Marcus serves up his favourite foodie finds in Tunbridge Wells
15th August 2019
Marcus Wareing, one of the country’s most respected and talented chefs, has relocated to Tunbridge Wells with his family. Eileen Leahy finds out some of the places the Masterchef presenter frequents and gets his thoughts on the local foodie scene
Marcus, you’re originally from Southport so what brought you to Tunbridge Wells?
Well although I’m a northerner, I have lived in the south since my professional career began. I moved to London when I was 18 and started work at The Savoy.
Around the age of 23 I worked at Gravetye Manor in East Grinstead for a year as second chef under Head Chef Steven Morey.
I really enjoyed living in Sussex and actually met my wife Jane at Gravetye so the area has meaning for us both.
Now by chance, our three children all attend school in Kent so it made sense for us to have a base in the area.
How long have you been based in Tunbridge Wells and what do you enjoy most about living here?
We have been here for 18 months now and love the area and the nearby countryside. It’s a fantastic alternative to the hustle and bustle of our London life but still only an hour door-to-door. And we never tire of the views over the Weald . . .
Do you find it relatively easy to commute elsewhere for all your chef and TV commitments?
We are based in London during the week, so commuting isn’t an issue. However, I also have a motorbike which makes a big difference if I need to travel during rush hour or to East London where Masterchef: The Professionals is filmed.
What do you think about the local foodie scene here in Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area?
Well as we are relatively new to the area we’re still getting to know it! In terms of restaurants we are on the hunt for the best steak! There is plenty of local produce available in a variety of places which I love as we do a lot of cooking at home.
We also just bought a new wood fired pizza oven so we’re currently testing out our favourite toppings!
Any favourite local haunts you like to frequent?
In terms of eating out we are regulars at The Ivy. We have been to lunch at the Abergavenny Arms a few times as it is close to home and always friendly. We have also been to Pizza Express a few times – it is one of our children’s favourites!
There are a few places we still have to try such as Seventeen, Juliet’s and The West House [in Biddenden] which is a bit further out but has a Michelin star.
Additionally, we like to visit the Gravetye, where Jane and I used to work, at least once a year. The garden is beautiful and the new restaurant is well worth a visit. George Bloggs is cooking some great food and it’s only about 40 minutes from where we live.
And The Bell at Ticehurst serves a very nice fish and chips!
And what attracts you to these various places?
The menu offering is important as you need some choice but not too much. A smaller menu is easier for a chef to get right than a very long one. Other essential elements include decent décor, attentive service and simple food that’s cooked and seasoned well. And nothing more than that really. Oh and a reasonably priced wine list helps too!
We have the twice-monthly farmers market and also the foodie one in The Pantiles; do you go along and if so, why is it essential to support them?
I would love to go along but so far we have spent every Saturday at school watching sport! We’re aiming to visit them more during the summer months when we don’t have school. It’s so important to support the local community.
The high street needs our custom during these difficult times and the flavour of freshly grown produce is just so much better. Also, it’s essential that we use less plastic!
What do you think events like Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park bring to the area?
Well it brings people here to Tunbridge Wells, which is great. Personally I have not been to Pub in the Park but events like this are a great way to encourage people to try different foods and perhaps introduce good local restaurants they may not know about.
And finally, do you have any plans to open up your own restaurant in Tunbridge Wells any time soon?
No, not at the moment...
Where Marcus Wareing likes to shop locally:
We like to support a few of the garden centres in the area as we enjoy gardening and they also stock some great local produce.
Additionally, TN2 Deli in Tunbridge Wells has some great wines.
I am a big fan of Fuller’s Farm Shop on Bunny Lane (pictured) and like to buy meat from the counter and the English cheeses are great as well.
The Weald Smokery at Flimwell looks good and there are some great little shops on The Pantiles.
Ringden Farm in Flimwell has great jam and they juice our apples.
I have heard of the Secret Cellar but not managed to get there yet. We really enjoy living in the area!
I’d like to try a local tapas and an Indian restaurant. They may well exist but I’ve not found them yet.
Also, it would be great to see a local restaurant, rather than a pub, offering great quality basic food