A stylish bar near The Pantiles offers a different drinking experience thanks to its impressive variety of unique gins, artisan beers and speciality coffee – most of which are sourced locally
Since it opened its doors in November 2015, Chapel Place bar has created something of a buzz on the social scene.
This small but beautiful bar is fast becoming the drinking destination of choice for people who want more than just a pint or glass of house white.
Owners Andy Over and Vicky Vyner wanted to create something ‘really unique’ and on entering the stylishly decorated petite premises it’s clear they have achieved their goal.
Instead of the usual run of beer pumps and spirit optics on the counter you are greeted by three wall-mounted mirrored shelves festooned with fairy lights. Each one glimmers with all manner of exquisitely decorated bottles containing unusual gin varieties, but there are also a few exotic rums and tempting whiskys for good measure too.
Before they opened Chapel Place, Andy worked in the construction industry and Vicky as a trained reflexologist. She still manages to fit clients around her new business.
“We got quite a lot of inspiration from London, Brighton and Hastings,” says Vicky. “We wanted to create something Tunbridge Wells didn’t have – something completely cool and different.”
They have certainly done that as everything from the décor – think dramatic, dark walls, gilt Rococo mirrors, stripped wooden floors and funky filament lighting – to the impressive, niche drinks menu echoes their unique vision.
“The decor downstairs reflects Andy’s background with all the industrial style touches,” explains Vicky, “but then upstairs we’ve created a contemporary and luxurious social space.”
But why go for a gin theme? “We visited a lot of places,” continues Vicky, “and realised it was a popular thing in bars in London. It has been up and coming for a while but no one had done it in Tunbridge Wells.
“Gin bottles are unlike any other bottles,”she says. “They are just really beautiful and all look completely different.” And don’t think you’ll just get a slice of lemon and a bottle of tonic served to you. Each gin comes with a suitable garnish that will enhance its individual flavours so you can expect a sprinkling of juniper berries with the ginger based Monkey 47, and a sliver of cucumber with the aromatic Hendricks. “We just want to give customers a different twist on gin,”says Andy.
The couple started by selling 19 varieties, ranging from classics such as Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray, to the little known Anno Kent Dry which is distilled in Marden and boasts an intriguing bouquet of lavender, rosehips and samphire.
Four months on from opening, The Chapel Place bar’s collection now comprises 45 different gins, two of which hail from Tunbridge Wells. ‘Bathtub’ is brimming with juniper, cardamom, clove and fresh citrus peel, while ‘1606’ is distilled using Chalybeate Spring waters.
The latter was something Andy and Vicky just happened to stumble upon.
“A guy called Marcus who lives in Groombridge makes it,” Andy says. “He’s an airline pilot by day but hand picks oranges when he’s in Seville then infuses them. He just popped in one day and offered us a tasting.”
This relaxed, keep it local, word of mouth approach is what gives Chapel Place its exclusive edge.
But it’s not just the gins that are from regional artisan producers. Most of the ales, wines and delicious platters of cured meats and gooey cheese served on handcrafted olive boards are also sourced on the doorstep.
“We want to keep everything local,” confirms Vicky. “We only want products from Kent and Sussex and to be as niche as possible.
“We source cheese from Cheeseworks in Cranbrook, our bread is from Rusbridge Bakery in Southborough and our meats are all home cured by Moons Green Charcuterie in Northiam.”
They also sell three Chapel Down wines and two of their beers and ciders. Their coffee beans are supplied by Bean Smitten, a roasting house based in Flimwell, and Vicky is charged with making their delicious cakes at the family home just around the corner from Chapel Place.
They are more than happy with how the bar is doing and have no plans to expand as they fear this would ruin its distinctive vibe.
“I think when people start off small and it expands too quickly you lose that originality,” says Vicky. “We are really happy with what we have created. We want to keep the quality and to keep it unique.”