Tante Marie

You may have heard of the esteemed Tante Marie culinary school in Woking, in April they opened a restaurant in Woking town centre. As it’s Tante Marie, this isn’t your regular restaurant, everyone working here has completed the Cordon Bleu diploma and is studying for an advanced hospitality management diploma. Meaning the cooking, serving, cleaning and admin is all done by students.

Tante Marie exterior

It’s a brand new building with a nice modern interior, a splash of colour and snazzy finishing touches complete the space. A good amount of other diners creates atmosphere. A large patio area is in front on the pedestrianised shopping street – it’s nice to see Woking town centre being transformed and this area now has a great bustling vibe.

Tante Marie dining room

Service is very professional and discreet, worthy of a much higher standard of establishment.

Shortly after arriving some popcorn appeared on the table, which we enjoyed munching on while making our selections.

popcorn amuse bouche at Tante Marie

Menus change constantly. The lunch menu features a soup of the day, salad of the day, a tart of the day, a dish of the day plus tapas syle dishes. We opted for the smaller tapas dishes in order to try more types of food.

Dishes arrived as they were ready. The first to come was the Smoked mackerel pate, croutes £4.50. It was tasty.

smoked mackerel Tante Marie

Next came the lightly dressed Caesar salad £3.50, although there was a splodge of dressing near the bottom.

caesar salad Tante Marie

We also had Spring vegetables beignets & caper mayo £4.50, I quite liked the mayo.

Spring vegetables beignets caper mayo Tante Marie

And super tender Chicken goujons, chive cream £6.00.

chicken goujons Tante Marie

Lastly we had two portions of the Charred peach, crispy prosciutto, mozzarella £4.50. This dish was excellent, there were tons of textures and flavours that all complemented one another. I wished the other dishes, while good, were as exciting as this one. Possibly my choices were limited by my dislike of crab and my squeamishness about eating rabbit.

charred peach, prosciutto, mozzarello

To finish we split a dessert – Pistachio meringue & fresh fruit £4.00. Again the dish was nice.

fresh fruit and pistachio meringue Tante Marie

Overall the food was good, it’s well worth trying out. You might even be inspired to take one of the day or weekend courses offered in the display kitchen beside the dining area.

59-61 Commercial Way, Woking, Surrey, GU21 6HN
Town car park

The Olde Swan Chertsey

We set out to visit a cafe in Chertsey, but it was Sunday and when we got there the high street was a ghost town and every eatery we tried was closed. A little further along we noticed a pub with open doors. Ordinarily it didn’t look like the type of pub we would give a second glance to, however we were starved by this point so went inside on the off chance we’d actually decide to get lunch there.

The Olde Swan Chertsey exterior

Shocker, it was really nice inside. Trendily decorated with downpipe paint and eclectic furniture, including a dental chair and a billiard table, erm, table. It’s fairly small but there’s nice high ceilings and lots of light floods in through the windows. As if the space wasn’t inviting enough, the cheery woman at the bar immediately greeted us and we decided to stay.

The Olde Swan Chertsey interior

The Olde Swan Chertsey was recently taken over by McLean Inns, a small chain of seven pubs owned by two bothers and a friend, and they gave it a complete makeover in 2013.

In addition to the interior there are a few picnic tables in the parking lot for al fresco dining.

outdoor seating area The Olde Swan Chertsey

All food is prepared fresh onsite and cooked to order. The menu is modern and reasonably priced. As it was Sunday we opted for roasts though there were other Sunday options.

Jman went for the Topside of beef £9.95, served with peppered roast potatoes, fresh vegetables, a Yorkshire pudding and parsnip crisps. He really enjoyed it; lots of tasty gravy, lots of good meat, excellent roast potatoes and a big Yorkie. It tasted even better because of the great price.

roast beef The Olde Swan Chertsey

I tried the vegetarian option roast, mostly because I love butternut squash, butternut squash & chick pea roast £8.95. It seemed to be chunks of squash mixed with stove top stuffing and pressed into a cake, which wasn’t what I was expecting. However I happen to love stove top stuffing so wasn’t too disappointed. And those crispy parsnips on top were the bees knees.

Butternut squash roast The Olde Swan Chertsey

The vegetables came separately and were beautifully lightly cooked. Jman practically inhaled all that kale and then asked me what it was, naturally his interest fizzled out once I told him it’s a Hollywood thing.

kale, carrots and broccoli vegetables with roast dinner The Olde Swan Chertsey

This is about the best value roast dinner we’ve had in Surrey. We had a roast beef dinner for several pounds more the following weekend and they were pretty much interchangeable. The Olde Swan Chertsey is proof you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

27 Windsor St, Surrey, Chertsey, KT16 8AY
Car park

Withies Inn

With yet another Canadian visitor in tow I headed off to Loseley Park in Compton. In need of lunch we got a local tip and headed down a random looking lane, emerging at Withies Inn.

