Sunday, 30 April 2017

Tonbridge has a sugary new addition

Tonbridge has a sweet new addition to its ever-growing food scene - but you'll be lucky if you manage to catch it open.

Creams Factory, a gelato cafe/dessert bar, opened in the high street in mid-April - or at least it did in theory - tempting us into visiting over Easter weekend. The website showed general opening hours of 8am-10pm, with no special Easter opening hours, so out we headed around lunchtime on Easter Sunday, ready for a sugar fix, only to find the place all locked up (s'all good, we ended up here instead). 

Checking again on the website and social media accounts for Easter opening hour announcements, and finding nothing, we headed in again around lunchtime on Easter Monday - to find the place locked up again, chairs on the tables, plunged into darkness.

A chance stroll pass the place one evening a couple of weeks later revealed that week's opening hours printed out and stuck to the door. Seeing that it was due to be open 11am-10pm on Sunday of the bank holiday weekend, we arrived around 1.15pm - to find it closed again, a note pinned to the door saying it would now be opening at 3pm. We decided to give it one more chance, rocking up around 4pm, and finally, unexpectedly, found the place open.

After all that, it had a lot of hype to live up to, but it didn't quite hit the spot.

The menu is impressive, a choice of around 20 individual ice cream flavours and a few sundaes too. For those who like things a bit warmer, waffles and crepes are available with varying amounts of fruit, chocolate, cream and sauce. A quick glance at the cake counter told us that cake probably wasn't the best option. Drinks-wise, choose from the usual hot or soft drinks, or do what any sensible person would do, and go for a milkshake. Pick from the usual flavours, or get a chocolate bar such as Galaxy or Crunchie blended into it.

Service was haphazard, although staff can't be faulted on their friendliness. Different menu items were being served to the table at different times - not a problem for us, but parents at a table nearby with three kids under the age of 10 had trouble keeping the peace. Elsewhere, one man's sundae was delivered to his table while he was still in the queue to pay, leaving him to return to a semi-melted mess.

Add to this the fact that, despite the tables all being numbered, the waiting staff couldn't work out which order was for which table, interrupting conversations every couple of minutes to ask 'did you order X?' and the whole thing felt somewhat chaotic.

The hot chocolate was decent, and the ice cream was tasty, if dense. Particular shout-out for the strawberry ice cream, which was made from real fruit.  The crepes were average, but the Maltesers milkshake was a disappointment. Unlike other milkshakes with well-known sweets or chocolate bars are blended in, the Maltesers were barely there. That said, it was a darn site cheaper than most chocolate bar milkshakes, so swings and roundabouts.

Tonbridge's recent foodie boom means it has no shortage of places to stop for a quick bite or a sugar hit. Beyond The Grounds, Finch House and Basil are all excellent options for a coffee and a slice of cake, and while Creams offers something different from this, it doesn't yet do it well enough to compete. Rather than trying to please so many people, they'd be better off focusing on one or two things - say ice cream and milkshakes - and doing them well. Oh, and actually opening from time to time.

If you do head there, it's worth phoning ahead first to check they're actually open. Even at time of writing, the website states opening hours of 8.30am-10pm daily, while the Twitter account contradicts this with 8.30am-10.30pm. Make of that what you will.

Creams Factory, 160 High Street, Tonbridge, TN9 1BB

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