It was a gorgeous spring evening and the fields were looking lush and green as the Food and Drink Networking Club (FDNC) gathered at Bore Place near Chiddingstone Causeway. The club has been meeting for a year now and the founders, Sam Goode from Tonbridge Old Fire Station, Matthew Sankey of Sankey’s, myself, Caroline Kings of Eat Around Tonbridge and founders and sponsors Thomson Snell & Passmore are thrilled at its success. We have heard from some fascinating speakers and tasted delicious products over the last twelve months, as well as achieving what we set out to do: create a food and drink sector network – there have been several successful collaborations between members as a result.
This meet-up was no exception – it was fantastic to see new faces as well as returning members mingling in the Large Barn at Bore Place, food magazine editors, food PR company owners, restaurant managers, food photographers, cookery demonstrators, purveyors of coffee and many more – a vibrant mix.
Outside was parked a rather smart yellow landie from which was being served mead! Yes, that drink from medieval times that we read about in history books is having a renaissance thanks to Will Boscowan of Marourde Mead who makes it near Mereworth (or Marourde to give it its historic name). The alcoholic drink has three ingredients of water, honey and hops plus the fourth critical ingredient of time and has recently won Specialist Drink of the Year 2018 and Kent Food Product of the Year 2018 at the Taste of Kent Awards – quite an achievement. Will has big plans for his mead and sees it as a rival to prosecco – we all agreed it was very (very!) drinkable and great for the summer.
To accompany our sparkling mead, we enjoyed a real variety of foods: the melt-in-the-mouth award-winning cheese from Blackwoods Cheese Company (“If you haven’t heard of this cheese yet, you will soon!” Bruce McMichael, FDNC member); cakes made by The Organic Cakery (the chocolate and lavender cake was heavenly) and food prepared by the chefs at Bore Place – dainty sandwiches, homemade sausage roll and delicate canapes – it really was a smorgasbord of delights.
Caroline Arnold of Bore Place shared with us the history of the venue and the diverse range of activities it undertakes. It was established in 1976 by Neil Wates who wanted to take a step back from the rat race and slow down the pace of life; he wanted to demonstrate that one could live off the land sustainably.
To this day, Bore Place is carving out some peace and tranquillity in this corner of Kent - it is a working farm with about 600 dairy cows which produce organic milk, they grow their own produce and use it in their kitchens, impressing visitors with an unusually high standard of cuisine for a venue described on Google as a ‘conference centre’ (it’s so much more than that). Their visitors range from BBC scriptwriters who need a creative space to couples getting married; from primary age school children, to 14-24 year olds who have fallen out of mainstream schooling, often due to mental health or behavioural issues, Bore Place providing them with therapy in the gardens and a way to get back on track thanks to the Grow2Grow scheme. It really feels like a hidden gem right under our noses.
This was another really successful event and we’re looking forward to the next one which is due for September. If you work in the food and drink industry and would like to come along then please email email@example.com. Alternatively, please join our Facebook group. We look forward to seeing you!
Caroline Kings, Eat Around Tonbridge
The founding members of The Food & Drink Networking Club are:
Alisa Sweeney of Thomson Snell & Passmore
Caroline Kings, writer and food blogger, Eat Around Tonbridge – a blog all about encouraging people to support local independent food and drink businesses on and around Tonbridge High Street.
Sam Goode, The Old Fire Station, Tonbridge – a community orientated venue near Tonbridge castle, famous for its pop-up events which have brought award-winning chefs to the area.
Matthew Sankey, Sankey’s restaurants and fishmongers, Tunbridge Wells & Tonbridge – Sankey’s restaurants and fishmongers are well-known throughout the local area for providing top quality fish and seafood to diners from Tunbridge Wells and beyond.