21st August 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 Plant Base at 11 Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells.
The Plant Base was originally opened in 2017 by Geoff Stone, who wanted to “create an eco-friendly eatery with up-cycled furniture, biodegradable takeaway packaging and an all vegan menu”. They relocated to a larger space in 2021, however Storm Eunice collapsed a very large chimney stack into their kitchen roof and they had to close shortly after. It was thanks to successful crowdfunding that they were able to return and get back on their feet. The only plant-based restaurant and bar in Tunbridge Wells, (until Ruby’s opened), they specialise in whole foods, lovingly prepared and presented. They also stock ethical beers and wines that are 100% organic.
Located at the town centre end of Camden Road, where you will find some brilliant independents, this little restaurant has a really nice vibe. World music is playing in the background and Holly gives me a lovely friendly welcome. You can tell they have a loyal client base by the way everyone seated looks so comfortable and lost in conversation. There are elegant fedora hatted ladies, well-groomed retirees, families of four and trendy students. It’s a real mixed bag of people and reminds me of the cafes I used to frequent in Camden, when the plant-based concept was relatively new. Think moody bamboo basket down-shades and chairs, pot plants, small pictures, (one says “take a breath”) and shades of green, with a cool coffee white board at the back. I love that the kitchen is raised as you can see all of the pots and pans and Geff busily working. He’s on his own up there, so has to work quickly for what looks like over forty covers.
I’m trying their “Daytimes” menu, served between 11am and 3pm. They also have a dinner menu consisting of nibbles, (something to eat before you eat), small plates, (ideal as a starter or go tapas-style), large plates and sides. A 12.5% service charge is added to eat in bills and everything is 100% plant based. Back to “Daytimes”, I’ve heard the pancakes and smoothies are very good. I order the “Green”, a smoothie with apple, banana, spinach, kale, spirulina, (blue-green algae superfood) and coconut milk. It is topped with grated coconut. I usually go for berry style smoothies but this is extremely good. The texture and flavour are so moreish, but it doesn’t fill you up to the point that you don’t want to order anything else having filled your belly already. I am really enjoying it.
The Pancake stack is divine, homemade and served with blueberry compote, coconut yogurt, granola, coconut flakes, sweet roasted seeds and agave. It contains oat gluten. The crispy seeds are such a nice contrast, all toasted and nutty. This is a great introduction to their food and I am already deciding when to return. Independents have so much more character and far more time to devote to their patrons. Who wants a soulless chain when you can have a place like this.
I enjoy my first trip so much I decide to return for dinner later. They are open from 6pm until late, Wednesday to Saturdays and also Sundays from 10am until 2pm, closed Monday and Tuesday. I am glad about this as hospitality folks deserve well-earned breaks. I’m back and there is a cute place setting at the table just for me. As dusk falls and the last of the sunlight flows through the large windows, the atmosphere is lovely. I start with a ginger Kombucha, (fermented, effervescent black tea), from You + I. It’s got a real throat kick and will pair well with the three small plates I select. The large plates are very appealing but I’m saving them for next time. The small plates do look promising. Geff is in the kitchen from which I can hear sizzling, steaming and frying noises. There’s some regulars ordering the humus, they’ve clearly been here many times as there’s a lot of banter going on with Holly who runs front of house.
First, Tofu Skewers made with homemade satay sauce, containing soy, maple syrup and peanuts. I could go with more sweetness in the sauce but it’s a personal choice. There are two skewers and they are surprisingly filling. Next, Curry Fried Cauliflower, florets marinated in turmeric and chilli, served with a very authentic tomato and onion chutney. This is my favourite of the three. No claggy raw dough inside, the batter crisp, the cauliflower retaining robustness and dipped into that chutney that hits me with a familiar nigella seed flavour, reminding me of freshly made snacks at my mum’s. He’s nailed it.
Five Spice Vegetable Dumplings are the final choice, served with a tamari and ginger dip. The texture is good, no sogginess here. I like the way the dishes are presented on grey slate style plates with cute dipping bowls. It suits the feel of the restaurant.
I will say it again, many of you know I always save room for dessert and as Holly is reeling off, Affogato, brownies, blondes and torte, Geff pops out and says “sticky toffee pudding”. Made from chopped dates, oat milk and vegan butter which are all blended to make a batter, nuts are added. The final pudding is dark and glorious, served with vegan vanilla ice cream. The lady who makes their cakes is dining in the restaurant and is so pleased that I enjoy it. She is also a regular. Coffee is supplied by Horsham Coffee Roaster and oat milk is used as standard. I decline as my remaining ginger Kombucha is proving a great palate cleanser, I’m quite hooked on this stuff.
I have absolutely loved my lunch and dinner at The Plant Base. Holly is adorable and you can see why herself and Geff are very much admired by their patrons, coming from as far as Denmark. My mother could convert me easily at home, but it’s the vegan restaurant offerings like this one that are changing how people choose to dine out, myself included.
Thank you Geff and Holly, I will definitely be back soon.
All opinions and photos are my own. Review exclusive to the TN card.
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