Withies Inn exterior

I always love taking Canadian guests to old English pubs but Withies takes the cake. It doesn’t appeared to have changed, well… much of it seems to be exceedingly old but absolutely nothing save the loos has changed since the 1970s. I’m including the crockery in that statement.

Withies Inn wood carving

Dark, low ceilings, a giant fireplace, original ornate carvings. Even the menu and service are throw-backs. Female staff in black skirts and white blouses and Male in Black suit trousers, white shirts and bow ties.

Withies Inn internal bar seating area

There’s a small ‘proper’ dining area where you can choose from such dishes as grouse, half a roast duckling with orange sauce, steak Diane flambe, suckling pig, you get the gist. Perhaps surprisingly there are even a few vegetarian options. It’s not cheap though, Tournedos Rossini is £23.95 (don’t ask me, I’m far too young to know what that is). Reservations recommended.

Withies Inn dining room area

Upon arrival you’re greeted by a beautiful fairytale garden area that carries on around the side of the building.

Withies Inn outside area

There’s a mix of types of tables. You can get the dining area a la carte service to garden as well, complete with red chequered table cloths, very civilised.

Withies Inn civilised al fresco dining

We sat in the bar area, which serves sandwiches, jackets and several other more unique sounding dishes like Hawaiian Salad and Withies Pate.

Canadian guest number one decided to try the Ploughman’s Stilton £7.95. Really nice bread and a big chunk of cheese.

Withies Inn stilton ploughman's

Number two opted for a Prawn sandwich £6.75. It was quite enjoyable.

Withies Inn prawn mayo sandwich

I dithered a lot and then settled on the Chef’s own quiche £7.25. It was chock full of broccoli, which is my type of quiche because it wasn’t so egg heavy.

Withies Inn vegetable quiche

Do I love this place? Absolutely, where else do you get to time travel with your meal?

Withies Lane, Compton, Guildford, Surrey, GU3 1JA
Car park

Five at the Bridge

Eager to watch the Surrey Classic Bike Ride, my family and slew of Canadian visitors headed off to Bridge Road in Hampton Court to catch a glimpse of the cyclists. We lunched first at Five at the Bridge, which is perfectly positioned for open views towards Hampton Court Bridge.

Five at the Bridge exterior

We managed to fit the seven of us on the patio out front, which is a great spot to soak up the great atmosphere on Bridge Road.

Inside is simple-chic and airy.

Five at the Bridge Surrey interior

A nice surprise, there’s a lush rear garden that’s a quiet place to escape the bustle of the area.

Five at the Bridge Hampton Court Surrey garden

A simple cafe, Five at the Bridge serves up simple breakfasts and lunches using top quality products from local sources. Chicken, pork and beef are roasted on site.

Jman can’t resist a Salad Nicoise £9.75 and was happy to find one on the specials menu. This salad was superb, full of loads of fresh, tasty items and a huge amount of food. We all watched him with envy and it was good value for money to boot.

Five at the Bridge salad Nicoise

They even have table service, something of a shocker given the low prices. Staff is friendly and helpful.

Houseguest number one had the corned beef with pickle £3.00. Reports are that is was good. It’s hard to say much about these sandwiches, they’re pretty basic, but for table service and that price who can complain?

Five at the Bridge corned beef sandwich

Houseguest number two went for hot roast pork with apple sauce £4.20, it was really enjoyable with nice thick slices of pork.

Five at the Bridge roast pork sandwich

I had the Roast corn fed chicken with mayo and salad £3.50. The chicken was definitely straight from the carcass but I think I had the top slice of bread in the bag because it wasn’t fresh on one side. I of course had no tomatoes, they gave me cucumber instead.

Five at the Bridge roast chicken sandwich

5 at the Bridge is a good bet at great prices for lunch near Hampton Court Palace.

5 Bridge Road, East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9EU
Street parking, or station car park

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure cafe

Hersham has a brand new attraction, safari adventure mini golf at the Hersham Gold Club. My daughter was desperate to go so we grabbed a friend and went for lunch and a round of putt putt.

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure golf exterior

I was really surprised at what great quality the course iss. Noisy animals, an erupting volcano and best of all, rope ferries you have to pull to get across the water hazards, they didn’t skimp on this safari adventure. My only complaint would be they’ve made it a bit more cramped than it needs to be, but that’s being picky. The kids had a ton of fun and especially enjoyed retrieving balls from the numerous water hazards (usually my ball.)

