Restaurant review: The Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells

Ample seating at the very chic bar (photo: Paul Winch-Furness)

Ample seating at the very chic bar (photo: Paul Winch-Furness) - Credit: Paul Winch-Furness - Photographe

A fabulous addition to the Tunbridge Wells dining scene, The Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells offers all-day food and drink in a stylish, buzzing setting

Art works adorn the walls at The Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells (photo: Paul Winch-Furness)

Art works adorn the walls at The Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells (photo: Paul Winch-Furness) - Credit: Paul Winch-Furness - Photographe

It’s the sheer colour and exuberance that hits you when you walk into the new Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells. That and the buzz of happy chatter as nicely dressed couples, families and friends make themselves at home on the comfiest of banquettes packed with cushions and at intimate tables that look too close together but in fact are perfectly spaced for private conversations.

My Blonde Mate and I are in a corner looking out across the whole restaurant, loving the soft, warm lighting which makes us look extra-fabulous, the walls crammed with artworks and the generously sized bar where you can sit and just have a drink if that’s what you prefer.

The menu genuinely is an all-encompassing mix of British classics served from early until really quite late, including breakfast, elevenses, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, light snacks, dinner and cocktails.

In celebratory mood, we have a glass each of Ivy Collection Champagne (I’m going to try an English spritz next time) and, once we’ve navigated the all-day menu (basically, all the drinks are down one side, sandwiches, cakes and afternoon teas down the other), set about choosing dinner from the centre bit.

There’s also a well-priced, much shorter lunch and early evening menu (three starters and puds, four mains plus sides) where you can pick two or three courses for £16.50 and £21 respectively.

Looking for something light and delicious to start, MBM opts for the yellowfin tuna carpaccio, dressed with pretty dots of avocado purée, while I tuck into a very pretty warm and crispy duck salad. While the duck is a tad too crunchy for me, the hit of ginger packs a lively punch and both dishes are a great precursor to our mains.

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While I’m tempted by the celebrated Ivy shepherd’s pie (“even better than your mum’s”, we’re told), I can’t resist a favourite of mine: crab linguine. With a heady mix of courgette, Devon crab claws, chilli, smoked garlic, lemon and a generous heap of rocket on top it’s a total delight – especially with the nicely chilled Sauvignon Blanc we’re enjoying.

Blondie, still on her health kick, goes all Middle Eastern with a sweet potato dish served with spiced dukkah (a seed, nut and spice dip), deliciously smoky aubergine baba ganoush and Moroccan tomato sauce, on a bed of labneh (soft cream cheese made from strained yogurt) and kale served in gravity defying peaks.

Having been reasonably restrained by my usual standards, I go all out with dessert and gleefully demolish a melting chocolate bombe with a honeycomb centre served with vanilla ice cream and hot salted caramel sauce – which is as completely gorgeous as its sounds. Blondie has yoghurt sorbet on frozen mixed fruits; I despair of her.

We sit for ages over coffee, reluctant to leave this vibrant space for the dark and cold outside, but there’s no hint of rushing us out: service by the ridiculously beautiful, smartly clad young staff is friendly, fun, informed and articulate.

I can’t wait to return and the joy of this place is that you can do that throughout the day and night and be assured of great food and service in a fabulous setting.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Sophisticated and friendly all-day dining

Where: The Ivy Royal Tunbridge Wells, 46-50 High Street, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1XF, 01892 240700

When: Mon-Sat 8am-00.30am, Sun and Bank Holidays 9am-11.30pm

How much: crab linguine £15.95, chicken Milanese £15.75, chocolate bombe £8.50

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