10th October 2022
Cassidy’s lies on the cobbles of Castle Street, the ones I frequently trip on and then try to laugh off my embarrassment, much to the amusement of people sitting outside with a beer. It’s a family run sports pub that dates back to 1823, when it was The Tap House for The Castle Inn. Later it became The Village, then Buffalo Bill’s until 1997 when it changed to Cassidy’s. John is the longest serving landlord in Tunbridge Wells, buying the place out right in 2004. His partner, the lovely Zoe joined six years ago and they run it with some of their children, who serve behind the bar.
Lee Smith is their Head Chef, he’s full of beans and I like him instantly. When he is not in the kitchen his son Keaton covers his days off, so this really is a family affair. Lee who has been cheffing for nineteen years, had a brief interlude teaching martial arts in Hastings. Unfortunately there were not enough students and therefore he decided to go back into the kitchen, working for St John’s Yard, The Hide Out, (now Lago) and The Guinea. He’s a big barbeque fan and ran the smoke house at the latter, so you will see much of this reflected in his cooking. He secretly wants to open an American diner one day. I think he’s been inspired by Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and a little Bourdain in the mix. He tells me they try to source locally when they can, with meat coming from Southborough Butchers and vegetables, cheese, dairy and general supplies from Adams Wholesale in Worthing. Apart from the Buffalo, all sauces are made in house and they use superb vegan pretzel buns for their burgers which are made from two cuts of beef.
Cassidy’s being a sports venue means they have a hearty, varied offering, with menus covering light bites, burgers, vegan burgers, bigger bites, lunch, flat bread or open wraps, salads and monthly specials. I count six pages, there could be more. October’s special is “Mary had a little lamb”, hummus topped with lettuce and double lamb patties, finished with feta cheese and harrisa mayonnaise. November’s is the “Fire Kwacker”, a duck burger for Bonfire Night. Keaton likes to name dishes after famous actors. Much to Lee’s disapproval, the “Ryan Reynolds” burger is a best seller, giving a nod to the actor’s Canadian roots. I’m ordering it now. Oh my gosh there’s tots on the page too. “Smokey & The Bandit” ones topped with Stilton and bacon, drizzled with buffalo sauce. Next time I’m bringing mum, she is obsessed with these little fried morsels.
My food is brought out altogether, served in cute baskets with blue and white gingham paper. It’s gonna get dirty, cue Lee with a big pile of napkins. Firstly the wrap is awesome. The Korean grilled chicken is juicy and really smoky, smothered in kimchi slaw and Korean mayonnaise, it’s marvellous. I ignore the crinkle cut crisps as the portions are massive and I know fries are coming. You will be pleased to know Cassidy’s are on Deliveroo and Just Eat. I have taken note as my mum loves the thrill of opening a box of naughty food.
The light bites go down well. The salt and pepper squid is in proper chunks with sweet chilli sauce and the prawns are fat, breadcrumb crunchy, on a bed of lettuce and sweet chilli mayonnaise. All of the favourites are available on this menu, like popcorn chicken, truffle fries, Cajun chicken skewers, halloumi fries etc. On “Wine Wednesdays”, they offer 50% off a bottle of selected wines, when you spend a minimum of £5 on food per person. Girly night out I hear you say?
As for the “Ryan Reynolds”, it is a triumph. The vegan pretzel bun holds well. It’s got a milky, dense, salty texture that I am really loving against the robust beef patty, onion ring and maple bacon inside. This is a great burger Lee. It comes with seasoned fries, I choose piri piri that’s punchy and sweet, a great combination. The whole thing beats me. Perhaps I have over ordered, but Zoe has told me I have to try a dish from each menu. I feel I am failing her but I’ll put in the effort.
While I am not so sneakily writing, they threaten to put a hilarious “Ratatouille”, post up on Instagram. Make what you will of it. I think I am starting to get a bit of a reputation Jess, perhaps I should wear a disguise next time, fnarr fnarr. I can’t resist going back to the wrap. The chicken is so insanely succulent, I can’t leave it. I resort to forking out the divine smoky grilled thigh meat, slaw and mayo whilst leaving the wrap aside. I am actually regretting sitting on this high stool, it’s a long way down and the belly is telling me to ease myself off, or use a counter balance. What am I like!
With all of the special offers they have at Cassidy’s, like “Wine Wednesdays”, mentioned above, “Any burger and any pint”, (Monday to Wednesday), “Mix and Match any five light bites” and “Sunday Burgers”, there is something for everybody. Three large screen televisions and a huge projector ensure everyone can see the games and soak up the electric atmosphere. As Zoe says, “Footy or rugby, you’ll always have a great time at Cassidy’s”. I think she’s right.
Thanks for an epic lunch. Tip everyone, go in at lunchtime, your food will be ready in 15 minutes and you’ll be back in the office before you can say tater tot.
All opinions are my own. Review exclusive to the TN card.
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