We set up the food and drink networking club because we wanted local people in the food and drink industry to be able to meet up and make valuable connections. Our meeting on 12 February at Sankey’s pub and restaurant in Tunbridge Wells was the epitome of what we were trying to achieve.
In order to network, you need people and it was fantastic to see so many from the food and drink sector together in one place especially given that it was one of the busiest weeks of the year with Valentine’s Day just two days later. We welcomed some familiar faces but also many new people came along which really felt like a testament to the club’s success to date – clearly word has been spreading.
Upstairs at Sankey’s, there were two tasting tables of drinks but they were on different scales when it came to potency and even age of business. Firstly, Simon Mace talked us through his brand Chillio, which is based locally in Wadhurst. Chillio is a new soft drink on the market which, as the name suggests, uses the subtle heat of different chillies as its USP. The warmth of the chillies combined with fruit and only naturally occurring sugars makes for a great blend and Simon was busy handing out samples most of the evening! The team is aware that they could be onto something big as more people are becoming aware of how much alcohol they drink plus the younger generations who are choosing not to drink at all.
Across the room was James Osborn from Squerryes, makers of fine English wine, which is in its eighth generation as a family business. Whilst we supped on some of Squerryes sparkling wine, James told us about the boom to date in English wine and how it will grow over the next twenty years or so. Squerryes is actually a farm covering 2,500 acres with 36 of those given to the grape. It is the highest vineyard in the south of England, nestled in the north downs and sees itself as a boutique brand: you will find it in very few places so we feel very fortunate that James and the brand attended the meet-up!
Matthew Sankey, our co-founder, brought us some delicious mini fish and chips in paper with tartare sauce while we all continued to chat. There was a great deal of interest in both the wine and Chillio and discussing flavours was a common topic of conversation. Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed greeting Elaine and Lauren from Paws Cat Café in Tonbridge who were FDNC first timers. Their café which opened in the summer is doing extremely well and they were telling me about their plans for the future. I loved introducing them to the wonderful Mary Ann of The Crow Kitchen who has had a tasting table at a previous event showcasing her delicious macarons.
Another first timer was Tammy Jackson of cocktail blog For Cocktail Sake whose mind was ticking over with all the flavour combinations of Chillio! I discussed the future of farmers’ markets with Bob Taylor of Kent Farmers’ Markets Association and saw Hannah Blake of Dining Room PR providing a mini Instagram masterclass to another attendee. Will Boscawen of Marourde Mead (also presented at a meeting in the past) was in attendance as were the team from Reuthe’s – The Lost Gardens of Sevenoaks who shared with me that Julie Friend, an FDNC regular, is helping them out with their new menu.
Business cards were swapping hands which was great to see and we look forward to hearing about future collaborations – do keep us posted with any developments.
The evening was very enjoyable and a great success! We also managed to secure some venues for the next few club meetings so watch this space for more info in the coming months. If you would like to attend an event in the future, please contact Thomson Snell & Passmore.
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
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 sea food to diners from Tunbridge Wells and beyond.