6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Kent Life today CLICK HERE

Ivy House, Tonbridge - restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 17:39 19 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:14 20 February 2013

Tempting menu at Ivy House

Tempting menu at Ivy House

Celebrity chef John Burton Race is overseeing the menu at the revamped Ivy House in Tonbridge

With a celebrity chef overseeing the menu and a classy refit, Tonbridge has just gained a smashing new local in the shape of the revamped Ivy House


As a Tonbridge girl, news that the town was getting a brand new independent restaurant was especially exciting. Even more so that it belongs to the stable of Kent Inns of Distinction, the privately owned restaurant and hotel operator that is taking 'challenging' sites around the county and transforming them into exciting new dining destinations.
The company was formed in 2004 when owners Richard and Sherry Martin, who live in Sandwich, did up the Dog Inn at Wingham, followed by The Blazing Donkey in Ham and, earlier this year, Harvey's at Ramsgate.
The 15th-century Ivy House at the north end of the High Street is their first move to the west of Kent and rescues a pub that had been shut for a year by the time the couple bought it in March, then spent 150,000 on a smart new refit and installed their son, Daniel Ward, as chef-manager.
It gets even better. Celebrity chef John Burton-Race, of the renowned Michelin-starred New Angel in Dartmouth, has joined the company as head of group development. This makes him responsible for training and moving the menus forward into a new realm, and lucky Daniel has already had the benefit of his magic.
Joined by The Hungry One, we were pleasantly surprised by an interior that is now both attractive and contemporary while embracing the beams and low ceilings that go with the building's antiquity. Solid rustic tables sit happily on the stone and wooden floor, black and white framed prints hang on the buff-coloured old walls and the chairs are comfy high-backed brown leather.
There's a separate bar off the dining area and outside seating on a small patio area, which can get noisy - it is on the High Street - but that wasn't deterring many of our fellow diners from their aperitifs, and those just here for a pint, determined to make the most of a rare fine evening.
It won't take you long to whip through the menu, with just six choices per course, but the man in charge wants to keep the selection changing with the seasons, and to use Kentish produce throughout, and Daniel is very happy to oblige.
There was no choice for me with the starter - it had to be the intriguing beetroot and vodka-cured wild salmon with local shrimps. As delicious as it was colourful, the pickled endive, dill and mustard sauce provided just the necessary kick of flavours.
THO plumped for the 'irresistibly delicate' Hythe crab and avocado salad, though the jury is still out on the accompanying cucumber and fish egg dressing. Other choices that tempted included a hot courgette and goat's cheese tart, and if you are a fan of black and indeed white pudding, it's served here in terrine form with Kentish plum compote on the side.
To follow, pinkly tasty slices of roast Romney Marsh lamb were just the thing for a Hungry One, especially when accompanied by a satisfying mound of dauphinoise potatoes.
I fared slightly less well with my mixed seafood plate, homing in on the 'seafood' and failing to notice the word 'fennel.' You really do have to love that aniseed taste to get the most out of this dish, and despite the wonderful mix of locally caught fish and shellfish, and a broth made with Kent's own Chapel Down Bacchus, it was the fennel that did it for me.
I would have probably fared better with the 'avant garde fish and chips' - I spotted a fellow diner tackling a positive tower of haddock, pollock and whiting with big fat chips, and it looked just fab. Next time...
Puds are a delight and nicely local - a poached Kentish pear for me with a more-ish saffron ginger mascarpone and a ginger and lime cheesecake for my dining chum, which disappeared so fast I didn't even get a taste.
The wine list is also a cut above your average pub choice. Put together by group sommelier Nick Stebbing-Allen, it includes a Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet that dealt brilliantly with the challenging combo of beetroot and salmon, and a gorgeous New Zealand organic Sauvignon Blanc that even coped with fennel.
Here's one local girl who is very happy indeed with her new local in town.



Ivy House
Dining Room & Bar
199 High Street
Tonbridge
Tel: 01732 771249
Hythe crab and avocado salad 6.50
Romney Marsh lamb 15.50
Picpoul de Pinet 14.95

More from Food & Drink

Artisan spirits are a booming business. You can visit any or all of Kent’s fascinating distilleries in search of your new favourite tipple

Read more
March 2019
Yesterday, 15:27

These Kent hotels all have great restaurants, so you can indulge in locally sourced tasty food before a night in a sumptuous room

Read more

Brought to life by a family team with strong local connections, The Powell is back where it belongs in the heart of its community

Read more
March 2019

We are delighted to announce our seventh Food and Drink Awards and this year have 14 categories in which to make your nominations

Read more
Yesterday, 12:08

Our food and drink newsletter is brimming with all of your local foodie highlights.

Read more
Thursday, February 28, 2019

There are new faces behind the bar at historic pub The White Horse in Hawkinge, which has reopened after a £200,000 transformation

Read more
February 2019
Thursday, February 14, 2019

Join the micropub revolution! This unique style of small, one-room pubs was born in Kent and has caught on with micropubs appearing all over the country. We have selected 12 of the best in Kent for you to visit

Read more

With a fabulous setting in the heart of the city, ABode Canterbury is not only a great place to stay but offers a fantastic dining experience too

Read more
February 2019
Monday, February 11, 2019

Whether you want slow cooked pulled pork, huge steaks or some surf and turf, we’ve got the meat-heavy restaurants in Kent that you need to visit

Read more
Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Cute dogs and beer – do you need anything else? We pick 10 of the best dog-friendly pubs to bring your pooch

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook


Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life