Food & Drink

Publish date

13 June 2023

A night at the Old Auction House for the Food and Drink Networking Club

The Food and Drink Networking Club, hosted by Thomson Snell & Passmore, Sankey’s and TN Card held its latest event at the Old Auction House on Wednesday 8th February 2023. On a brisk winter’s evening we were welcomed by manager Kayleigh into the warm and friendly former auction house. The Old Auction House has been open for eighteen months, starting as a deli and coffee shop and expanding into a bar and events venue.

The evening began with some introductions over some welcome drinks. Oliver Butler of Thomson Snell & Passmore welcomed all of the members and the evening’s three tasting table guests. He explained that the purpose of the Club is to give local businesses the opportunity to meet each other and discuss the latest goings-on in the local industry.

Jess Gibson, another host from the TN Card also introduced herself to the members and spoke about the importance of shopping locally. The concept behind the TN Card is to establish a community that helps the high street through free marketing for local businesses, and to reward customer loyalty by offering discounts and exclusive deals.

We then met our first tasting table guest, Darren Tickner from Bean Smitten, an independent specialty coffee business based on the Kent/East Sussex border. Darren has been hand roasting fresh, responsibly sourced coffee for 9 years now, primarily serving businesses across Kent, Sussex and Surrey, whilst also growing a key following from individuals with domestic coffee machines. Bean Smitten works with reputable coffee merchants who ensure that the beans are ethically sourced and that farmers have been paid a fair price for their coffee. Darren loves trying new coffee and introduced us to two interesting blends, a roast sourced in Honduras which had notes of strawberry, and an Indonesian blend which had notes of tropical fruits and brown sugar.

Next we met Sam Smith of The Bread Smith, an artisan bakery based in Tunbridge Wells that specialises in handmade sourdough bread. Sam started his business in lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic, baking out of a room in his house and beginning by giving away bread to his friends and family. As popularity for his bread grew, Sam kitted out a room in his house with ovens and converted it into a micro bakery. Sam spends the morning baking and then hand delivers to individuals and local businesses. All of Sam’s bread is handmade with organic flour, water and salt, and he had a delicious variety of white, spiced, fruit, focaccia and rye bread on offer.

Finally we met Sitki Gelmen from Clearer Water, a water company committed to ethical and sustainable manufacturing. Clearer Water’s interests go beyond making profits and Sitki explained that the business strives to make a social impact through its inclusive employment practice. The company employs a diverse mixed ability workforce with 80% of its employees having a physical or mental disability. Inclusion and equality are some of the core values that drew Sitki to the company when he joined twelve months ago. Sitki explained that their goal is to become a carbon neutral company and explained the importance of buying more locally. Not only does buying from Clearer Water reduce the impact on the environment because of shorter supply chains, but it also has a direct impact on the people bottling the water.

The evening was a huge success and it was a pleasure to see so many local food and drink business people attend. If you work in the food and drink industry and would like to come along then please email

Heathervale House reception

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