Havet, Tonbridge, 28 May 2016
The evening of Saturday 28 May was warm, balmy even. There was a real buzz at the north end of the High Street: people were socialising, drinking cocktails outside Graze & enjoying their night out. It was great to see a vibrant Tonbridge. We were on our way to Havet – was it as good as everyone was saying?
Havet has certainly added to the Tonbridge buzz since it launched in April, after the success of its flagship restaurant in Bromley. I seemed to be one of the few not to have been so I was thrilled when they invited me to review them.
The décor inside is definitely making a statement as is the service. Throughout the evening, despite the energy of the atmosphere, the waiters patiently explained the flexibility of the menu, and the authenticity of the food.
Regardless of your budget, you could enjoy a meal here thanks to the flexible menu: a selection of 'meze' (the portions are large across the menu) is reasonable and there is a mix & match option with the main courses too. The use of the word 'combo' makes it feel a little fast-food-ish but the quality of the food more than makes up for it.
The food was really delicious, full of evocative Mediterranean & Middle Eastern flavours. The imam bayildi was the star of the starters for me (we tried four) - the aubergine was beautifully soft with an intense smoky, sweet taste, perfect with the accompanying pitta. I knew I was supposed to share, but it proved difficult…
I stuck with tradition for my main course and chose a minced lamb kebab: lamb adana iskender. The meat is served on cubes of bread, with a gorgeous tomato sauce, yoghurt & herbs, mint and parsley coming through strongly. I took my time over it to savour the flavours of the meat, sweet & well-seasoned, & the bread that soaks up all the juices from the rich sauce & tangy yoghurt.
The portions are large and thankfully I was offered a doggy bag. It was just a shame that they brought the box to me! I felt rather awkward transferring plate to box without the right implements on a small table with people watching (niggle one).
The atmosphere is energetic, as I said, and this is heightened by the frequent pinging from the kitchen & bar for orders that are ready to go. The ping sounds like the clinking of a spoon on a champagne flute, heralding the start of speeches at a wedding though, so I was very frequently (it pings a lot) looking up expecting someone to speak. This became rather annoying, I have to say and was causing a sore neck (niggle two).
To finish we tried some baklava – sticky, sweet, light pastry – everything they should be. We were too full though so had to repeat the embarrassing doggy bag transfer, ending up with sticky fingers this time.
We had a great time at Havet - aside from my tiny niggles, I couldn’t find anything to criticise. It’s obviously popular and that feeling rubbed off on me: it made me feel as though I was dining at ‘the place to be’ in Tonbridge. I left feeling very full but very positive.