Tunbridge Wells has a new cafe/bar on the scene and I just had to check it out as it’s oozing with design fun! As anyone local will know, Framptons has made its home in an old bank building situated at the entrance to The Pantiles. Watching the flurry of builders on the site this past year has been fascinating and I was so excited to see what magic was happening behind the scaffolding to transform the building, which had been closed for so long, into a new hot-spot!
Framptions is owned by a trio of friends: Tom, Ed and Sam. The three became friends while serving together in an ex-parachute regiment and, after leaving the army, realised they could pool their complimentary business skills to create a successful restaurant group. With this idea, they bought and renovated the original Framptons in the New Forest. Shortly after that, they acquired the old bank building on The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, which is now home to the newly-renovated second Framptons location The restaurant sits handsomely on the corner and brings an industrial London-esque vibe to the heart of town that I really love!
As you may now realise, I’m a bit of a nut about buildings and renovations (I’d have to be to do what I do!) and I absolutely love the way Framptons has thoughtfully renovated the old bank. The space is full of personality and fully represents the brand, the legacy of the building and the owners' tastes, so obviously I was excited to be able to talk to Joe Lynn, the restaurant’s supervisor, to learn a little bit more about the transformation.
The building has been stripped back to a really raw state, complete with exposed bricks, layers of peeled paintwork and plaster, and exposed steel beams and pillars which allow you to see the history of the building. The old vault door is still in pride of place behind the bar, pillars from the original building can be seen emerging through brickwork, and the names of builders from pervious renovations are charmingly graffitied on the walls. (I will forever wonder who Big John is!) All these elements speak to the building’s rich history and the fact that they’ve been left in place make this space extra special.
The Framptons dining room can be found on the first floor and the kitchen’s open-plan design allows for diners to look on as the chef and his team are making the magic happen. This is especially nice during the day as the kitchen has the best view of The Common. Open bookshelves in this large, open space not only act as a divider between the dining area and a walkway to the bathrooms, but they also display an eclectic mix of goodies and double-up as red wine storage. Large Fs are displayed throughout the space and were sourced from old signs, which nicely compliments the industrial style and exposed filament bulbs in this artfully lit space.
All these design elements come together to create a space that is fantastically open and light but also feels comfortable and intimate when seated at a table. Achieving this balance is quite a feat and Framptons have the design skills to pull it off.
There is most definitely an urban industrial feel to this space, with classic wooden tables and mismatched chairs, but it’s the next layer of design that really makes it a great space. The quirky bits– including the bar, which is made of repurposed oak doors complete with handy doorknobs to hang your bag from– allow the owners to show off their humour and personality while creating a functional and welcoming environment. The bar’s counter is made from an oak tree that fell in Sam’s friend’s garden, and the art is all part of a poster collection that was found in the Framptons New Forest location and includes a controversial print of a cheeky woman playing tennis that was so popular in the 80s. To finish off the fun, a top hat and a blower hat, both of which are family heirlooms, can be found on the upstairs and downstairs shelves amongst other eye-catching curiosities. Even a trip to the men’s loos (yes, us ladies were chaperoned in to grab a shot!) will put a smile on your face as beer barrels are repurposed as urinals!
This building tells a story and, like all great storytellers, it invites you to come in, sit a little closer, and listen to its tale. The fact that you can have a great locally-sourced meal while indulging in a delicious cocktail is the cherry on the cake– and is something I plan to do regularly in the future!