Stepping into The Hare, located in Langton Green – a suburb of Tunbridge Wells – is a bit like being invited into somebody’s home. It’s an elegant building, which is unmistakeably an eatery, yet at the same time it looks like some tables and chairs have been put into a standard house: so you end up eating in the living room, library or corridor.
It all makes for an experience that’s somewhat different to standard, despite the fact that it’s part of the Brunning and Price empire, which has about 100 pubs dotted around the country. The food too has a ‘home-cooked’ feel that only reinforces the domestic setting. So you wouldn’t really guess that this is a chain pub, unless you took a detailed look at the slickly corporate website or noticed the matching staff uniforms.
The original pub that stood here dates back to the 1700s, but it was replaced in 1901 by the solidly-built Arts and Crafts house that you see now: a picture of elegance that is very much of its time. It actually used to be a hotel, but it would have made a beautiful private residence as well (for those accustomed to living in a certain style). And that’s because everything is still split into a series of distinct rooms, rather than the open layout that characterises most places.
We had dinner in the library, lined with real books as the description suggests. Although it’s a large room that accommodates a number of tables, it’s still an intimate setting. Like the rest of the building, it’s light and airy: a pleasant place to pass the time.
That’s just as well, as on the – busy – Saturday evening that we visited, we were kept waiting a little longer than you would expect, perhaps around half an hour between ordering and receiving the first course. To be fair, we were kept regularly informed along the way and everyone was profusely apologetic. It wasn’t really a problem – if you can’t amuse yourself in a bar, where can you? – but this is definitely not somewhere to come if you’re in a hurry. In any case, why ruin a convivial experience by being in a hurry?
When the food arrives, the first thing that strikes you is the generosity of the portions. It’s described as British food: of the sort that would keep Kentish farmers toiling all day in fields truly satiated. The crispy baby squid is well-seasoned and just as a crispy as promised. But it’s dwarfed by the chicken liver pate – a massive slab of it with a beautiful texture and plenty of toast. Both are reasonably safe choices; you’ll find nothing too controversial on this menu. We also try the smoked salmon tortellini, with white wine, cream and samphire sauce. Again, nicely executed and not overcooked, which is a surprisingly hard challenge with tortellini.
I choose a twist on a classic for the main course: trout, spinach and dill Wellington, with caper crushed potatoes and a white wine sauce. This too is perfectly pleasant; a nice idea that’s neatly executed. You’d have a problem if you didn’t like the sauce, as it’s liberally poured everywhere, but you’d also end up with a dish that was slightly dry if it weren’t there. That sauce is a delicious accompaniment though: I defy you not to hoover it up with some bread once you’ve finished.
The fishcakes, which come with a tomato and spring onion salad, are also good – although they suffer slightly from the perennial problem with fishcakes, where the balance between fish and potato errs too much on the side of the underground tuber. Actually, those fishcakes would have benefitted considerably from a coating of the same sauce that came with the trout Wellington. Or a poached egg on top. But what dish is there in the world that couldn’t be improved with a poached egg on top?
We washed it all down with the ‘Listening Station’ Australian Chardonnay: an easy-drinking unoaked number that accompanied what we were eating perfectly. The dessert menu looked tempting, but by this point, only the very hungriest people in the world won’t be replete.
And that sort of sums everything up. The Hare is a thoroughly decent place, which might not absolutely blow you away in culinary terms but will definitely fill you up and provide you with a pleasant evening to remember for a long time.
It’s the sort of restaurant you should visit for a long and lazy dinner or lunch with friends and family: the food doesn’t take centre stage, and instead provides an ideal backdrop to conversation and downtime. There’s plenty to keep you amused: even a collection of chamber pots hanging from the wall. For a fun and hassle-free evening out, there’s little to beat it in this charming corner of Kent.
The Hare, Langton Road, Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 0JA, England.
Tel: +44 (0)1892 862 419
The Hare is located just under 3 miles from Tunbridge Wells in Langton Green, less than 10 minutes by car via the A264 Langton Road. It is open Monday to Thursday from 11:00am to 11:00pm, Friday and Saturday from 11:00am to midnight and Sunday from 11:00am to 10:30pm.
Type of Restaurant: Country Pub
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: If you want a dessert, skip the starter. And check out those chamber pots!
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Anthony Peacock works as a journalist and is the owner of an international communications agency, all of which has helped take him to more than 80 countries across the world.