Black Dog Cafe, Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Coffee – a practical guide to the modern cafe menu

Added on May 14th, 2016

Here’s a little piece we put together for Kudos Magazine this month – a handy guide to the modern coffee menu. Armed with this info you’ll never be baffled in front of a cafe blackboard again!Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 10.27.04

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Black Dog Sundays start this week!

Added on February 15th, 2016

We’re so excited to announce that we are now going to be open on Sundays.

If we had a £ for the number of times our customers have asked us if we could open on a Sunday over our near 6 year existence, we’d be in our retirement villa in Tuscany!

It’s exciting to be able to offer something our customers will really want & will enjoy and for what it represents to us. Anyone who starts a business will tell you how much it turns your life upside down (not dissimilar to kids arriving). Sundays have always been our safety net – a much needed day for our family, kept sacred for rest and recuperation.

We are now in a fortunate position with a very solid, hard working team so we can do both – maintain a growing business and a happy family.

We hope our Sunday brunch sparks some weekend joy for you (sorry it has taken so long!)

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‘Free from’ baking

Added on January 26th, 2016

When we opened the Black Dog 6 years ago, ‘free from’ was still very much in it’s infancy with very few eateries offering a gluten or dairy free as part of their standard offering.

Today speciality diet eating has never been so high on the radar with regular focus in the media, ever growing alternative ingredients available in supermarkets and many top chefs & food bloggers showing us how it’s done. 2015 saw a strong trend for healthy, mindful eating encouraging people to try gluten, sugar & dairy free dishes for their health benefits. Our customers (both intolerants and non intolerants) regularly choose our gluten free cakes, bread & dishes based on their own tasty merit, the popularity of our breakfast stack (bacon, avocado, roasted tomato, spinach and feta) is tantamount to the deliciousness of free from eating.

Free from certainly means you don’t have to compromise on flavour – our free from cakes stand proudly in their own right and have more than earned their places in our baking repertoire. From meltingly dense and fudgy chocolate hazlenut torte to our best selling brownies (which most people don’t know are gluten free!) to our zingy citrus flavours in Orange & Orange or Lemon polenta cake.

We’ve launched 2 new dairy free alternatives this month; pairing a flavour match in heaven – chocolate and orange cake and a classic carrot cake tasting every bit as luscious as the original.

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Enjoy if you’re tolerant or not!

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5 minutes with our Head Chef

Added on January 18th, 2016

Get to know our team – 5 minutes with the Black Dog’s head chef of 4 years Jonathan Chase on what he’s learnt, what makes him happy and what’s ahead.

Jon pic

Jon started his career at Birmingham College of Food studying Culinary Arts Management. He went on to build his passion & culinary skills at many of Tunbridge Wells reputable food establishments such as Woods and Carluccio’s. He joined the Black Dog in 2012 and has been instrumental in us building a renowned reputation for a quality menu that is fresh, seasonal and interesting.

What is your most essential item in your kitchen?
Without a well maintained set of good pans we wouldn’t be able to produce half our menu to the standard we keep.

What is the greatest cooking tip you’ve ever been given?
Keep it simple – let the ingredients speak for themselves.

What is your favourite Black Dog dish & why?
Our slow roast pulled pork. It’s a real labour of love and after a 7 hour prep time it’s a real joy to serve in the cafe. As a customer I love eating our Black Dog mushrooms – add a couple of poached eggs to it and it’s the best way to start your day.

The look of a plate is very important, what tips can you give on presenting a good looking dish?
Again keep it simple – a crowded plate is a crowded pallet, have no more than a handful of different things and try to be varied with the flavour, colour and texture.

If you could prepare only 1 last meal what would it be?
I think it would have to be something exotic that I’ve never tried before, I feel (working in an Aussie cafe) I should try kangaroo before I die!

What food trends or ingredients do you think we’ll be seeing a lot of in 2016?
Healthy, mindful eating is very current and with more research being done to see exactly what different food stuffs do to our body, I think we’ll see the same focus on free form dietary alternatives. Personally I would also like to see more care being taken to buy local, we are blessed with a huge amount of brilliant farms & local producers in our area – their products are so much better than mass produced food and can be very affordable.

If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
I have a great interest in food produce at source and self sufficiency, so I would probably be involved in some form of farming or manufacturing, keeping it small and local.

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Introducing the Chemex coffeemaker

Added on December 3rd, 2015

This week we introduced an alternative brewing method to the cafe’ using a Chemex coffeemaker. Ever since we introduced guest coffees as an option for our customers we felt that sometimes the guest coffees would be better suited to a pour over brewing method as opposed to espresso. This is because some of the single origins we showcase as guest coffees have sometimes a more intense sweetness, a higher level of acidity and can be more complex in their flavour profile which made as an espresso can be less obvious.

The first two coffees we’ve put through the Chemex have been a beautiful surprise in how clean and pure the flavours appeared on the palate. Caravan Coffees’ Mugaya from Kenya and the Wenago, an Ethiopian roasted by Monmouth Coffee have been bright and elegant to taste. Some of this brightness and purity in flavour is lost sometimes through espresso based drinks.

Of course our preferred method of brewing is still through the Espresso machine and our favoured coffee is the Espresso Blend by Monmouth Coffee. This is the coffee we have preached and served for the last 5 years. However now we have another option for our customers, a chance to explore more coffees from different regions and different roasters and ultimately enjoy the wonders that coffee can bring.






