Signor Franco - Taster Menu

Dad's birthday celebrations continued on Tuesday with a visit to a family favourite restaurant - Signor Franco in Tunbridge Wells. Owned by very old friends of ours it is a family run restaurant that has been on the scene for almost two decades. Very sadly Franco is no longer with us, but his wife Emma and son Freddie have done a fantastic job over the last year of rejuvenating the restaurant whilst maintaining its classic Italian authenticity. With the assistance of new head-chef Franceso Furriello, Signor Franco is embracing a new and exciting future.

All of the ingredients on the menu are either sourced locally, or from Italy, and the focus is on exceptional taste and quality alongside elegant but fuss-free dining.

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We had booked a Tuesday evening specifically to try out the new seasonal tasting menu. I was quite glad not to have to choose from the a la carte menu as it's packed full of equally inviting dishes and I am notoriously indecisive. And that's nothing on the extensive wine list. Luckily Freddie is on hand to tell you all about what's best to accompany your meal. At 20 years old, Freddie's knowledge of the wines is impressive and you can see that he is his father's son through and through.

Here is our menu for the evening...

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An unexpected amuse bouche arrives to start things off. A simple but delicious taste of Italy - tomato and mozzarella served with a pesto dressing. Why would you want to eat mozzarella any other way?

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Our first course was Swordfish Carpaccio with a Tempura Crab Croquette.

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I've never seen swordfish so thinly sliced. To be honest I've never seen a swordfish either...

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Zesty carpaccio and a crispy crab croquette - Fred (my brother Fred, not to be confused with Franco's Freddie - although they are best mates!) takes a moment to prepare himself before digging in...

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Boned and rolled baby chicken filled with ham and asparagus served with summer leaves and a peanut, walnut and citrus emulsion. Italy meets Thailand in this satay-style take on an Italian classic. Delicious

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Lemon mousse-filled cappalletti pasta with fava beans and Sardinian Pecorino cheese

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This was the winning dish for me - I had no idea how lemon and pasta were going to go together but they did - magically. Fresh homemade pasta that was dripping with lemony-buttery goodness, and the fava bean puree? Don't even get me started. A brilliant union of unexpected flavours.

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To the lone douche on Trip Advisor (yes I can write that because this is my blog) who said that the pasta was "thick" and "overcooked" - you're obviously far too familiar with the concept of 'al dente' and must like your penne mildly rinsed as opposed to cooked. You're just plain wrong. So there.

Admiring how a sunset manages to make the Morrison's car park look surprisingly attractive...

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Back to the food...

Char-grilled monk fish with seasonal vegetables and a warm new potato salad - big meaty chunks of monk fish fresh from the grill

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Pan fried veal fillet with Port sauce and foie gras praline on wilted spinach and a potato fondant - the men liked this one, it's meat, of course they did.  This was the richest of the courses and one that would really aggravate the animal rights activists...

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Perfectly cooked and melt-in-the-mouth on every level

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Lemon Sorbet with a strawberry coulis - oh my goodness, this nearly knocked the pasta off the top spot. Another unexpected course, this lemon sorbet took sorbet to a whole new level. I must add that all the ice creams and sorbets are made fresh by Franceso every morning, along with all the breads and the pasta. I'm going to ask Fran if he can make me a tub of this for my birthday... why is November so far away!?

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It was THAT good...

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Desert was a Black cherry semifreddo covered with hazlenuts and topped with spun mint sugar. Light but luxurious and bursting with fresh-cherry flavour...

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Throughout the evening Emma and Freddie make sure to visit each table to check that everyone is content, and later in the evening Fran himself often makes an appearance to speak to you passionately about what you have been enjoying all evening.

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Pudding selfies...

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Serving simple, fresh and utterly delicious Italian food - cooked with attention to every single ingredient - Signor Franco's focus is on the food itself, rather than on the unnecessary frills of fine-dining. This makes for a taste sensation in a relaxed and unstuffy atmosphere.

My top 5 tips...

- ORDER THE CAPPALLETTI AL LIMONE!!! (the lemon pasta)

- Book a table in the conservatory - it's the best room in the restaurant.

- Make sure to arrive early and enjoy a drink in the drawing room. Or retire here after dinner with liquors and a cigar - it feels like you could be in your own home (if your own home was a grand Italian villa).

- On a balmy summer's evening (if we ever get any of those this summer) choose one of the tables on the little terrace for after-work drinks

- Don't be afraid to ask for anything. Fran caters for even the most specific of dietary requirements and Emma and Freddie will always go out of their way to ensure to enjoy your meal.

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Priced at £50 per person for food only, and £75 for food and wine (that's 5 glasses of wine for £15!) the taster menu is unbelievably good value and utterly worth it. I can tell you they don't hold back with the wine either as a hiccuping father on the journey home will confirm.

For a meal out, of any occasion, I thoroughly recommend that you look nowhere else than Signor Franco's. This is a very special restaurant, not just because we have a strong family connection with it, but because Emma and Freddie have the ability to make you feel like you are the most important customer in the restaurant. This is not dinner out, this is dinner in the home of an incredibly generous and warm-hearted host, and for that reason Signor Franco's cannot be beaten.

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Don't forget to say thank-you to the great man himself, Franco, on your way home.

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