‘The problem with Tunbridge Wells’, quoth the one who knows best, ‘is that it’s always associated with outrage.’ Ridiculous though it might sound, my beloved wife has a good point. It’s one of the strange tragedies of English lore that one of Kent’s nicest mid-sized towns has forever been associated with a kind of Mary Whitehouse-esque nimbydom, with the description of ‘Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells’ bringing nothing to mind so much as a splenetic colonel barking in outrage at some new outrage brought to him by the Daily Mail.
Yet there’s a lot more to this fine place than silly clichés, and its newest boutique hotel, One Warwick Park, goes a good deal of the way towards making the town a fun destination for a weekend.
The first thing that you realise when you turn up here is that there’s an awful lot of interesting things to see. The Pantiles, round which the hotel is situated, offer a combination of old-world (not olde worlde, please) charm and modern sophistication that caters to tourists and locals alike. If you’re looking for a cosy teashop or a shop selling delightful knick knacks, you won’t be disappointed, but those of you in the market for a pint of craft beer or glass of champagne with oysters will be similarly delighted.
It’s this combination of the old and new that typifies the town; excellent watering holes such as Sankey’s and Fuggles Beer Café jostle alongside parks, quirky bookshops and, of course, the various hills that dominate the town, such as Mount Ephraim and Mount Pleasant. It’s all perfectly easy to cover in a weekend, and there are few more convenient spots to hole up in than OWP, as it should perhaps not be called.
If you’re looking for somewhere nodding to the town’s historic status as a spa resort, or like somewhere with nooks and crannies in abundance, this is probably not going to be the place for you. Gleamingly modern and sleek, with switched-on and friendly staff who genuinely enjoy being of assistance, the overall impression is one of great comfort.
This extends into the bedrooms, which offer contemporary trimmings, decently sized beds and, of course, bathrooms that give one envy that one’s own home doesn’t boast such splendid power showers. The absence of quirk is, perhaps, something to be faintly regretted, but it is made up for by the general professionalism and competence of the operation. From start to finish, a stay here is a pleasure.
In a town that boasts plenty of good places to eat and drink, the restaurant has to be up to snuff, and thankfully the high quality of the in-house option, L’Amore, means that it’s one of those rare operations that is as likely to cater to passers-by as it will to hotel guests, not least because of its location slightly outside the main hotel.
Dinner offers a selection of perfectly cooked starters, of which a haddock ravioli with poached egg is a surprising but delicious highlight; if a main course of pork belly doesn’t quite live up to the waitress’ cheery boast that the crackling is to die for, a dependably excellent steak (although steeply priced at £25) is given punch by a pesto-esque garlic butter, washed down by a very decent bottle of Duoro Portuguese red.
A stay here is enormously relaxing and pleasant, if perhaps ultimately lacking the unmissable wow factor that some larger and grander establishments boast. But that’s not what One Warwick Park is trying for. For a lovely weekend break, somewhere splendid, this is hard to beat, and as a result we’re definitely not the Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells. More the quietly satisfied.
To discover more about One Warwick Park and Tunbridge Wells, including details of what’s on, visit www.onewarwickpark.co.uk.