Wolsey Place Shopping Centre, Woking Shopping, Commercial Way, Woking, Surrey GU21 6XX
Great Italian coffee, delicious menu and gourmet food shopping bang smack in the centre of Woking
The upside: A credible place for stylish eating in the town centre with three gold stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Assocation
The downside: It’s no longer independently owned but still very serious about food!
The flipside: A lovely calm retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre and the big glass doors open up in the summer.
I can remember when Antonio Carluccio’s first restaurant opened in 1998 and have always been a fan. It was the first of a new genre of relaxed modern Italian style eateries that offered lighter meals at a competitive price in smart locations in London. A TV cook, food writer and presenter Carluccio’s cookbooks were inspirational and best sellers.
His restaurants also feature shops and the carefully chosen products have endured growing competition and remained desirable. Although Carluccio sold in 2010 he is still a consultant for the business working on menus and products. The pull for me here is the innovative tasty authentic Italian menu with food products under one roof that doesn’t break the bank.
When I first moved to Surrey in 2005, Woking was a far cry from what it is today. The council have worked hard with grants and incentives to attract some more dynamic brands into the centre and also worked with independents like Araceli’s Mexican to get the mix right.
I was invited by a PR company for Woking Shopping to review some of the newly opened restaurants and chose Carluccio’s. It was some time since I eaten in one so a good opportunity to revisit. I chose to go for breakfast with my kids, so were able to sample between us a good range of items from the new menu.
The day we went was warm and sunny. So although the location is very much city centre, located on a pedestrian walkway, the bi-folding glass doors were all open giving an al fresco feel. As expected the décor is minimal, modern and clean and the food shop at the entrance with its wonderful bright packaging and colourful products give a sense of what’s in store from the outset.
Ordering up drinks first our waitress asked if my daughter and I would like a rich or smooth blend of coffee. This was a nice touch and our smooth coffee (£2.50) was balanced and just the right strength. Best of all the coffee was served really hot (I can’t bear being served luke-warm drinks) and the chocolate coated coffee bean on the side went down a treat. We also ordered juices, an orange and a pear juice, these arrived in large glasses and at £2.50 each, well priced.
A new breakfast menu had just been launched and I went for and open frittata with shaved parmesan and rich truffle (£8.50). Something I have not seen on any other menu hence its appeal. It was freshly made, hot and heady with black truffle and I loved it. My daughter had eggs Benedict (£7.75) a generous filling portion which she gave 10/10 for. My son opted for the Carluccio’s Italian take on the full English. Pancetta here replaces bacon, rustic Italian bread, sausage, eggs and mushrooms finish the plate. This got thumbs up from my teenage son who is keen to repeat this breakfast experience as soon as possible. Meaty sausages, perfectly cooked pancetta and eggs sealed the deal here. This is £7.95 on its own but if you take it with their breakfast deal you get juice and coffee too for £9.95 saving a couple of quid. The mushrooms here are worth a mention as they were brilliantly cooked, hot, tasty and a mix of closed cup and shitake, what a treat. After 11am you can turn breakfast into Brunch and treat yourself to a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa too.
When we had finished eating we went for a little smooch around the shop. In addition to packaged products they also sell fresh pastries, cured meats, parmesan and olives. I spotted my favourite dessert wine Vin Santo which is divine served with almond Cantuccini biscuits. It’s great to know they stock this as a couple of years ago you couldn’t seem to buy a bottle for all the tea in China. I did buy some of their gluten free spaghetti (£2.95), the best I have ever tried and some aromatic lemon infused olive oil (250ml/ £8.95). Used as a finishing oil and not for cooking this is wonderful on freshly grilled fish or salads.
We enjoyed our breakfast here so much we have already been back for dinner! Carluccio’s is a great addition to Woking centre and I hope the current regeneration sees many more additions in the months to come.