Tom Parker Bowles finds a family affair at Tallow, Tunbridge Wells

Tom travels to the heart of Kent and finds dishes that are far more than the sum of their parts.

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Barbecued lamb loin is ‘filtered through a glittering gastronomic prism’. Image: Michael Jackson/Saltwick Media

Review: Tallow

Tallow is very much a family affair. Rob Taylor mans the stoves in the minuscule upstairs kitchen, helped by his father Bert, while front of house is run by his wife Donna. The restaurant itself, warm, small and on the outer edges of Tunbridge Wells, feels like an extension of their home, not so much the room (all Kentish beams and discreet shades of Farrow & Ball), but rather its soul. The place shimmers with heartfelt hospitality.

The Taylors recently moved 50 miles across Kent, from their much lauded pub, The Compasses Inn, to here, which is slightly less out of the way. My friend Russell, a fellow restaurateur, was a huge fan. And he’s excited. ‘This will be good,’ he says as we sit down. He ain’t wrong. Because this is cooking of the very highest order: pretty and technically assured, but never fussy; capable of both subtle art and full-on, slap-you-in-the-gob, cor-blimey-missus magnificence.

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Blue cheese tortellini in an onion purée ‘that whispers and purrs’. Image: Michael Jackson/Saltwick Media

Take the wagyu ragù with warm parmesan mousse, a dish that sounds depressingly cheffy, but stuns us both into awed silence. It’s gaspingly good, each spoon (and this is very much spoon food) so intensely bovine, so gloriously rich that I’m half tempted to leap from my seat, mooing and lowing with giddy delight. But this is lunchtime. In Tunbridge Wells. Where such uncouth antics may be frowned upon.

Blue cheese tortellini, the pasta immaculately made, packs a pungent punch, but its more extreme edges are softened by a white onion purée that whispers and purrs.

Barbecued lamb loin, pink and charred, comes with a sticky lozenge of slow-cooked breast, roasted red pepper relish, soft, smoky aubergine, and a quenelle of the very lightest goat’s curd. Oh, and a small pot of pommes boulangère, studded with still more lamb, and topped with a herb crumb. Classic French bourgeois cookery, but filtered through Taylor’s glittering gastronomic prism.

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Allow ‘shimmers with heartfelt hospitality’. Image: Michael Jackson/Saltwick Media

A piece of hake, fresh, firm and precisely cooked, sits alongside a crisp, deep-fried oyster. Buttered cockles add their saline charm. Again, the dish is far more than a sum of its parts, skilfully constructed, yet pure joy to eat. Add in a Yorkshire rhubarb and gingerbread cheesecake that could make Geoffrey Boycott blush, an impressive bottle of Simpson’s Pinot Noir (yes, a decent English red!), and a very reasonable bill, and you have not so much ‘disgusted’ of Tunbridge Wells, as simply downright delighted.

About £40 per head. Tallow, 15A Church Road, Tunbridge Wells; tallowrestaurant.co.uk