Published: 12:13, 13 September 2021
| Updated: 12:16, 13 September 2021
Tunbridge Wells has a new eaterie - specialising in high quality locally grown foods.
Macknade is opening within the Hoopers department store in Mount Pleasant Road tomorrow.
It replaces the previous Zest restaurant within the store, which closed at the start of the Covid lockdown and never re-opened.
Macknade will open all day, serving brunch, main meals, salads, sandwiches and cakes.
Customers will also be able to purchase many of the ingredients used in the meals from the racks of produce on display - most sourced in Kent.
Macknade's CEO Stefano Cuomo said he wanted to introduce his customers to the wide variety of locally sourced produce available and has ambitions to increase the retail offer as the restaurant develops.
He is the sixth generation of the family to be involved in food in the county, starting with their family farm.
Fredrick Neame was the first to bring the family to Kent in 1847, where they farmed at Faversham for the first five generations.
During that time, Macknade Farm became one of the region’s leading growers of top fruit, hops and livestock.
In 1947 pears from the Macknade orchards were served at the wedding of the young Princess Elizabeth to Philip.
In 1979, Patricia Neame (Frederick’s great, great grand-daughter) opened Fir Tree Pick Your Own on a corner of the wider family farm, with her husband Renato Cuomo, who was originally from the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples.
What started life as a tent in a field on the family farm evolved into today's Macknade business, which is largely a retail operation but includes the Faversham Food Hall with a number of different eating offers, and Macknade at Ashford on the site of the former cattle market, which again offers all-day drinking and dining.
Mr Cuomo - Patricia's son - is now in charge.
He said: "We are delighted to be opening at Hoopers. It's a building with a 100-year-old history and we are keen to share our foods with the community."
"Macknade is all about creating favourite spaces and working with Hoopers has given us the chance to take some of our favourite dishes, continue to grow long established partnerships and create new relationships with local producers, all to create food that makes people smile.
"Everything on our menus has a story and through our dishes, diners will discover the artisans behind the incredible ingredients and products we use."
A launch party was held at the store yesterday for producers and invited guests, who included the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Cllr Chris Woodward.
The Mayor said: "Its fascinating to learn how many of Macknade's suppliers are based right here in Kent. Hopefully the new restaurant will help assist in the town's recovery after Covid. I wish them well."
The restaurant occupies 4,000 sq ft on the second floor of the department store.
The dishes on offer include such delights as roast pepper ajvar on toast for £9, Belgian waffles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce for £5.50, and parmigiana for £10. There is also a full selection of locally grown wines and beers.
The new outlet is providing up to 15 jobs.
The official opening date is tomorrow.
Hoopers is closed on Mondays. To find out more about Hoopers Tunbridge Wells click here.