Popular Tunbridge Wells restaurant set to reopen after collapse of parent company

    Camden Quarter Tunbridge Wells

    The Camden Quarter restaurant that was shut down when Turners Fine Foods collapsed into administration last week could be back in business by the end of the month.

    The restaurant’s Manager, Gerry Stevens, is hoping to buy the business from the administrators KPMG.

    The development comes after the administrator ­entered the popular Camden Road venue on July 26 and gave staff just hours to pack up and move out before locking the doors.

    This was despite the restaurant preparing to host a local business function that day and provide food for 30 extra guests.

    Although the Camden Quarter had suffered a setback earlier in the year when Environmental Health Officers awarded it just one star for hygiene, it was the close links to Turners that led to its closure.

    “We have been owned by ­Turners for the last ten years, and when they went into administration KPMG came to the restaurant and ­literally shut the doors and changed the locks,” said Mrs Stevens.

    The restaurant had been owned by the food company for the best part of a decade and was largely left to its own devices, according to Mrs Stevens, who had managed it for the last two and a half years – joining just before it changed its name from Relish. The restaurant has established a reputation for serving ‘eclec­tic modern European’ food.

    Business had been tough in the preceding months following its one-star rating in March, but Mrs Stevens said none of the problems which had been identified was to do with ­hygiene and they had been resolved by the time a revisit by the inspectors was scheduled.

    “It was not about food hygiene but things like two cracked tiles and the lack of a painted vegetable area that led to the poor score. We have done everything they wanted us to do but of course it had a massive impact on business,” she admitted.

    But the decline of the restaurant’s owners still took the staff at Camden Quarter by surprise, especially after it had received substantial ­investment from the ultimate owner’s London-based firm, Agathos Management.

    In April Agathos placed Silver Star Foods [the parent company of Turners] under new management headed by Executive Chairman Sean Cooper, who told everyone on June 27 that he was ‘trying to fix the businesses’.

    Weeks later Mr Cooper wrote to customers expressing his ‘deep regret’ that the task of turning the company around had been unsuccessful.

    But the collapse of Turners has handed Mrs Stevens an opportunity.

    “Not very many people actually ­realised the place was owned by Turners and because they left us alone most people thought it was ­independently run.

    “We managed to create quite a unique place and we don’t want to lose it so we are in the process of talking to the administrators about buying back the business.

    “There is also the issue of whether we have to renegotiate the lease with the landlord,” she added.

    “The last thing the town needs is another chain restaurant, and part of the joy of Camden Road is the ­independents.”

    Mrs Stevens is hoping to acquire the restaurant as soon as possible in order to hire back the staff she was forced to let go.

    “I hope to have it reopened by the end of August,” she revealed. “And although we will keep the same sort of menu, we may change the name for a fresh start.”

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