Cookie Bar

1 Royal Parade, Tilford Road, Hindhead, Surrey, GU26 6TDcookie bar window

A brilliant local café & gift shop providing valuable work experience for pupils from Stepping Stones School.

The upside: Delicious fresh home made food which helps fund valuable social projects

The downside: Lunch is only served from 12-2.30pm but gorgeous cakes and cookies am and pm!

The flipside:  This is one of a growing number of fantastic social enterprises involving food that gives so much to those involved.

What a great arrival, an “EAT ME” display of tantalising cakes, cookies and scones intertwined with the aroma of fresh baking and coffee. Given a tip off by one of my favourite local ethical coffee roasters Gary from Coffee Real  (who supply the coffee here) I had an inkling I was going to like it. It’s also immediately evident that this cafe is well organised and spotlessly clean. A great selection of home-wares, foodie gifts and cards add to the overall interior feel, which is, bright, contemporary and colourful. Free Wi-Fi, the use of 2 Imacs and Ipads are also a welcome bonus. Lizzie Henderson who has worked for the cookie bar since it started in 2011 (also baker of my delicious slice of sticky toffee pudding cake) procured a cappuccino for me and we sat and chatted.

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This is no ordinary café and it’s this type of enterprise that fuels my passion for food education. Set up by the COINS Foundation to support and provide work experience for pupils from the Stepping Stones School it gives young people with mild to moderate disabilities a valid safe environment in which to gain proper work experience. It boosts self-esteem, develops skills and helps pupils engage in their local community. Pupils work with team of part time staff and volunteers who guide them through the day-to-day workings of a proper food business. All pupils age 8 and up who are able, come to the café to gain experience. From age 15 and up barista training is given and shifts in the kitchen preparing food. Some of the pupils choose to return and work when they are old enough. This has been pivotal for some in gaining work locally once they have graduated and is testimony to the value this enterprise brings.

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On my first visit I shared a slice of home made quiche with salad and a slice of moist dense carrot cake with my partner in the small garden, which also has a play area. On my second visit I had a freshly baked cheese scone (£1.50), warm from the oven, it was delicious with knob of butter; these alongside sweet scones are baked daily. It was too early for lunch but the home made soup looked delicious, as did the panini selection. I also chose a slice of sticky toffee cake (£1.85) which just made, was impossible to resist. The fluffy butter icing had been spiked with caramel and sea salt, it was one of the best slices of cakes I have indulged in recently! Too big (the cake not me) to finish I took it home for later noting that a take-away service is available too.

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The food here (apart from being delicious) has the ultimate feel-good factor as profits are shared with the Stepping Stones School and other COINS foundation projects here and overseas. In addition to the café service the enterprise also runs a cookie subscription service. Companies can buy a one-year package and have fresh cookies delivered each month to a business of their choice. It’s a great way to support this charity, provide useful work for pupils and raise awareness of their work.

To find our more, take a look at the cookie bar website; this is a fantastic set up and well worth a visit. Plans are underway to open cookie bars affiliated with other schools and you may even be lucky enough to see their new training bus at events throughout the summer.

01428 608001