11th September 2022
Each week our in-house food writer Bibi Roy reviews one of our TN partners to see what members can expect when they visit. This time she turns her attention to The Abergavenny Arms on Frant Road in Tunbridge Wells TN3 9DB
This fifteenth century coaching inn is located in the heart of Frant village, overlooking the hills and vales of the Eridge Park Estate. Previously owned by jeweller Richard Burrell who didn’t want to sell to a chain, the pub was bought by Guy Woods and Phil Clifford in 2019, wishing to maintain and enhance its original character whilst providing a high quality dining experience. Enter Craig Wales who heads the kitchen, offering seasonal menus with locally sourced produce. Fish from Sankey’s, meat from Southborough Butchers and fruit and vegetables from David Catt & Sons, I like himalready.
As I walk in, loyal regulars are at the bar chatting away with the team. They glance up at little me and then are back to their conversation in seconds. She’s harmless they deduce. I am greeted by Claire who takes me through to the main dining room. As I sit a whole family arrive and are warmly welcomed with recognition by everyone, always a good sign. I am told this is more of an autumn / winter pub and the decor reflects this with its inglenook, sage green sash windows, dark wooden floorboards and Balmoralesqe tartan chairs; but through those windows is a beautiful garden complete with gazebo and barbecue, that I would happily sit in during the summer months with a G&T and pleasant company. Put me on 284 bus up Frant Road and I’ll be there in ten minutes. Could I be a new regular, quite possibly, let’s see how the meal goes.
There is something for everyone here. Wednesday Steak Specials of two 250g rib-eyes and a bottle of house wine for £45, Pizza Thursdays, choices of traditional and exotic homemade pizzas for two, including two cocktails for £30 and Fish Friday, the hugest portions of fish and chips for two, (I see them leaving the kitchen) and a bottle of house wine for £36. Sunday Roast I hear is a must and they also have a British Tapas menu, great for sharing if you prefer small plates. I am trying the a la carte today, its monsoon season out there and I need something heartily substantial.
Everything is made in-house here, including the divine red pepper bread and smoked pepper butter that I thoroughly enjoy, along with another crusty slice, salted butter and fat green olives. I try not to eat too much bread before a meal but this is irresistible. To start, two hand dived scallops atop gorgeous squishy black pudding and nicely charred cauliflower with a crunch I like. The whole dish comes together with the cauliflower purée beneath. It’s hard to go wrong with this combination and I’m pleased the scallops are well executed. I do detest a chewy
Next the Dingley Dell Pork Ribeye, superb quality. I love the presentation and the name of this Suffolk pork. A huge aerated scratching sits on top, a piece of soft sweet cooked apple within and below is a croquette filled with succulent pulled pork. Then the ribeye, dense and marbled. The jus is quite tart and so the soft cooked apple balances the palate. The rain is now thudding outside making this meal the perfect introduction to autumn. Claire you are right, I definitely don’t need any side dishes, but should I wish to indulge there are several available, including parsley butter Kentish new potatoes. Stop me now.
You didn’t think I’d leave out dessert from this clearly very qualified chef did you? I am torn between the Paris Brest and Soufflé, (I saw the reel on the TN card's TikTok and was quite frankly drooling). If they were in miniature version there would be no question that I would order both, but Craig is unafraid of large portions and I fear I may not be able to stand if I choose the latter. White Chocolate and Raspberry Paris Brest with raspberry sorbet it is. This is a corker of a dessert, almost kitsch with the colour alternation. I love it. He knows his choux and should be applauded for his tenacity of putting the sorbet on top, which incidentally provides some welcomed acidity to this sweet spectacle. One day I am going to ask him if I can do a dessert menu tasting, because if this is anything to go by the others will be equally fabulous.
This meal was just what the doctor ordered. A complete antithesis to the depressed disposition I walked in with, I leave with the happiest of full bellies. If high quality, locally sourced soul food was what they were aiming for, they nailed it. The service from Claire was fantastic, informative and helpful. I couldn’t ask for more and cannot wait until I come back to the crackling of the open fire and more stellar dishes from one talented chef and professional team. Thank you to all.
All opinions are my own. Review exclusive to the TN card.
Member reward: A glass of fizz with our compliments when ordering two courses from the menu. One per member with their meal, per visit. In addition, members enjoy 10% discount on their food bill on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Read more here.