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

Restaurant review: Thackerays in Tunbridge Wells

PUBLISHED: 11:09 24 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:09 24 January 2015

Thackerays Restaurant

Thackerays Restaurant

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

If you’re looking for a special meal for two this Valentine’s then they don’t come much more highly recommended than this Michelin-starred favourite

There’s a new kid on the block at Tunbridge Wells’ finest – Shane Hughes has brought a fresh energy to the kitchens of the always exciting Thackerays in the 10 months since he joined Richard Phillips’ team.

And I had the pleasure of bringing along a first timer to dinner at this very special Grade II listed, white weatherboard-painted restaurant facing the Common, 
so was able to relive something of the emotion I felt 10 years ago, when I dined here for my first-ever review in Kent Life.

Sipping a glass of fizz each we perched on stools in the tiny ground-floor bar and chatted to general manager Gary Beech, who was as relaxed, funny and friendly 
as ever, despite a large lunch party in 
one of the upstairs private dining rooms still showing no signs of leaving six 
hours on and the cellar running low …

But you never do feel rushed here, which is a Good Thing as Shane’s food is far too delicious to hurry. And rest assured, the wine will never run out. Take in the scene first: ancient, sloping wooden floors, low ceilings, warm lighting and cool, modern décor (it was fabulously refurbished in 2010 and is still looking mighty fine).

Nibbling on garlic and Rosemary bread with unsalted butter, as we studied the menu we were served a dainty glass of vibrant pea velouté (which I promptly spilt on the crisp white table linen: top tip – drink it, don’t bother with the tiny spoon).

There are six each of starters and mains, and such a tempting selection it genuinely is a struggle to decide what to choose. Luckily we’d had a chance to meet chef before the meal and My Tall Friend was quick to bag Shane’s signature dish of baked quail and foie gras pithivier.

The marriage of flavours between 
the sweet bird, fresh puff pastry, wild mushrooms and quail sauce finished with 
a Muscat de Beaumes de Venice wine was stunning and MTF, a glass of perfectly matched Bolt-geyl Riesling, Alsace in 
hand, declared it the best starter ever.

That title was, however, in dispute as 
I realised to my relief that the combination of rabbit and scallops wasn’t as bonkers 
as it sounds and that when you team the very finest hand-dived Orkney scallops with mozzarella, tarragon and shimmering rabbit jelly, something magical occurs. 
Add a soft, mouth-filling aged Chateau 
de Fonsalette and you achieve perfection.

A word on the wines; if you prefer a different variety by the glass for each course, then the selection here has doubled overnight with the investment in a Coravin system. It uses technology that keeps the cork in the bottle, enabling your waiter to pour a glass of whatever you like and know that instead of oxidizing, the remaining wine will continue to age naturally.

Our mains of ‘mullet’ and ‘mallard’ nearly caused ordering chaos with their alliterative similarity, but couldn’t have been more different. I had the seared red mullet with Parmesan gnocchi, marinated artichokes and ham – full of big, fat, intense flavours and a needing a proper chewy red with a great nose to cope with it. Luckily Garry’s skilled use of the Coravin was able to grant me a taste of the rare Meursault Premier Cru Puligny-Montrachet.

MTF had the pot-roasted duck served with puréed potato, red cabbage and a bundle of green beans tied up in streaky bacon – which a rich, dark glass of 2007 Chateau Jean-Pierre Gaussen Bandol Cuvee complemented admirably.

Replete, quite frankly amazed at what we’d tasted and aware from our chat with Shane that he “doesn’t like to faff around” with ingredients but prefers to “push in” really big flavours (boy, does he succeed), we didn’t really expect him to be that keen on fiddly old desserts. How wrong we were.

My Black Forest was literally that – a slightly sinister, Grimms fairytale-esque but wonderful garden of delights which included a distinctly phallic cherry and marshmallow mushroom, bushes made of wild sorrel sponge (alas, not as tasty as they were pretty) and bark created from bitter chocolate. Unleash your inner child and dive in, glass of Chinese Ice Wine in hand.

An Italian lime torte was far more grown up but still full of surprises; an initial hint of black pepper and lemongrass softened by almond sponge with lime leaf syrup and MTF’s favourite bit, really yummy Bayleaf ice cream. What are you waiting for? n

More from Food & Drink

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
Tuesday, January 29, 2019

From gin-inspired affairs to chocolate-themed events, there is something to suit even the most discerning customer searching for an afternoon tea to remember

Read more
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Enjoy a delicious lunch or a few cosy drinks after one of these countryside strolls. Here are five great pub walks in Kent

Read more
Tuesday, January 15, 2019

William Boscawen on why he’s loving making the world’s oldest alcoholic drink

Read more
January 2019

Winner of Kent Life’s Restaurant of the Year 2018, family run The West House in Biddenden has now extended its charms with the addition of four guest rooms

Read more
January 2019
Monday, December 17, 2018

We have selected five festive fizz cocktails from Stuart Ovenden’s The Orchard Cook Book

Read more
Monday, December 10, 2018

Andy has a confession: he loves the side dishes almost more than he loves the roast turkey. Here are three of his all-time favourites

Read more
December 2018

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 2016. 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