Savouring a taste of Tunbridge Wells

Savouring a taste of Tunbridge Wells
Chef Marcus Wareing

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, near 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 Manor, 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 food 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.

Are there any favourite local haunts you have found that you like to frequent?

In terms of eating out, we are regulars at The Ivy. We have had 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, which is a bit further out but has a Michelin star. Additionally, we like to visit Gravetye Manor, 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. Finally, 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!

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…

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