21st 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 Guinea at 78 Calverley Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2UJ
The Guinea sits at the top of town, opposite The Giggling Squid and The Townhouse. Formerly The Guinea Butt, this used to be a pub I would only frequent if my friends dragged me there for summer drinks, as it has a large suntrap garden at the back. In 2018 Fest & Revel who operate in five locations took over. They have one simple mission, “To give the best hospitality experiences to every single person who chooses to walk through our doors”. The other sites are Pope Street, New Eltham, Kelsey House, Beckenham, Tanyard Lane, Bexley and The Oak, Bromley.
I am here today with the wonderful Jess, owner of The TN card. She is being a curious cat and wants to see how I conduct my reviews. If you didn’t know, she supports over 700 independent businesses, currently in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, whilst donating 10% of each membership sale to West Kent Mind, a charity very close to her heart. Assistant Manager, Rhys is looking after us and General Manager Jamie will be along shortly.
The first thing I notice is the vibrant William Morris adorned menus, of which there are many. Jamie recruited Jack at Head Office to revamp the media for all of their sites and I have to say he has done a brilliant job. There is a one page food menu which Jamie says makes everything more manageable, allowing the kitchen to keep high standards and produce great dishes. The majority of the above are made in house with the exception of a few items. Their meat comes from The Butchery in Rusthall and dairy is from Penshurst Fine Foods. I like that the menu is split into starts, fries, mains, buns, sides and treats, with no more than six items in each section. It is easy to comprehend and as Jess eats like a sparrow we take Rhys’s advice, ordering king prawn and chorizo skewers, bang bang cauliflower, chicken katsu fries, The Colonel, buttermilk fried chicken, hash brown, honey butter and hot sauce, sweet potato fries and for dessert, churros and a chocolate brownie.
There are three chefs in the kitchen, AJ, Barnaby and James and they pride themselves on cooking as much from scratch as possible. Regulars have dropped in age from oldies to 20-40 year olds and their offering reflects this with a smaller version available on Deliveroo. Super popular Bottomless brunches, regular and guest craft beers, over twenty very reasonably priced cocktails, including shots, shooters and bombs of the Jager, Skittle and Dr Pepper variety are all available. I have to try the Chief Brody, a twist on a strawberry margarita, apparently it’s accompanied by a vicious shark.
There are premium G&Ts, Champagne and Prosecco, hot drinks for people with identification and others for everyone else. Low & No covers low alcohol, mocktails and soft drinks. Let’s not forget Happy Hour, Sunday to Friday between 5-7pm, yes that’s two hours of drinks at £6. All of this can be found in the brilliant booklet that Jack has designed, on the table when you arrive along with details of Oktoberfest on their screen, an event they are running with excuse me, twice baked alpine cheese and truffle soufflé on the menu. I’m exhausted and I haven’t even mentioned that I am assured they do a mean Sunday Roast with a choice of beef, chicken, and vegan option, for under £15. I would never have known there was so much to choose from, it’s very impressive. Rhys mentions in the summer they even have outdoor smokers for epic barbecues, right up my street. Note to self, must watch “Chef” again, I love Jon Favreau.
As Jess and I tuck into our mini feast, a big smile appears on my face. This is seriously good street food, the kind you want to get really dirty with and pat your belly proudly in recognition of how much you have demolished in one session. Of course I eat far more than the sparrow but then I am the one reviewing. The prawn and chorizo skewers are ace with a lovely bravas sauce beneath them, the chicken katsu is crispy and succulent, the curry sauce oozing over the fries. The Colonel is an excellent nod to the original but boy does that hash brown and honey butter sauce make it. In fact I like the hash brown so much Rhys brings me another, darn that’s good.
I can’t turn down churros and caramel dips on any menu. I think I consumed my body weight in them at Pub In The Park this year. These are the frozen kind but I love them anyway and keep dunking until they are gone. The brownie, homemade, vegan, smothered in chocolate sauce and Jude’s vanilla ice cream is surprisingly good. As someone who rarely eats chocolate desserts, my spoon seems to keep sectioning pieces off and forcibly placing them in my mouth. That’s my story and I am keeping to it. Jess asks for a mint tea and is delighted as the one they deliver actually has fresh mint leaves in it. Hardly any restaurants do this anymore, she is tickled pink.
With 106 covers, a big screen, large outdoor space and events that dominate to differentiate them from the competition, I can honestly say The Guinea is a completely different place from when I last visited. Judging by the amount of reserved tables for that bottomless brunch, they have plenty of fans in this town. Thanks to the team for a great time, we loved it.
All opinions are my own. Review for the TN card.
TN card reward : 25% off food orders from 12pm-6pm, Monday to Friday.
When booking bottomless brunch for four or more people, one person goes free. Read more here.