Tinseltown comes to Tunbridge Wells

The Pantiles Tunbridge Wells Past Plans

While browsing the home-made honey and cured meat stalls on The Pantiles a couple of weeks ago, local foodie shoppers were surprised to spot movie star Cate Blanchett mingling alongside them.

According to stallholders, the two-time Oscar-winning actress, who is reported to have bought a £3million mansion in Crowborough, seemed more than at home wandering around and sampling the gourmet goodies.

The star of numerous box office hits, including Elizabeth, Blue Jasmine and Carole, has some people speculating that she has bought Lisa Marie Presley’s country pile, while others say she is now living in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former residence – a 19th-century mansion surrounded by 13 acres.

The award-winning Australian actress is not revealing the precise whereabouts of her new home just yet, but she is certainly getting into the local spirit of things by making time for a weekend visit to the specialist market stalls trading on the historic Pantiles.

One of those Cate visited was Turners Cider, where she sampled their tempting brews.

The owner of the Marden-based drinks company, Phil Turner, reveals it was quite an experience having an A-list celebrity unexpectedly descend on the firm’s regular stall.

“We realised Cate Blanchett was there with her nanny, who was showing her round, and she tried one of our ciders,” Phil explains. “I was surprised to see her there and she just kept pretty low key.”

According to the cider producer, the farmers’ markets on The Pantiles, which take place on the first and third week of each month, have proved popular with a wide range of residents and visitors to the area.

“We love doing the market as all the stallholders are very friendly,” says Phil. “There’s a culture developing around craft beer, as well as ciders such as ours. The business is still pretty new, we have been going for three years and it has been great. The ciders we make come from local apples, with the Russet variety being particularly popular, as it’s a quintessentially Kentish apple.”

The Pantiles markets have also been popular with a number of other stallholders, including some new culinary faces such as Urban Truffle, an online venture specialising in fine food supplies. Its owner, chef Jonathan Thurkettle, made his debut last month and was impressed by the response.

“I think our first market went pretty well, despite the building work that is being carried out on The Pantiles right now,” says Jonathan. “I was using the experience as an opportunity to test whether to take a shop in Tunbridge Wells, and will probably do so once the right space comes up.

“A lot of our foods are not your usual supermarket goods, such as caviar, as well as our truffles. The feedback we got was really good.”

A wild game stall run by Keiron Toole from Tonbridge has also been attracting interest from more adventurous visitors who have snapped up his selection of meats over the past few years.

“I do a range of game including venison, pheasants, rabbits and pigeons, which are all from the Hever and Penshurst areas,” Keiron states.

“These aren’t everyday items, but I’ve found the venison has been particularly popular, especially whenever the Food Festival is on.”

Pantiles Markets Manager Tracey Aveling and Events Co-ordinator Tara Fuller have been at the centre of creating a programme for spring, which includes a food fair in May.

“Some markets can be hard over the winter, but we had a fantastic one in December, so we’ve carried on through January and February,”

Tracey reveals. “We love doing these events, as well as the Food Festival, which has had footfall of around 7,000 people visiting in the past.”

Let’s hope Cate Blanchett and her family will be among them at the next one.

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