TONBRIDGE has again boosted its image as an up-and-coming location for foodies with its first tapas bar set to open in the High Street.

Named The Clock House, and located near the train station in Barden Road, it will open its doors this Good Friday [April 14] on the former site of Mojo’s Bar.

The owner, Dan Ward, 36, who also runs The Ivy House at the other end of the High Street, is hoping to mirror the recent nationwide trend towards more casual dining.

In contrast to the older, predominantly male clientele who frequent his other establishment, he is expecting his newest endeavour to attract the town’s young professional people – particularly women.

“Tapas is a very sociable way of eating – it is the equivalent of a group of blokes going into a curry house,” said Mr Ward.

“So I’m hoping to create somewhere more comfortable for women to go, to have a bit of food and a bottle of wine. Lots of women don’t want to go to a loud raucous pub.”

So far, the signs are looking good, with every single booking for his opening night coming from a woman.

“I’m not saying they aren’t bringing men, but I think it is an indication,” he commented.

There had been criticisms that the closure of Mojo’s was yet another loss of a social drinking space in the town, but Mr Ward hopes to placate those views by ‘100 per cent’ retaining the focus on the drinks.
“I want it to be a social hub and really push the bar side of things. We’ll be open until 11pm on weeknights and midnight at weekends.”

Mr Ward, who was 28 when he took over The Ivy House in 2009, said the idea for a tapas bar came from a combination of personal taste and market research.

“It is definitely my favourite way of eating,” he enthused. “I go to Spain every year and always eat far too much.

“Tonbridge is an up-and-coming town in terms of restaurants, and I’ve been doing a lot of research over the last two years, asking people in The Ivy House: ‘What is missing that would be most welcome in Tonbridge?’

“One suggestion was a fish and chip place, but Saltwaters opened very soon after that, just a couple of doors down from us, and the other was tapas.

“So I’ve been learning that style of cooking, which is relatively straightforward, and testing it in the pub. It had a good response, so it seemed like a no-brainer to go for it.”

Mr Ward added that £140,000 had been poured into the new premises – an investment shared equally by himself and the brewery Enterprise Inns.