Ivan Di Santo and his team have created the perfect mix of fantastic food, amazing ambience and a cocktail list that’s one of the best – and most Instagrammable – you’ll find in the local area. Eileen Leahy went along to sample a taste of the tapas – and terrific time – you have in store when you visit this now legendary Tunbridge Wells establishment…
With the cost of living crisis, ongoing war in Ukraine and a turbulent political landscape to endure, we need all the escapism we can get right now – especially at Christmas.
And I’m pleased to report that as soon as you set foot over the welcoming threshold of Soprano on Tunbridge Wells High Street you’ve got it – in spades.
We visited one chilly November evening when the rainfall count was high and our mood was low after a busy, frustrating week. But as soon as the door was pushed open into this now legendary Tunbridge Wells tapas establishment we could have easily been in a bustling bijou bar in Barcelona such was the buzzy, friendly and intoxicating atmosphere.
“Whether you’re looking for an intimate diner à deux or a fun night out with friends, fab food and a cracking cocktail list then Soprano can certainly deliver on every level”
Specialising in authentic, tasty tapas there’s also a little magical Mediterranean twist on the menu too which reflects owner Ivan Di Santo’s Italian heritage – he hails from the Calabria region of the country, the southernmost extremity of mainland Italy.
Since it launched in 2006, Soprano is now a reliable – and favourite – fixture on the circuit for the discerning diners of Tunbridge Wells and beyond. And just in case you’re new around here his brother Maurizio runs the incredible French-inspired restaurant Coco Retro just down the road. It’s fair to say that the Di Santo brothers certainly offer a wonderful European epicurean experience here in Tunbridge Wells…
As you’d imagine with a place that styles itself as a ‘tapas bar’ the food on offer at Soprano is predominantly Iberian inspired – think classic Spanish picky fare such as pan con tomato (£4.95) and padron pimento (£7.95) as well as heartier authentic offerings like paella del mar (£16.50) and croquette de jamon (£9.50). But in addition to a little Italian twist here and there, there’s also a few other culinary styles thrown into the mix – a clever move as a decent tranche of the menu will therefore appeal to all tastes. The barriga de cedro (£8.95) – pork belly marinated in lime, pineapple and mixed herbs for example sits very nicely alongside the more typical Spanish offerings.
“All the dishes at Soprano boast the finest ingredients and are beautifully presented whether you choose small plates, sharing boards or indulgent dishes”
Another big draw with Soprano is the incredible cocktail menu. On arrival you can choose to take a seat at the cosy bar while you await your table, and if you do then lucky you, as it’s a great vantage point for seeing Soprano’s incredibly talented team of mixologists do their thing shaking, mixing and generally making a showstopping Mojito, Route 66 or house Soprano Special cocktail the best – and most Insta worthy – creation possible. Who knew retro sweets and dry ice could result in one of the most memorable drinks you’ll ever imbibe?
But back to the food… all the dishes, big and small, boast the finest ingredients and are beautifully presented no matter what you choose. Small plates, sharing boards or indulgent dishes for one, each creation looks and tastes delicious. And each time I’ve visited it’s fair to say the electric ambience enhances each bite even further.
We’re dining at a small table tucked away in the corner which is perfect for a private dinner for my husband and I. Yet all around us are bigger tables of four, six and more all clearly having an absolute ball! Immediately next door to our spot we get chatting to a couple of lovely ladies who tell us they love coming here to unpack life about parenting, jobs and everything else in between. We start chatting and sharing stories – and before we know it we’re drinking shots of limoncello and clinking glasses to toast the night and all our good health.
So whether you’re looking for an intimate diner à deux or a cracking night out with friends – some of who you hadn’t even met before you stopped by – then Soprano can certainly deliver on every level. As well as delicious food, a superb drinks list (which includes an expertly-curated wine list) this special place has that added touch of alchemy that no amount of money or considered décor can buy: an absolutely brilliant atmosphere. And it’s fair to say that if you’re looking for a party or special festive get together then you’ve come to the right place…