Thursday, 16 June 2016

Service Station Review: Tebay Services, Cumbria

Check out the picture above and tell me what you see. It's a service station, right? Right. So: as you walk in, and past the bleeping ranks of fruit machines and arcade games there'll be a desperately grim selection of refreshments and edibles on sale to rouse the weary travelling hordes. These will be criminally overpriced, meaning that what was only meant to be a quick toilet stop for the kids ends up costing as much as a full meal out back home in your favourite restaurant. Through gritted teeth you curse capitalism for having shafted you once again, before climbing back into the motor and furiously yet impotently blasting as far down the M-whatever as you can until the kids need to pee again, at which point the grim cycle repeats itself. Right? WRONG! Because (*adopts sultry breathy tones*) this isn't any service station; This is TEBAY service station!

In order to judge the relative health of any food culture, it is at the bottom rather than the top that you have to look. Yes, blighty has got a lot better at food over the last 10 or so years, and yes there are way more interesting ways of eating out or in than there used to be, but in some respects we are still a bunch of clueless shmohawks. If you've ever been to Thailand you'll know how amazing their service stations are. Great vats of funky fish curries and delicious platters of fresh fruits are doled out into cartons and exchanged for criminally few baht. In France the Route Nationale is lined by Hypermarch├ęs, gleaming palaces of food commerce which allow the assembly of very fine roadside picnics. In comparison we are, in this country, utterly and inexcusably shit.

Unless you happen to be travelling through the 18 miles or so of M6 that links juntions 38 and 40 of the M6. At the north end of that stretch you have Rheged, home of a couple of good caf├ęs where you will be able to aquaint yourself with a fine scotch egg and much else besides. But to the south lies Tebay, which is something else entirely.

The unsuspecting punter might walk in and take a second to clock the scene. There are a few displays of crisps, chocolate and magazines. Fine. So far, so services. But...hang on...where's McD's? that a display of...sourdough bread?! Where the fuck am I? Honestly Tebay is so unservices that it takes a minute to adjust your expectations. I've got no idea who exactly is behind all this and how it works, but what you've basically got is a stinking great farm shop bang on the M6, and it's great. Let's have a look round shall we?

The variety of bread on offer is excellent. Yes, it's pricey, but whatevs. We picked up a rye and beer loaf that had a whole bunch of, I think, caraway through it. Excellent stuff.

The only beef products available in most service stations are either a Big Dreary or a McShite burger. Not here. How about a nice bit of bone-in rib to roast, or some shin to braise? Either way, it has hung for three weeks. We didn't get anything from the butcher but, you know, it was nice to look at.

We certainly did try the chocolates. Raspberry and coconut truffles were jolly nice, but the salted caramels were the real deal, certainly in the same league as Artisan du Chocolat. And that, friends, is praise indeed.

Charcuterie? Why yes. I tried some game salami. It had the funk and depth that comes when things that have lived well do not die in vain. Delicious.

We also got some of Mrs Kirkham's excellent Lancashire cheese, something else that was oozy and covered in nettles, a scotch egg and a chutney topped pie. There was some great looking black pudding so I swiped some of that, and a small tub of Morcambe Bay Shrimps because one day I will be on my death bed and, whatever other regrets I may have, eating Morcambe Bay Shrimps will not be among them.

We didn't buy any booze, but if we had wanted to, we could have done. I did buy a book about how to make booze though.

The haul, minus sausage and chocolates which we ate on the way home to keep our energy up.
On the one hand, Tebay is an insane oasis of brilliance in a turd-strewn dessert. It's so wildly better than any other service station in these sceptered isles (do let me know if there are any other crackers out there, mind) that it makes no sense to include it, alongside those, in the same category of thing. But it points to what is possible. We paid something like £24 for a whole bunch of delicious, interesting food that lasted into the week. This is not that much more than it would have cost us for a pair of Whopper meals. A better future is possible, if we all just want it enough. In the meantime, there is Tebay.

Service Station Rating: 10/10

Tebay Services
CA10 3SB

01539 624 351



  1. We have stopped there a few times. If only all Service Stations were like it. Well worth a visit.

  2. I work in Newcastle but we have offices in Fleetwood and everyone how has to travel there always raves about Tabay services! I hear their black pudding scotch eggs are amazing!

  3. Hi Lee, the (fairly) new services on the M5 South at Gloucester are very much as you describe Tebay - basically an eff-off farm shop plonked on the side of a Motorway in a timber-clad, grass-roofed, eco building! Well worth a visit if you're down this way, I can heartily recommend their pork and stilton rustic sausages, particularly if you take them to my mum who then uses them to make a stomach warming casserole. Mums and

    1. Hi Mike, Gloucester services are owned by the same people as run Tebay. Maybe they'll slowly replace all the Welcome Breaks and one day we'll all be able to take a sausage home to our mothers? It's a thought.x

    2. Hi Mike, Gloucester services are owned by the same people as run Tebay. Maybe they'll slowly replace all the Welcome Breaks and one day we'll all be able to take a sausage home to our mothers? It's a thought.x


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