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure golf volcano and elephants

They’ve built a brand new cafe to go along with the course. It has modern, bright indoor seating areas as well as an outdoor terrace (as seen in the first photo.) I was worried there was only going to be a standard little kid menu as that’s all I could find on the website but when we got there they had a fairly extensive menu, including sandwiches, jackets, salads and some heartier dishes.

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure golf cafe interior

We went a few days after it opened and service was a bit disorganised but smiley. Order and the counter and get a numbered spoon to take to your table. We had to order non-fruit shoot drinks in the golf club bar.

Child number one opted for the Bacon sandwich with chips £6.95. She ate everything but the crusts, which is a good sign.

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure golf bacon sandwich

Child number two had a Jacket potato with cheese and beans £5.95. It was big portion and she enjoyed it.

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure golf jacket potato with cheese and beans

The adults had Grilled halloumi cheese salad with pesto £7.45. As in two orders of it but there was some confusion and they only brought one. Not to worry, they quickly prepared a second one. Neither had any sign of pesto though that didn’t bother me as I preferred the French dressing anyway, though a little less would have been better. I of course hate tomatoes and they, without me asking, substituted more red peppers, yum, normally I feel cheated because places don’t normally fill out a salad with other ingredients.

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure golf halloumi salad

We went back into the cafe after our golf round for some cake. They didn’t have a huge selection, but the ones we chose were tasty. (Un)fortunately my friend treated us for the cakes and I didn’t get prices. We shared a cheesecake and a chocolate fudge cake and both were yummy.

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure golf exterior chocolate cake

Prices are a bit high, I suppose they think they’ve spent a fortune on the mini golf and cafe and they need to charge higher prices to recoup their investment. The adventure golf is great fun and the cafe is very convenient for the outing.

Hersham Golf Club safari adventure golf cheese cake

I was really impressed. They’ve spent a lot of money on the safari adventure golf and it’s sure to be a good thing for Hersham. The cafe is still finding its feet but it’s early days and I imagine they’ll find their way.

Assher Rd, Hersham, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, KT12 4RA (no that second S is not a typo)
Car park

Emlyn Restaurant at Burford Bridge Mercure

I could scarcely imagine a more beautiful English setting. Snug in the beautiful Surrey Hills is an ancient hotel at the foot of Surrey’s crowning glory, Box Hill. Better yet, inside that hotel is Emlyn Restaurant, serving contemporary British cuisine.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge exterior

It suffered badly in the floods of 2013/14, with water over a metre deep destroying everything. As a result the hotel and restaurant closed for nine months while the interior was completely resuscitated in very up to date, stylish furnishings and décor.

It’s a lovely sedate space with a few clever nods to its 760 years of history. Entrance chairs are printed in Keats’ poem Endymion, which was penned in the hotel. A quote from Jane Austen’s Emma on picnicking in Box Hill graces the dining room wall. Perhaps most interesting of all is a wall print at reception of one of the placemats Lord Nelson gave to the hotel during his illicit last stay with his mistress Lady Hamilton, immediately before departing to what became the battle of Trafalgar.

We started with a relaxing drink in the bar. Often old buildings are cramped and dark feeling, but all areas are open, airy and bright and the bar gets the last of the evening sun.

bar at Mercure Burford Bridge hotel

To the rear of the building is the al fresco seating area with superb views of Box Hill, the view that inspired so many of its poet guests in the past.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge al fresco dining overlooked by Box Hill

Emyln Restaurant is through a ‘tunnel’, giving it a sense of separation from the hotel. Nick Sinclair joined as head chef shortly after the re-opening and has lots of enthusiasm and big plans for making his mark on the Surrey dining scene.

Emlyn Restaurant entrance at Mercure Burford Bridge

The dining room is a bright space with well spaced tables and of course, all brand new furnishings.

Regarding the service, an old-school ornery couple sitting near us were challenging and it was interesting for me to see how the staff dealt with them. The servers bent over backwards to please them, despite the couple have no cause to complain they complained loudly and repeatedly about everything and anything.

Essentially the man was outraged that garlic bread wasn’t on the menu. Staff, always smiling, arranged with the kitchen to get him some garlic bread, at which point he loudly declared he also needed marmite butter – and they got him some. Clearly the staff are both friendly and accommodating, and more patient than I could ever be (this is admittedly a low bar.)

