Proper Motorway Nosh: The Real Food Cafe


Last time I wrote, I was having a proper old moan about the lack of decent food options when on the road, venting my fury towards motorway service stations serving crap tucker, and lacklustre port-side sandwich merchants. But hark, I now have reason to rejoice! Quite by accident, on our way to the Lake District from Scotland, we chanced upon The Real Food Cafe – a motorway eatery with a difference, located on the A85 which crosses the breathtakingly beautiful Loch Lomond and Trossach National Park. It serves homemade, locally sourced food – and nothing comes out of a packet!

Ironically, this used to be a Little Chef. But now, instead of boil-in-the-bag and fried food swimming in grease, you can now feast upon freshly homebaked breads and cakes, roasted free range chicken, sustainable fish ‘n chips, homemade Highland beef burgers, hearty vegetable soups and all manner of salads. You eat with real cutlery instead of everything being disposable, and my soup came in a porcelain bowl. And lo – they have a fresh cakes counter (always a hotline to my heart) groaning with flapjacks, millionaire’s shortbread, Victoria Sponge – and even meringues! (Can you imagine eating a meringue in a service station? Neither can I. The mere notion feels as though the world is turning in on itself. But at The Good Food Cafe you can do this without fear!).

As we sat and ate our delicious meal (veg soup with crusty bread; fish ‘n chips in light, crispy batter; buttery shortbread) a very smiley lady popped a fresh tray of warm scones onto the table right next to us. She was even humming a tune. Birds pecked at feeders right outside the window. What a jolly place! It is quite bizarre going to the loos and seeing that they’re probably the same ones from the building’s Little Chef days: it’s like The Little Chef became a grown up.

Light-as-air batter on the fish (and very crispy chips):

The illustrious cake counter:

The Real Food Cafe’s story is thus: Sarah Heward and Steve Wolsey took on the struggling Little Chef and transformed it into a haven of good food in 2005. Sadly Steve passed away in 2006, but Sarah continues to run the cafe, determined to serve the best possible grub to weary drivers and hikers. As much of their produce as possible is sourced from the local area – for example, sausages from the nearby glen and beef from the Isle of Mull. They make all their own bread – and for that alone, I salute them. Here’s hoping we see some more people follow suit and maybe slowly our on-the-road eating options can improve…

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3 comments

  1. I heard about this place on the food programme a couple of years ago and thought yo – got to be better than your average motorway stop off point. Hadn't heard from anyone whose been there though, so interesting to hear what you have to say.

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  2. Thanks Choclette – I tell you, this place is like a godsend, especially when you've been driving for 5 hours…

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  3. Also….If you're on the M6 just South of the Lake District, stop at Tebay Services – http://www.westmorland.com/tebay-services . It is family owned and the only services in England to be built and operated by local people. It has established a strong reputation for good home made food and won several awards.

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