Sulston’s Kitchen: A fresh approach
2nd May 2019
Sulston’s Kitchen in Tonbridge is fast becoming one of the area’s most popular cafés thanks to its super fresh and seasonal foodie offerings. Owner Ben Sulston tells us more about his journey to culinary success...
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I have been a chef for over 20 years, cooking and eating all around the world. About 10 years ago I started taking my health more seriously and trained in various martial arts. I also began doing triathlons and just generally becoming more active. With this came a change in my diet. My style of cooking started to focus more on health foods and I began to understand and become more passionate about the natural health benefits from food.
When did you open?
We officially opened Sulston’s Kitchen in June 2016. Previous to that I had been consulting on the food offering at The Shack in Phuket, Thailand, which was ‘fuelled by Sulston’s kitchen’. We actually started out as a YouTube channel in 2013 to showcase the recipes I was developing and teaching people how to cook them. Some of the most popular videos are ‘how to cook freekeh’ and our infamous ‘protein pancakes’.
What do you enjoy most about Sulston’s Kitchen?
The interaction with our customers. We have very consciously created a relaxed environment with our open kitchen and this has attracted lots of regular clientele. They make Sulston’s Kitchen what it is and it’s great to see people making connections – whether it is just Friday morning banter before work or people linking up for projects though chatting in here over coffee. The supper club we run here is great for this too, with people coming together for the love of food and making new friends.
'Food has to taste great, that is always important, but achieving that without using unhealthy ingredients, or at least not excessive amounts of them, is the key'
Which dishes are your most popular and why?
At the moment it’s the miso and sesame-glazed beef with cashews, kimchi slaw, baby gems, endive, apple and poached eggs on toasted sourdough. This is closely followed by our smoked salmon, avocado, harissa, peas, spinach, roast seeds and poached eggs on toasted sourdough. We do a lot of research to source unique ingredients that provide health benefits but that are also very tasty. We think it’s this, along with the flavour combinations we put together, that makes these dishes so popular.
Do you source ingredients locally?
Yes and this is actually one of our key principles. We use all local suppliers and they source the ingredients locally where possible. Our veg one has great relationships with the Kent farmers so as soon as something is in season he lets us know so we can order it in and change the menus accordingly. Our sourdough is from The Bakehouse and our meat is from Ian Chatfield’s butcher shop, both on the High Street in Tonbridge. Our apple and pear juices are from Biddenden, our eggs come from Woodlands Farm just outside Canterbury and our venison is sourced from Chart Farm.
What positives does Sulston’s Kitchen bring to Tonbridge?
We offer something no one else does: relaxed, healthy, delicious food complemented by amazing coffee and tea. We are a food-led café so the food comes first. I develop all the menus and cook everything we serve at Sulston’s Kitchen. We keep the coffee simple, serving a good single-origin Colombian filter (current tasting notes of chocolate and berries) and then we have our guest filter coffee running alongside our house one. This is normally more experimental and one for the coffee lovers. We help bring people together through our supper clubs and the café itself is a real social experience, we really work hard to help bring the community together.
What do you think of the current foodie scene in Tonbridge?
It is going from strength to strength and as the population of Tonbridge continues to grow, the need for more food offers will increase. We see more and more people travelling to us from Tunbridge Wells, Kings Hill, Sevenoaks and the other surrounding areas, because of our unique offering. I think it’s important to recognise the places like Finch House, which was really the first place in the town to offer something different. Then when people saw that was working, lots more food businesses popped up.
Having The Old Fire Station as a platform has enabled businesses like Fuggles and Sankey’s to come to the town as they both did pop-ups there before moving to set up their businesses in Tonbridge. More recently we have seen the opening of the green kitchen Verdigris and the Ivy House is going to re-open soon under new management, so I think it is just going to continue to grow, which is amazing!
Do you cater for outside events?
Yes. We have catered for numerous outside events including weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and even a ‘zen do’ (a healthy hen do) in various private locations. Further afield we catered for a rugby Sevens tournament at the famous Rugby School and we do as many local festivals as we can fit in. This year has been particularly busy so far with pop-up events. We have also been running a monthly supper club here for two years now.
Can you sum up the Sulston’s Kitchen experience in one sentence?
Delicious, healthy food and drink served in a relaxed, friendly environment.
You can check out Ben Sulston’s YouTube videos at www.youtube.com/bensulston