When you go on a road trip in Australia you inevitably end up stopping at a ‘servo’ to refuel the car, use the bathroom and eat. On busy routes there might be a ‘service centre’ where there is a petrol station and several fast food outlets, but on many country roads, it’s an old style road house – essentially a petrol station with a cafeteria attached.
In England, the ‘service centre’ is known as ‘services’ and most are akin to what you find on the Hume Highway at Yass. As I’ve learnt over the past few months though, there are fancy road-side stops in a few select locations. Welcome to the world of ‘posh services’…
Set On the M6 amongst the rolling and often wet hills of Cumbria, you’ll find Tebay Services. The business was started in the 1970s by the Westmorland Family, Lake District farmers, who in conjunction with local bakers, opened a cafe serving locally sourced food for passing drivers on the new motorway.
What they’ve built over the last four decades is pretty amazing. Tebay is a clean, bright and modern sanctuary for weary drivers who have discerning palates.
In my opinion, the jewel of the crown is the farm shop. There is a butcher’s shop, cheese counter, bakery section, fresh fruit and vegetables and rows upon rows of local produce.
When Adam and I stopped at Tebay en route to Scotland the other week, we easily filled a basket with enough supplies to keep us happy for days.
It was like shopping at an upmarket, well designed providores store. Think Harrods or David Jones food hall. Fancy tea, handmade chocolates, fresh butter and bottles of wine. I could have spent hours browsing.
There was a separate homewares section full of coffee table books, sitting room essentials, pretty plates and mugs, cute make-up bags, special toiletries and British clothing brands.
Beautiful, fresh bunches of flowers were also for sale.
The on-site cafe was a welcome change to the normal ‘servo’ food you expect. Adam feasted on a bowl of leek and potato soup, while I got stuck into a bowl of crudités and hummus. The view, despite the torrential rain, was also pretty special.
The business has grown tremendously over the last 15 years or so but it’s nice to see that initial goal of showcasing local food is still very much at the heart of what the Westmorland Family do. Yes, you do pay a bit more for food on site – but I’m happy to do that if it means I’m supporting local farmers and eating something I’ll actually enjoy.
I think their ‘posh services’ model could be replicated in Australia, particularly in my old stomping ground of the Riverina, where food tourism is only just starting to cement itself as a viable local industry. Isn’t it a great way to showcase localism to the masses?!
Although I’ve only had a very brief bathroom stop there, the Westmorland Family also run Gloucester Services on the M5. If you’re passing through or near the north-west or south-west of England, I’d highly recommend visiting. It’s well worth the drive.