For the well-heeled young in post war Britain who weren’t suited to academic life it was often a choice (for young ladies in particular) of learning secretarial or cooking skills. On the cooking front selection usually came down to two venues in England, the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London or the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Woking. Nowadays Leith’s and other great colleges have joined the party and there are a wealth of courses to choose from. Recently Tante Marie’s move to a new purpose built venue means they are topping the leader board again. The academy (the first of its kind in the UK) is famous for its professional chef courses, celebrity graduates as the incredible skill set that students leave the school with unlocks many doors into the foodie world. Being part of the local community is also high on the agenda for Tante Marie Management and with a new restaurant and plethora of short courses open to the public they are gaining loyal following. Want to do a season cooking in a ski chalet or luxury yacht then this could be your passport too.
Tante Marie has changed ownership three times since opening in 1954 under the tutelage of cookery writer Irish Syrett who died in 1964. Today former chef and deputy principal Andrew Maxwell and Gordon Ramsay Holdings own the academy. With a new lease of life and investment the school moved from an old red brick Victorian building to a new purpose built site in central Woking in 2015. In addition to the culinary academy there is also a modern European restaurant, staffed by graduates of the Cordon Bleu Diploma. Here they work for one year to gain a Level 5 Diploma in Culinary and Hospitality Management. I have dined here twice now and have been impressed by the delightful service, innovative and professionally dispatched menu. The attention to detail in the food and service is faultless as overseen by tutor manager Marco Di-Michele.
The restaurant food is fresh, seasonal, locally sourced where possible, skilfully prepared and presented. To give staff the full range of food service skills, Amuse-bouche accompanies menu selections as does hand made bread (orange and thyme or caraway last visit). Appetising nibbles on offer include smoked mackerel pate on melba toast or shot glasses of leek and potato soup with truffle oil.
Starters on the seasonal menu may include scallops and black pudding (£10.50) or crab rarebit (£7.25). For mains we chose beef fillet anchovy butter served with creamy mash (£19.95) and pan-fried sea bass (£15.95). The fish was served on a bed of pearl barley risotto intensely green from the addition of baby spinach with contrast in taste and texture of spicy chorizo.
Both dishes arrived swiftly from the kitchen on stylish hot plates and were cooked and seasoned faultlessly. Desserts (£6.50) included pear and frangipane tart with clotted cream (light and buttery) and a rhubarb fool with hand made biscuits. The food is so good here it’s hard to believe the staff are all new graduates.
Well run and managed; the space is modern, clean and comfortable. Wine is reasonably priced (starting at £20 per bottle) and offered by the glass too. It was good to see local gin Silent Pool on offer here and some English wines. We started with a glass of Prosecco each at £7 each.
Located centrally in Woking in a newly regenerated area Tante Marie and other newcomers have really started to put Woking on the map as a foodie destination. This is in part due to incentives from the council to make this a reality.
With so many gastro pubs churning out the same predictable menus its refreshing to to find a menu that really is a bit different!
Tante Marie Culinary Academy
57-61 Commercial Way, Woking GU21 6HN
I was invited by Woking Shopping’s PR company to review this restaurant. Having already been once I was keen to return. The food and standard of service was as good as it was on my first visit. I am looking forward to doing one of their 1 day cookery courses on Indonesian food in late May.