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With coffee from Bolivia

Added on May 28th, 2015

Today we introduced a coffee from Bolivia for the first time in the cafe’ as our guest coffee. The coffee is called Cafe’ de Coraca and it is roasted by Monmouth Coffee Company. I was quite excited about this because South America is my favourite coffee source but this was a new experience for me. After a few grinder adjustments I found myself at the perfect extraction time and flow and an espresso with a varied colouration within the crema both vibrant and deep. As for the most important part the taste, well it was clean and slightly sweet. A good body to the espresso without any lingering tastes in the mouth, a slight nutty feel but again not over powering so in summary pleasant and if it was a wine very quaffable.

So I turned to James Hoffman’s Atlas of Coffee to read up on Bolivia and as it was just a small page it was no wonder I’d missed it. However an interesting read which compelled me to write this blog piece. A relatively small population of 10 million and at least 25% of the population in extreme poverty. The country’s entire production is smaller than just one of Brazil’s larger coffee farms. So not a lot of coffee being produced and a few good reasons as to why. For example, as a landlocked country exporting coffee has its logistical challenges. Also a prominent drug trade exists providing a dangling carrot to coffee producers to switch to coca which offers a greater security to the more variant coffee price fluctuations.

The irony is the topography and climatic conditions are ideal with a relatively high altitude and clearly defined wet and dry seasons. With this I  look forward to enjoying this coffee over the next few days and I hope you do too. I will look out for more single origin offerings from Bolivia and do hope the coffee growing industry prospers a little bit further than its currently small stature.


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the rise and rise of cafe’ culture

Added on May 11th, 2015

As we approach our 5 year anniversary it seemed timely to visit the London Coffee Festival a couple of weeks ago. London has become arguably the leading destination for high quality and innovative coffee drinking experiences. The Festival showcased all of this and on my visit a sensory explosion was unavoidable, I was awash with coffee.

One overwhelming feeling that the Festival encapsulated thanks partly to a seminar talk by Jeffrey Young from Allegra strategies was that the coffee industry is on the rise. The standard of coffee gets better, the customer has higher expectations, the science of making great brews is more important than ever and the beauty of cafe’ design becomes more integral.

The use of cafes as social and business hubs I’ve discussed before, but it is becoming more and more key in local communities and greater society in the UK as the shift from pubs as social space continues. This means exciting times for anyone involved in the coffee scene and while ‘too many coffee shops’ is a common complaint on the street it is because more people are drinking coffee and visiting cafes than ever before.

For us personally it also means as a business we have to continually strive to be better in a highly competitive marketplace. Alongside maintaining high standards in the day to day operation the desire to improve is becoming more and more important. With this in mind in July we refurbish the cafe’ and look to open on Sundays making this an exciting year at the Black Dog.

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Its all about the people

Added on January 19th, 2015

Good people are hard to find, often it is the natural attributes of the individual that make the appointment a success rather than the existing skill set and ontraining. This is my evaluation of recruiting in the hospitality industry through 5 years at the Black Dog. It is an industry that attracts a high number of people unsure of their career path, or people seeking employment secondary to other pursuits. This sometimes can be in conflict with our search for driven, enthusiastic, energised and proactive people that have great natural engagement skills with customers.  

Today we lost one of those great finds. Beth finished after nearly two years as a part time team member. We employed her on the basis that she was looking for part time work but that her profession was her priority and at times this would take preference at short notice. She impressed on the trial shift, we took the chance and the rest is history. In both the kitchen and cafe’ she was always dedicated, enthusiastic, hard working and great with people. She will be missed by all.

 After she finished today I thought about the inextricable link between a great team and a great customer base. Both feed off each other. Our team enjoys working together, they enjoy making our customer’s experience as satisfying as possible and they enjoy being at the Black Dog. Likewise our customers feel welcomed, looked after and comfortable to engage with our team and other customers. It makes for a relaxed and chilled out environment which is one of the primary goals the cafe’ fulfils.  So while the search for good people never gets easier, the good people are more and more appreciated. Thank you Beth. 

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The Black Dog Brunch Acoustic – Sunday 8th June

Added on May 28th, 2014

Brunch poster

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Foodie capital of Tunbridge Wells

Added on May 7th, 2014

Camden Rd has always been a haven of independent retailers. It has also had the potential to be a huge food destination due to the variety of offerings. With several recent new openings and one to come shortly I wonder if that potential is now being fulfilled. This is in contrast to the continued cloning of the Town’s centre with chain restaurants and chain coffee shops.

Where else in Tunbridge can you find so many original restaurants within a few hundred yards showcasing cuisines from France, Spain, India, Portugal and Italy. We also have a mod European offering and you can call us mod OZ. Then we have a wonderful South African food store and a cafe’ focussing on gluten free offerings. A newly opened French patisserie and soon an Italian Deli.

Camden Rd has always been unique. An array of colourful and interesting retailers has created a vibrant and colourful landscape. In the 4 years we have been on Camden Rd this has remained a constant and been a delightful place to set up residence. With established restaurants and now some new offerings to add some flavour could Camden Rd become the foodie capital of Tunbridge Wells?<

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