Tonbridge has a great deal of energy at the moment and some of that is thanks to the foodie scene and the people who are taking a leap of faith and going for it. Daron Goldfinch was one of those people four and a half years ago.
If you hadn’t already realised from the name, Daron is the man behind Finch House, the café that brightened up our High Street & kick started the boom that we’re now enjoying. Despite the growth of Tonbridge’s café culture since then, Daron has managed to stave off competition and remain a stalwart on our High Street thanks to the high quality of his food and service, two of Daron’s passions.
Daron trained as a surveyor but then decided to follow his dream of working in the food & drink industry. This journey saw him training with Starbucks (before we knew who Starbucks were); learning about coffee in Italy; opening some coffee shops of his own and then consulting for Konditor & Cook, the cult London cake bakers.
During this time he realised that there was a gap in the market for a café that served “the best quality food, sourced locally, made fresh that day”, he tells me. He returned to his home town, and despite the nay-sayers telling him “he was mad”, opened Finch House.
“Made by Us” is award-winning Finch House’s slogan which concisely sums up their ethos. Quality of taste is very important to Daron & they do use produce sourced as locally as possible – Kent cherries, Sussex Ham & Owlett’s juices to name but a few – in their diverse menu full of tempting small dishes and treats. Their coffee is a bespoke blend (using coffee beans that are also found in some of the country’s Michelin starred restaurants) and all the mouth-watering cakes and pastries are made on site.
The Finch House experience could also be described as “Made by Us”. The quality of the customer service they deliver is tested month on month by mystery shoppers who document their findings in detailed reports (praised staff members are awarded vouchers). Daron is a great employer (don’t worry Daron didn’t tell me this himself – I have my inside sources) and is repaid with loyalty – many of his staff has been with him for a sizeable chunk of his four and a half year tenure.
And Daron, the ‘good egg’, doesn’t stop there. He is keen to support local events such as the Tonbridge Half Marathon and the Dragon Boat Racing, local schools (he supports three around the town) and local charity Porchlight – at the end of each working day, any surplus food is donated to them. Porchlight tell me that “this really helps young people who are struggling with money, people who are on benefits and perhaps have to wait for their benefits to come through….we also use the food for our outreach programme. We’ll take some of the food with us to give to homeless people .”
Daron was the first Tonbridge foodie pioneer, in my opinion, and he has paved the way for many more eating places. He really fired up people’s imaginations about what Tonbridge could become. Finch House is constantly striving to improve and evolve not only within its café but as a brand itself – there is now a Finch House Orpington and a third one is in planning. This birdie is spreading its wings… It’s great that Tonbridge can say it hosts the flagship café of a very successful, homegrown brand.
Good luck to Daron & the team at the Kent Life & Kent on Sunday Food & Drink Awards on Monday- they’re entered in the Best Cafe’ category!
If you’d like to learn more about the charity Porchlight, click here.
Daron has kindly donated a prize for the Eat Around Tonbridge ’12 Days of Feastmas’ competition so remember to keep checking the website, Twitter (@eat_tonbridge) or Facebook page. I’m also now on Instagram- eat_tonbridge.