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge dining area

Menus change regularly and use seasonal ingredients sourced, when possible, by local suppliers. Head Chef Nick Sinclair has big plans for the hotel grounds and is in the process of creating a kitchen garden complete with beehives and a smoke house, can’t get much more fresh than that.

Everything is prepared onsite daily, including bread, ice cream and smoked items.

There’s a choice of an a la carte menu, a market menu (which is a weekly set two £19.95 or three £23.95 course meal) and a £55 six course tasting menu (regular or vegetarian). Check their website for special offers. As we were staying in the hotel we were both able to indulge in the tasting menu with wine matchings £90.

Bread arrived first, with regular, poppy seed and balsamic butters. Mmm, balsamic and butter is a new love of mine!

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge bread and flavoured butter

For a canape we were brought a ham hock terrine with pistachios, carrot puree and edible flower. It was certainly one of the more manly amuse bouches I’ve had and marked the first of a string of delightful surprises that evening.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge ham hock terrine canape

First up was Peas & cheese Lanchasire Bomb gnocchi, variations of peas, hazelnuts paired with Faustino V Rioja Blanco Viura) I had to google what Lancashire Bomb is, it’s a cheese that looks like a bomb from a Road Runner cartoon. Lots of combinations of tastes and textures here. The gnocchi and parmesan sponge were a wonderful combo. A very tasty introduction to our meal.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge peas and cheese

The next course was Black Bream, cauliflower, coconut, crispy oyster, ponzu dressing paired with Dashwood sauvignon blanc. Somehow incomprehensible to me I don’t have any photos of it, despite my religion of taking photos of everything I ever eat. Let me describe it to you: scrummy. The cauliflower came several different ways. One of those was smoked in hay, it was beyond good, I would have been completely happy to have nothing but a giant bowl of it for dinner. And the wine was so nice that I went home and ordered a case.

Next came Quail, morels, black garlic, spinach, mustard seeds, baby turnip, onion popcorn. I found each of the dish to be treasure troves of different flavours and textures and this was my favourite dish in that regards. I hadn’t read the descriptions ahead of time, and had a moment of glee when I discovered the popcorn on my plate.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge sticky quail

For the finale of the savouries, Hay smoked sirloin, Jacobs Ladder, onions, horseradish, ale paired with Vina Pomal Centernario Rioja Reserva. Again everything was super tasty and interesting. I’m getting really into this hay smoking, I hope it’s the next big wave in food.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge beef with shallots

The first of the desserts, Chai Tea Panna Cotta, honey, apricots, pistachios. Super refreshing and light, a perfect segue from the savouries to the sweets. It was one of those food tricks, where by appearance you were expecting savoury and you’re not familiar with the flavours but then it was sweet, but not too sweet. I loved it.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge chai latte dessert

The nice thing about this point in the evening is that we were still feeling comfortable, not overly stuffed when the final course arrived. Strawberries and Cream, Champagne consomme, clotted cream, basil sponge paired with Muscat De Baumes de Venise, Cave des Vignerons. Another visual and yummy delight, with the most adorable little macaroons.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge strawberries and cream dessert

It’s apparent that each of the dishes had lots of complex cooking techniques put into them, it all came together to create a truly enjoyable meal. At £55 this tasting menu represents incredible value, you can imagine what a comparable meal in London goes for. I do wonder what will happen to prices when word gets around, you should go now before it’s found out.

Emlyn Restaurant Mercure Burford Bridge chocolate truffles

Bonus, the breakfast the following morning was excellent as well, one of the better hotel breakfast’s I’ve had.

buffet breakfast at Mercure Burford Bridge

Dinner and a stay at the Burford Bridge Mercure is a perfect spot for a getaway in the countryside. Some nice hiking around Box Hill followed by a dip in the hotel pool topped by a superb meal, what more could you ask for? Even if you don’t stay over, Emlyn Restaurant is well worth seeking out.

At the Foot of Box Hill, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6BX
Hotel Website
Car park

We were guests of Emlyn and Burford Bridge Mercure but this is no way biased my review.

Strada Cobham

I’d eaten at Strada in Cobham a few years ago yet wasn’t drawn back for a second visit. When they invited me to come for dinner I admit, I was a bit dubious. But big changes have happened.

Strada Cobham exterior

The hedgefund owners have sold to a passionate individual (Hugh Osmond, who famously floated Pizza Express). Upon taking over he said “The menu will be seriously up-dated. The quality of ingredients and food will be dramatically improved. And there will be a major investment in the premises, giving a very different ambience.” (more about the takeover) As part of the revamp, 43 of the 83 locations have been closed.

