Monday, February 9, 2015
Lunch @ The Twenty Six, Tunbridge Wells
Hey. How was your weekend? We met up with our friends Joe and Jodi in Tunbridge Wells, where they live with their sweet dog Darcy, and their (even sweeter!) 9-month-old, Elizabeth (she sits with one leg tucked daintily beneath her, and her favorite book is one about dragons. In. Love.).
Joe and Jodi are old friends ... all the way back to our Oxford days. Jodi's American and met Joe (who's Irish) while studying abroad at Catz (the same way I met John - I know, we're such walking cliches!) and they were married in the ultimate, romantic setting in Tuscany a few years ago. Joe's one of John's best friends, and we've all been close ever since (also, our names all start with "J", which is both funny and weird!). Before Elizabeth was born, they moved to Tunbridge Wells and bought a house, which they renovated and it looks amazing. All that space! An American fridge! A PANTRY. An American snack drawer! A DRYER. I could go on and on.
When we visited them in Tunbridge Wells this weekend, Jodi made reservations at The Twenty Six - a test kitchen by Chef Scott Goss with an ever-evolving menu that's different every day. As you know, I'm really excited about seasonal eating, and the winter-warming dishes on Saturday's menu really appealed to me: small plates of beetroot and goats cheese or smoked haddock rarebit served as starters to bigger plates like the venison stew and mash (pictured above).
I wish I'd taken a picture of the interior to show you, as it's really something special. More Scandi ski-lodge than Tunbridge Wells, there are twenty-six seats for twenty-six people (get it?) and the decor is all rustic wood and simple, striped cloth napkins. Scrabble letters spelled out the name of our reservation, and the venison stew was served in a gorgeous, copper pot. It really felt as though we were dining at someone's kitchen table (or chalet!) rather than at a restaurant.
I also wish I'd known that the venison stew would be so delicious, as I ended up picking from John's plate, instead of focusing on my own (which was equally good) cep and pearl barley risotto.
The pearl barley risotto was creamy, rich, and fragrant. The addition of chestnuts was a welcomed surprise, though it also meant that the dish became a little too filling for me (even as I reached over to pick at John's plate ... forcing him to eventually ask, "Do you want to trade?" as I wordlessly took his plate from him. #sorrynotsorry).
As we chatted and watched in delight as Elizabeth gummed away at cucumber slices and pesto pasta (she doesn't have a single tooth yet! Sweetness.), I thought about what a luxury it was to eat in a restaurant that wasn't in London, where we weren't pushed out of our seats after the two-hour allotted time slot, or pushing our way through weekend crowds to where we needed to be. Everything felt simple. Easy. Relaxed.
For dessert, John and I split the rhubarb and ginger fool, which he hadn't expected to be as creamy as it was (John's not a fan of cream - weirdo).
Undeterred, I generously dug in with my spoon, helping myself to the candied ginger pieces on top of the cream, before diving into the rhubarb jelly underneath. It was a delicious, chilled winter dessert - proving that not all cold-weather desserts have to be hot puddings or warm cakes.
Before we left, we swept up pieces of rogue cucumber from the floor and had one more drink for the road before heading back to settle in front of Joe and Jodi's cozy fireplace.
A lovely weekend with friends, and one to keep in mind ahead of another busy week.