All change for Tonbridge's much-loved café culture
by Andy Tong | 12th June 2019
SOMETHING’S brewing in Tonbridge, as one of the town's best-loved cafés is closing down – then opening up again with another favourite coffee expert.
Beyond the Grounds [BTG] on River Walk is set to close its doors on July 14 after its manager Jennie Kenny decided to concentrate on her studies.
But Jade Derrick and David Leeper, who run 65mm, will be taking over as their tenure at the Old Fire Station ends on the same day.
Mrs Kenny opened Beyond the Grounds in December 2015 and its attractive riverside location and delicious coffee and cakes have made it a popular destination.
It has displayed a strong community spirit too. The business has been supportive of Tonbridge’s Dementia Friendly Community, and has contributed some of its profits to a variety of charities.
The building, Gilbert House, is owned by Tonbridge Baptist Church – it was gifted to them by a private donor in 2012. The upstairs is used by the Tonbridge Counselling Service, providing confidential appointments.
'it would be difficult for someone else to come in and run it – particularly as the vision and the outworking of it has been uniquely personal to me'
And River Walk was regenerated into an attractive pedestrian area alongside the Medway during the café’s first year of operation.
Mother of three and former midwife Mrs Kenny told the Times: “Having lived in Tonbridge for over 20 years and worked on this project for the past six, I felt it was time for change and will be leaving to study full-time.
“Several other long-term members of staff are leaving over the summer. It was felt that the personality of BTG would change considerably and it would be difficult for someone else to come in and run it – particularly as the vision and the outworking of it has been uniquely personal to me.
“Then we became aware that David and Jade at 65mm coffee were looking for new premises.”
She added: “BTG wouldn’t be the success it is without the people who call it ‘home’.
“Not just our regular customers but also a great staff team who work hard to ‘go beyond’.
“As with any ending, we are sad that our journey is coming to a close, but we are already seeing new opportunities ahead. We are ending as a success, with much to celebrate.
“65mm share our passion for building community and serving great coffee and we’re excited for David, Jade and their team as they come into such a great space in a beautiful location.”
Mrs Kenny and the 65mm team have become close friends and frequently help each other out.
'We will bring our own vibe too, we plan to make it more accessible to parents with buggies and be more cycle-friendly'
“I am as sad as anyone,” said Mr Leeper, “I love them to bits. We will try to continue the work they’ve done, build a lovely community space.
“We will bring our own vibe too, we plan to make it more accessible to parents with buggies and be more cycle-friendly.”
Mr Leeper, who like Ms Derrick grew up in Tonbridge, became ‘head of coffee’ at the FCB café inside Tonbridge railway station.
He came fifth in the country with his filter coffee at the Brewers Cup last year.
Mr Leeper was initially given a three-month slot at the Old Fire Station – which turned into two and a half years.
“I’ve got a four-month-old daugher so when we had to find a new place it seemed silly to move elsewhere,” he said. “It’s a fantastic location.”
He added: “We will definitely have a cup on the mantelpiece with the BTG logo on it.”
Sulston fires the imagination
As 65mm vacate the Old Fire Station [TOFS], local chef Ben Sulston will be moving in as part of the catering merry-go-round. The owner of Sulston’s Kitchen on Quarry Hill Road will become the venue’s first resident chef – previously it has hosted pop-ups with leading chefs from across the country.
TOFS co-founder Sam Goode said: “He’s a great chef, full stop, and he’s worked in some amazing places. You can’t get his style of food anywhere else in the town during the day. We’ll still be doing coffee and pop-ups too.”
Sulston’s Kitchen will now become a development space for up-and-coming chefs doing pop-ups on a smaller scale.