Woods restaurant, Tunbridge Wells, tried and tested

Owned by the Wood family, with daughter Claire in the kitchen heading up an all-female team, this Tunbridge Wells restaurant is a real Pantiles favourite

Woods restaurant, Tunbridge Wells, tried and tested

Owned by the Wood family, with daughter Claire in the kitchen heading up an all-female team, this Tunbridge Wells restaurant is a real Pantiles favourite

Music lovers in Kent will immediately associate Woods Restaurant with balmy nights on the Pantiles. Those in the know book an outside table to not only enjoy a delicious meal al fresco but also to gain a guaranteed seat for the hugely popular free jazz nights held on the bandstand every Thursday throughout summer.

But if the holiday season is a distant memory now, rest assured that this Tunbridge Wells favourite is a pleasure to visit throughout the year – with the added bonus of having its own local produce store attached that’s celebrating its first anniversary this month and gaining new fans all the time.

Formerly a ballroom, the restaurant is immensely appealing with its eclectic mix of wooden tables and chairs, chequered marble floor and Art Deco mirror; there’s

a minstrel’s gallery fronting the intimate upstairs bar and the produce store also doubles as a bar area for about 50.

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On jazz nights, they’ll turn round 200 meals, while the music festival on the Pantiles over the August Bank Holiday weekend saw the team do a record 300 meals a day.

Head chef Claire Wood, together with her father Sheridan and stepmother Karen, own the business and it has a genuinely friendly, family feel about it.

Chatting to Claire, we decide that Woods is neither a brasserie nor a bistro, but rather the all-important criteria is that it’s “regional, seasonal and contemporary.” 

More than ready to tuck in, My Gorgeous Daughter and I spend ages over the intriguing menu (everything from cooked breakfast to weekend brunches, snacks and tapas as well as lunch and dinner).

We fight over the potted crab served with gooseberry compote; naturally I lose, but am granted a taste in between her ‘oohs’ of delight. An inspired combination, the fruit cutting through the richness of the crab, while the bread (Southborough’s Rusbridge Bakery’s seed variety) is sublime.

I can’t complain: my grilled goat’s cheese with a sparklingly fresh rocket and walnut salad and home-made Bramley apple chutney is bursting with flavour and goodness: simple but inspired.

Even after a suitable rest (portions are definitely on the generous side), MGD still doesn’t quite make it through her “perfect” pancakes – just thick enough to hold a substantial filling of spinach, mushroom, tomato and mascarpone – finding the Cheddar cheese topping just a touch on the strong side.

No such problem, of course, with my pan-fried sea bass on a bed of roasted red peppers with gorgeous little new potatoes. Apparently there was fennel in there, so it must have been good, as that little horror usually stops me in my tracks. I’ve even noted how great the scent was as my fish arrived.

“I can’t possibly eat pudding too!” MGD protested – right up to the point when she tasted her giant meringue with vanilla ice cream and Baileys and white chocolate sauce.

A huge fan of both white chocolate and ‘real’ vanilla, MGD admitted you need a sweet tooth for this one but described it as “a wonderful indulgence – ecstacy on a plate!”

My lemon cheesecake with a raspberry coulis was less dramatic but just as yummy, with that unmistakable taste of buttery biscuit only home-made versions deliver.

As well as supporting local food producers (fish is courtesy of Sankeys Fishmongers just up the hill, Overtons Butchers of Pratts Bottom provide the ham, bacon and sausages, fruit and veg is from Taywells), you can do your bit for Kent’s vineyards too by choosing an English wine with your meal. I had my favourite Gribble Bridge Ortega Dry by Biddenden Vineyard, while MGD loved her organic Bodiam Harvest from Seddlescombe Vineyard.

GET IN TOUCH

Woods Restaurant

62 Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells TN2 5TN

Tel: 01892 614411

Email: info@woodsrestaurant.co.uk

Typical prices: potted crab with gooseberry compote, �6.75, sea bass with roasted peppers �14.75

Restaurant open: Mon-Sat 8am-midnight (closed Mon eve), Sun 8am-9pm, Produce store 9am-6pm