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Fleur and Aubrey Sainsbury

Geography Tunbridge Wells

“I grew up near Rye in East Sussex and a few years ago, when an old friend was still living there, she took us to this amazing little wine bar called Old World Wines on Cinque Ports Street and we immediately fell in love with it. It was sort of part bottle shop, part wine bar that was full of regulars and locals with a really nice warm vibe. It was really small but had such a good feel about it and after a few glasses of wine, we said; “we could do this”

We had been living in Tunbridge Wells for a while by then and Tunbridge Wells just didn’t have anything like this, lots of really cool bars and lovely pubs but nothing really offering that intimate wine informality that we loved about Old World Wines, so we set about looking for premises. This was about six years ago, we were living just off Camden Road and started looking around there but just couldn’t find anything suitable. We’re good friends with Gerry and Alex from Vittle and Swig and when Gerry told us that this place had just come on the market for lease, we came and looked at this and instantly found no excuse not to do it. It’s astonishing how it all came about as originally it was just one of those dinner party conversations, a pipedream that we’d like to have our own bar one day, and there it was coming to life! It was practically perfect.

We came to look at this in March 2019 and went home to register the company literally that day. We’d had no formal wine training at this point as it’d always just been a ‘wouldn’t it be great if….’ kind of conversation but that’s something we quickly fixed and we’re really lucky that most of our team are so knowledgeable too.

It had previously been a cheese shop, a hairdressers, a clothes shop and a beauty salon and there was so much to do, but we could see how it could become a bar, Aubrey has incredible vision. It took a long time to get planning for change of use from a deli to a bar, and we then had to go through the lease negotiations but finally got the keys in the first week of September 2019. We had to completely refurbish the place in 6 weeks as we wanted to open in late October but we managed it, just! We’d had only a few months of trading, but it was just getting better and better and then COVID struck, but we have survived thank goodness!

Aubrey’s career has been in engineering and I am still a co-director of a travel marketing company and we love what we do. But we also wanted something that we could call ‘ours’ so that one day, when we felt like moving away from the day jobs, we’d have something that we’d built and that will hopefully flourish. In fact, pre-COVID Aubrey had given up engineering and was running the bar full time but we were lucky that he managed to get his old role back the minute we knew we’d be closing when COVID struck in March 2020. We have a great team so we are very lucky and they have helped us massively keeping going while we now juggle day jobs and the bar. Hopefully, as soon as social distancing eases Aubs can throw himself back into Geography full time again.

If we were to sum up what we do with one word it would be ‘local’. We wanted to bring to life a bar where we would like to come, to bring friends and family and chill out, that’s the framework of it. I’m a big fan of shopping local and sourcing local, so we really wanted to showcase as much Kent and Sussex produce as we could, not just wine, all of our cheeses are local as is our bread and most of our charcuterie. We have a great selection of English wine and local gins, beers and ciders too. Our location is also a bonus, positioned between some popular restaurants like Sopranos, The Warren and The Ivy, and we get a nice mix of people coming in for pre and post drinks from those restaurants as well as people coming in for the whole evening to have some sharing boards and drinks and nibbles.

We’ve got over 100 wines on our list with more than 50 available by the glass, that’s a USP and a lot of those are from regions that you wouldn’t necessarily expect wine to come from and it’s all absolutely delicious of course! We love hosting events and have a partnership with The Wine Garden of England happening this month, based around English wine week, celebrating Kent wines, that will culminate in a tasting event on 27th – one sitting has already sold out – and that will then lead on to a twelve-month partnership where each of the wineries will have a two-month residency here for us to showcase their wines. These include vineyards such as Biddenden, Squerryes, Gusbourne and Hush Heath. This is such an exciting time for English wine so we are delighted to have forged this partnership and be able to champion some of our local stars.

The best thing is the people we meet, not just our customers but the producers as well who are so passionate about what they do, and we try and build strong relationships with all of our local suppliers directly.”

About the business

We’re a small, independent wine bar with an extensive and interesting wine list. We’ve got over 50 of our wines available by the glass too which we think is pretty awesome! Plus we’ve got some great local spirits, beers and ciders lined up for you and some amazing local produce to graze on if you’re feeling hungry.

We’ve naturally got a super friendly team to look after you too, headed up by us – Tunbridge Wells locals, Aubrey and Fleur. We created Geography in 2019 from our joint loves of travel and wine and like to call ourselves wine enthusiasts rather than experts. Geography’s all about relaxing, trying something new or just savouring your favourite glass (or bottle) of something, and enjoying some incredible produce from across Kent and Sussex.

Be assured that, as always, we put the health and safety of you guys, our customers, first, and so you’ll still see high standard cleaning and sanitising procedures, hand sanitiser is widely available throughout the bar, and tables continue to be well spaced out. We also have a couple of outside tables now so you can (hopefully) enjoy some sun! Demand for bookings has been high, especially on weekends, so we do encourage you to book your table in advance via our online booking system here, or by calling 01892 521292.

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