-Fri 7am-10am; Sat & Sun 7.30-10.30am. Lunch Mon-Sun 12pm-2.30pm. Afternoon tea Mon-Sun 2-5pm. Dinner Mon-Sun 5.30pm- 10.30pm
How much: Beef carpaccio with pepper and liquorice, £9.50. Artichoke tortellini £13.