Shortly before Christmas, with the nights drawing in and a busy few weeks at work I was feeling worn out and in desperate need of a chilled weekend. So, when the other half suggested a Sunday trip to Tunbridge Wells in Kent I jumped at the offer! I’d never been to the town before so had no real idea of what to expect other than (hopefully) a relaxing day out, about an hour’s drive from home, with the promise of a really good roast.
Off to a good start
The drive was uneventful and before I knew it we were pulling into a parking spot on a residential road just along from the High Street (there are lots of paid for parking options too). A quick Google suggested that The Pantiles were the top place to visit so off we went in that direction with no real idea of what we were going to find. Heading down Mount Pleasant Road with its wide street and ‘nice’ shops, the place felt on par with Cheltenham so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be disappointed.
We stopped off at Esquires Coffee for a hot drink to fend off the cold and just about managed to resist their baked goods (the sticky orange cake looked divine). Wandering along with coffee in hand I, of course, found a few shops to pop into along the way. I liked Settle in particular, a quirky homeware shop offering furniture, art and knick knacks, and enjoyed looking around a local indoor craft market a few doors down. And then it was on to the main attraction.
It turns out that The Pantiles is a hub of independent shops and eateries set on quaint streets with the old Pantiles clock overhead and a local bandstand. The place was bustling on this Sunday afternoon with plenty of visitors braving the weather to sit outside and watch the world go by. Little stalls offered a range of goods to buy from jewellery to children’s clothes with the promise of a much larger offering with the arrival of the Christmas market.
We couldn’t help but visit Trevor Mottram, the cook supply shop crammed full of everything and anything you could ever possibly need in a kitchen, in every size, shape and colour you can imagine! The Royal Tunbridge Wells Arts Society enticed us in next with an art exhibition of paintings; not quite my style but the ladies running it were real characters and we enjoyed a good chat. Time was running away with us though and our roast reservation was calling so we didn’t have a chance to explore The Pantiles in all their glory – definitely an excuse to return.
Cake heaven at Juliets
Heading back the way we came, this time uphill, we were pleased to stumble across The Tunbridge Wells Bar & Grill offering free mince pies and mulled wine. These little treats hit the spot until we ventured passed the window display of Juliets which caught our eye with its stacks of vintage crockery. Having resisted cake once already, our will power deserted us and we stepped inside to find TWELVE (!) freshly baked cakes to choose from.
Alongside the classic coffee and walnut and red velvet offerings were more unusual flavour combinations – courgette, pistachio and elderflower as well as polenta, almond and orange – and huge tray bake slices of all varieties. After much deliberation we opted for the lemon drizzle (brick sized portion) and a giant cheese straw to take home for tea. We found our way back to the car knowing we’d 100% found a cake gem.
Sharing roast @ The George & Dragon
Next stop was The George & Dragon pub in Speldhurst, just a ten minute drive from the centre of Tunbridge Wells, which we’d booked the day before after reading an online review. We didn’t manage to find a space in the car park but had no trouble parking on the road a short wander away. It gave us a chance to admire the local church and have a nosey at all the lovely houses! The pub itself was gorgeous, with exposed beams and fireplaces, and absolutely packed out! There was a little wait for us to be seated but the staff were really friendly. We soon had a spacious table in the quieter section upstairs with dramatically high ceilings, quirky booths and funky wallpaper.
The menu options were enticing and I’ve no doubt most visitors would have trouble narrowing down their options. Unfortunately, the chicken parfait (my favourite) wasn’t available and so we opted to share the artisan bread selection and crisp hen’s egg to start. The bread wasn’t anything special which was a shame. But the egg was delicious, severed with a rich celeriac sauce, and I literally wiped the plate clean!
Next up was a sharing roast of slow braised half lamb shoulder. At £38 we pushed the boat out but it was absolutely worth it. Served up on a platter with an array of sides (roast potatoes, parsnips, red cabbage, seasonal veg and greens) with lashings of gravy, I have to say it’s the best roast I’ve had in a long time. The serving was huge and could have easily been shared between three. Even so, we managed to eat our way through most of it, much to the amazement of our waitress. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t have room for pudding and were still so full by the time we got home we even saved our tempting lemon drizzle cake for the next day!
Our day out in Tunbridge Wells was exactly what I needed. A relaxed day with shops to potter around and incredible food to indulge in. It felt like I’d been for a weekend away rather than a Sunday jaunt. I raved about it so much that Becca and Ani went the following Sunday and followed exactly the same itinerary – and thankfully took more photos than I did! So, if you’re looking for a chilled day out not too far from London, look no further!