Beyond the Grounds, Tonbridge, 28 June 2016

It's hot isn't it?!  Mustn't grumble though...keep drinking they say.  So grab a glass of something, sit down and have a little read about Beyond the Grounds.

I went into Beyond the Grounds expecting just a café but after speaking to the founder & manager, Jennie Kenny, I realised that there is much more to this riverside spot than meets the eye.

 
 

Jennie, grew up in the hospitality industry and loves entertaining, interacting with people.  She decided about 20 years ago after a tough night shift as a midwife that one day she'd like to open her own café.  Like Richard Collins and The Tonbridge Old Fire Station, Jennie had her heart set on her current premises and couldn't believe it when it came on the market; after some patience and a friend’s generosity, she opened Beyond the Grounds downstairs whilst her friend Amanda Hedger runs the counselling service upstairs. 

There’s a very healthy portion of community in this project which is heartening to hear – Jennie wants to contribute to improving the aesthetic of the town with her venture; the owner of the building donated it to Tonbridge Baptist Church who benefit via the Gift Aid scheme; & Beyond the Grounds itself is a social enterprise.  This means that once the bills, staff, café improvements are paid, any leftover money is spent on the local community, and in particular charities that resonate with Jennie and her team.  Some charities have benefitted already during the café’s 6 month lifespan.

I visited one lunchtime with my friend and three children.  We received a very warm welcome - "I want people to feel as though they're coming into my front room," says Jennie who wants the café to be hospitable and homely, and the ambience certainly is that: the staff is helpful and smiling, the décor functional but cosy in green & purple hues using upcycled timber from the building’s past. 

The menus (kids', grown-ups', breakfast) are concise & provide good variety.  Unlike other cafes, the serving staff come to the table which makes things that little bit more sociable.  The children had the tomato & roasted pepper soup which was delicious and perfect for their palates, served with white bloomer toast.  The waiting staff was considerate, thinking ahead and bringing the little diners teaspoons, rather than large soup spoons.

My friend and I both had burgers – the BTG Bistro special was steak burger that week but for other weeks it may be quiche, beouf bourginon - it changes regularly.  It was cooked to perfection and came with some delicious homemade mango relish.  My friend had the Slow Roasted Meat Bap which on the day we visited was pork.  Both the bap & burger were accompanied by garlic potato wedges and a green salad.   They were both really tasty and the portions were perfect, not overwhelming as sometimes burgers and their sides can be.

The table of cakes!

The table of cakes!

It was hard to choose from the ‘Table of Cakes’!  We had shortbread for pudding as we knew there was a secret recipe behind it (melt in the mouth), and finished off our coffees (good coffee).  Our every need had been met in here, teaspoons for children’s soup, soya milk for my friend and an accommodating atmosphere for three noisy children!  It might be tricky to manoeuvre round the tables with a buggy but Jennie and the team would help you out and make it work - just as if you were visiting her at home.

This is a café with lots to offer thanks to its altruism – a great back story with a community focussed future.

Experience ingredients:

In the group: 2 ad + 3 children

Consumption & cost: 2 x coffees, 3 x carton juices, 2 x adult mains, 3 x children's soups, 3 x shortbread cookies - £35

If you'd like to nominate Beyond the Grounds for an award in the Kent Life and Kent on Sunday Food & Drink Awards, click here - sadly there isn't an award for best name!