Redefining fine dining

Having heard so much about The Warren, Eileen Leahy experiences a taste of this extraordinary restaurant, which provides its customers with some of the area’s most delicious and inventive food – all from its own 650-acre estate in Crowborough…


With its iconic orangery windows, eclectic, exotic decor and adventurous gastronomic menu, The Warren has proved to be one of the most exceptional places to dine in the area since it opened in 2016.

Located right at the top of Tunbridge Wells High Street, opposite the train station, it boasts an enviable location in the heart of town, but its beating culinary heart is actually located in the countryside at its 650-Crowborough Warren Estate, where so much of the fantastic produce that appears on its impressive, ever-changing seasonal menu is sourced. Everything from butchering to smoking is also done in house with every element used to ensure zero waste.

The estate is rich in livestock, from Sussex cattle and vension, to wild boar and lamb so there is always a variety of cuts of meat to enjoy. Owners Martin Haynes and Chris Fitt opened the restaurant seven years ago to ensure the farm’s fantastic free-range produce could be showcased on a menu that put hyper locally sourced goods right at its centre.

The first-floor restaurant, which is on the former site of the legendary Signor Franco’s, seats more than 60 people in its three adjoining dining rooms and bar area. And during the finer weather you can escape outside to its pleasant roof terrace with a glass of something chilled.

During all my time writing food reviews for SO magazine I had never actually been to The Warren so when I was asked to go last month to sample its menu I was very excited indeed. Did it live up to its stellar reputation? Read on…

Stepping into the establishment for the first time my husband and I were suitably  impressed. Having left the Friday night drizzle behind us as we ascended the stairs up to The Warren, suddenly things became just that little bit warmer thanks in part to a roaring fire and friendly welcome.

It almost felt like we’d stepped onto the set of a Fellini movie thanks to the spectacular oversized glass chandeliers suspended from the ceiling, ornate throne-like chairs, a baby grand piano, marble topped tables, antique mirrors, and a slew of eye-catching artefacts, including a stuffed boar’s head. So far, so spectacular…

The restaurant’s general manager Magdalena Szczerbova showed us to our table – an intimate spot in the establishment’s stunning orangery.

The atmosphere here was incredibly lively with most tables occupied; ranging from large groups of friends happily drinking and dining, to cosy couples enjoying an intimate soirée.

To kick the evening off Magdelena suggested we sample a glass of Busi Jacobsohn, which is produced at Busi’s Eridge Vineyard. Bubbly and aromatic it was the perfect accompaniment to the selection of homemade fresh breads which arrived with a quenelle of butter and a little amuse bouche courtesy of the chef.

First up on the menu, which has a good selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes, was a selection of ‘pre starters’ which included Maldon oysters (£3.60 each) and Dorset snails with toasted sourdough, and a choice of homemade garlic butter or blue cheese (£9.45).

We decided on a few oysters which came with a selection of Tabasco sauces, lemon and vinaigrette.

They were salty and silky and the perfect way to have commenced our epicurean adventure at The Warren.

Magdelena then asked what might tickle our tastebuds in terms of the actual starters. And with choices such as a venison meatball with cream cheese, coleslaw and brioche (£9.95) and slow cooked pork cheek, with sweet potato purée & Port jus reduction (£9.50) and a delicate smoked salmon, avocado, crispy filo pastry & salmon caviar (£9.50) it was a tricky task.

Eventually I opted for the salmon but my husband was still quietly pondering, absorbed in the choice, so Magdelena gently guided him towards one of The Warren’s signature dishes: a goose egg, from their estate, which is served with wild mushrooms, Eridge Beal’s Farm Mangalista pork loin & parmesan (£12). When it arrived it was a taste triumph – a kind of super elevated bacon and eggs but ten times more flavoursome.

We enjoyed a glass of crisp white Picpoul from France with our first dishes and awarded Magdelena top marks for her wine pairing.

Next up were the main courses. Again, the choice is extensive, hearty and super tempting courtesy of plates such as duck breast with carrot & potato rosti, red cabbage, French beans & Kirsch jus (£28) and chicken supreme with wild mushroom risotto (£24). Ultimately it’s the beef Chateaubriand, which you choose by the ounce, that won the day for us.

Magdelena suggested we go for the 26oz to enjoy alongside a selection of sauces which include a Marchand de Vin & Brighton Blue cheese – and just for pure decadence a lobster tail. The ultimate gourmet surf n’ turf…

The meat was cooked to perfection and served with salty French fries, tenderstem broccoli, panfried mushrooms and a sticky, sweet caramelised onion confit. Every bite was a delight and reflects how good quality produce done simply can far outclass any complicated dish overloaded with fussy ingredients any day.

With the slivers of delicious beef we enjoyed a bottle of Har’el Shiraz, which Magdelena told us hails from the Judean hills in Israel. Its oaky, vanilla character complemented the food perfectly and would also be the ideal drink if you were to choose the restaurant’s cheese course which boasts Rosary Ash goat’s cheese, Ashmore cheddar & Sussex Blue (£13.50) to have afterwards.

After a little sojourn post dinner, finishing our wine and watching customers starting to drift off back downstairs into the drizzly winter’s evening, we took a look at the dessert menu. After a quick glance I decided I was too full, but my husband says he can squeeze in another morsel.

He chose the Affogato, an Italian style vanilla ice cream, which is served with a nip of Frangelico, and almond Amaretti & double espresso (£11.50). Totally vegan it was the perfect way to finish our hugely enjoyable dinner.

As we headed off, Magdelena kindly gifted us a box of homemade macrons which came packaged in a cute half dozen egg box, no doubt reflecting the restaurant’s roots and culinary ethos of providing its customers with food that goes straight from farm to fork.

Vowing to return again soon, Magdalena suggests a Sunday or weekday lunch visit next time. “We have a great fixed price express menu during the week which is great if you’re looking to pop out during your work lunchtime or meeting friends.”

After experiencing this wonderful restaurant, whose food is classic yet innovative, we certainly will be back for lunch – and indeed dinner – very soon.

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