New improved Strada has wisely changed to using smaller, higher quality suppliers who make regular deliveries. Fresh fish arrives daily and beef is now raised on their own farm in Halifax. Everything is now prepared fresh to order

Strada Cobham internal

The interior hasn’t changed yet but the interior was never the issue. Décor is reminiscent of Mad Men, with lots of nods to mid century modern ideals. The space is huge – 140 covers – but broken into smaller areas that keep noise to an ideal level, not too loud and not too quiet.

It will be interesting to see what the “very different ambience” will be but it’s not know yet when Cobham will get the refurb. Regardless, it’s a easy space to spend time in.

Strada Cobham dining area

Having already undergone a menu overhaul, another new, smaller a la carte menu is expected in October. There’s also a set menu that changes monthly. It’s Italian, offering pastas and pizzas along with a good assortment of meat and fish dishes.

Service is friendly and efficient.

We started with yummy warm Garlic flatbread with rosemary £4.95 and some plump olives.

Strada Cobham rosemary garlic flatbread

We moved on to the mammoth Antipasti for two £12.95 Prosciutto di Para, Salami Napoli, speck, tomato bruschetta, rocket, buffalo mozzarella, artichokes and tapenade with a few additions for us to try-

crispy calamari (always a treat and this was no exception) and a Prosciutto Involtini Prosciutto di Parma, rocket, mozzarella and sticky balsamic (front corner). I’d never had a cold Involtini but I loved it, as a non tomato eater it was such a treat! It’s currently available on the set menu, and I highly recommend it as a starter.

The antipasti platter itself was feast, full of fresh tasting goodies and more than enough for two people.

Strada Cobham antipasta for two

For our next course the lovely, passionate manager brought us an assortment of dishes to sample:

(Front) Risotto Primavera (vegetarian & gluten free) £11.75 creamy risotto rice with peas, green & soya beans, courgette, mint, lemon and Grana Padano Creamy isn’t how I would describe this risotto, it was nice and light and not at all stodgy. The veg was lightly steamed tasting. Even Jman enjoyed it, and he likes neither rice nor vegetables.

(Left) Orecchiette Pugliese £11.45 “little ear” pasta with Luganega sausage, pancetta, chilli, tenderstem broccoli and Gran Padano Not only is cute little adorable shapes, it’s tasty too. A nice amount of heat and, again, a sense of freshness of ingredients.

(Right) Tagliatelle Bolognese £10.75 fresh tagliatelle tossed in a rich ragu sauce with Grana Padano and extra virgin olive oil It’s nice to get a more traditional tagliatelle over the spaghetti noodle in this perfectly good version of the spag bol.

(Rear) Rigatoni Carbonara £11.95 crispy pancetta, black pepper and lemon in a rich Grana Padano sauce This was utterly divine. We both loved it the most of the four dishes and this is what I will have on my next visit.

Strada Cobham pasta and risotto

We were getting nicely full by this point but were enjoying the food so didn’t let that stop us from having another course (yes, I’m sacrificing my waistline for you.)

Jman opted for the 8oz sirloin Steak £17.95 with peppercorn sauce and fries which was tender and juicy, just the way a steak should be. It’s very good value for the quality of the steak.

Strada Cobham sirloin steak

I had the Sea Bass to test out the new, freshly delivered fish on the menu. Sea Bass £13.95 fresh sea bass, pan-fried and served on basil mashed potatoes, black olive, tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. (I went with rosemary potatoes instead of mashed.) What can I say, it passed. Fresh tasting, perfectly cooked and, again, was good value.

Strada Cobham seabass

We shared the Rosemary Potatoes £3.75. These, like the rest of our food, were really nice, good flavours and a generous portion.

Strada Cobham rosemary potatoes

At this point we were getting really full so decided to share one dessert. We were recommended the Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake £5.75, baked lemon, marscapone and crushed amaretti biscuits. Wow. And wow again. This was glorious. Possibly the best cheesecake I’ve had in the UK, and it comes from Cardiff. Who would have thought. The supplier is a small Italian family business and my goodness I hope they start selling at supermarkets. If you’re looking for an afternoon coffee and sweet in Cobham this is what you’re looking for.

Strada Cobham lemon ricotta cheesecake

Strada has really seemed to turn a corner. Take freshly prepared food with good quality ingredients plus enthusiastic staff and you really can’t go wrong. I’m a convert and look forward to seeing the new menu and interior.

13-15 Between Street, Cobham, Surrey, KT11 1AA
Town car park

Strada also has Surrey locations in Kingston and Richmond

We were guests of Strada Cobham but this is no way biased our review.

Square Meal