The Wainwright, Keswick

The first night out on a holiday is always something to look forward to. After a lovely lunch stop at Tebay, we arrived at our rented holiday destination in good time. After a bit of a palaver with our secret underground parking lair (ok, just a ground floor garage with a remote control door) we had soon unloaded and got ourselves out on to the fells. By 4pm we were on the top of Latrigg, and looking down on glorious views of Keswick.

We continued our walk, returning to Keswick along yet another old railway line (thanks Beeching). It was around 7pm when we got back down into the town, so we decided to go straight to the pub. Tonight’s choice was The Wainwright, previously The Four in Hand, somewhere we had visited many years ago. Having heard good things about the new pub on the web (as well as seeing lots of pictures of good food and drink on Twitter), it was always going to be our first night choice.

It was pretty busy despite being relatively early, but we grabbed some drinks and ordered some food and sat in the high stools near the door whilst waiting for a table to become free. To start off, a Yolo (but not #yolo) from Fell Brewery, who are only 2 years old. Three of their ales were on the bar tonight, and this was the perfect start, a great golden session ale to quench the thirst after a good walk, and while you are contemplating your soon-to-arrive game pie.

And what a pie it was. A proper effort, baked with lid on, not just some filling plopped in a dish and a separate lid dropped on afterwards. Very flavourful game filling, good thick gravy, accompanied by excellent chips and some nice peppery roasted vegetables. A cracking pie. Mrs MOFAD had the beef pie, which was also very good.

This had a great accompaniment, another Fell Brewery ale. The Belgium Salted Dark Ale was fantastic, complementing the pie perfectly. Malty, roasted, chocolatey, a touch of sweetness, a touch of saltiness, a great balance for a game pie.

No pudding tonight (got to pace ourselves for a long week of eating and drinking), but another great Fell Brewery ale rounded things off – Progressive Pale is a great hoppy pale ale.

So, it’s an instant MOFAD approval for this “new” Keswick pub. A MOFAD card was left, and we’ll definitely be back when we are next in Keswick. The Wainwright should go from strength to strength.

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Tebay Services aka Westmorland Farm Shops

The British service station. Not the most inspiring of places to visit. The butt of a million jokes, including this lovely little routine from Bill Bailey:-

“I’m amazed by how compliant people are in this country. They go into service stations – ‘cathedrals of despair’, as I call them – where baseball-capped ghouls of the night lord it over their congealed bean kingdoms, their fried-bread twilights, their neon demi-mondes, tempting you to enter, to become them, undead. “Ooh, beans on toast, £18.95, very reasonable. Oh no, I’m not going to complain. They probably pump them up from London in special tubes.” God, £18.95? If that was the price, for my money, each bean would have to be carried over in a heron’s beak and laid on an orchid and then placed on a very rare train set and carried all the way to my table on the train set and then pinged off by a tiny little rare vole and it rolls onto a beautiful silk leaf and I eat it with a Fabergé egg. Then you’d get your money’s worth.”

Over-priced? Seemingly. Disappointing? Almost always. The same endless selection of shops? Tick. WH Smith, Costa, Starbucks, KFC, McDonalds, maybe an M&S or Waitrose if you’re lucky.

However, there are now at least four alternatives.

Back in 1972, John and Barbara Dunning, local farmers, set up Tebay Services in partnership with local bakers when the M6 cut through the Lune Gorge. It was the first and is still the only family run motorway service station on the UK road network, starting out as a small 30 seat café serving home cooked, locally sourced food.

And they are still there, family owned, still farming, and still with their passion for all things local. In 2004 they opened farm shops on site, with butcher’s counters arriving in 2008.

It is a lovely place to visit, nothing like any other service stations on the network. You can still get everything you would expect, just better. The shop sells the usual range of confectionery, news, drinks etc. But it is also a farm shop, with loads of local ales and ciders, loads of deli style stuff like chutneys, pickles, sauces and breads. And then there are the food counters, local meats, cheeses, pies, quiches, fish, sauces, fruit, veg, olives and even some exotic imports like massive Sicilian lemons.

So if this just happens to be your last stop before arriving at your holiday cottage, you can do a lot of your shopping for your week of self catering holiday ahead. And maybe stock up on a few things to take back home a week later.

You can also get a sandwich, some coffee, or a more substantial meal. And in warmer months (I’m guessing, since we only usually pass this way in June time) there is a little shed outside with a BBQ grill, serving delicious burgers and sausages. The best service station burger ever. And there is also cake, like this delicious lemon drizzle cake.

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So, if you’re heading north on the M6, just past junction 38, you’ll find this little oasis. And it does have its own oasis too, a little lake replete with local birdlife. There’s also a very similar one on the southbound side too.

And now there are 2 sister service stations, Gloucester Services, just before junction 12 if you’re heading south on M5, or just after if you are northbound. They are doing exactly the same thing as Tebay, supporting local producers and selling great produce.

The only service stations to be MOFAD approved!