A tenner for burnt coffee and a soggy sandwich. Is there anything worse than a traditional motorway service station lunch?
Fear not! Our guide to truly foodie pit stops on the main routes through the South West will see you eating excellently – just minutes off the motorway
From Gloucestershire, down the M5 and along the Atlantic Highway (A39) through Devon and Cornwall
Gloucester Services (GL4 0DN) isn’t your usual service station. Between junction 12 and 11a near Brookthorpe, a visit is a must for home cooked food and coffee by the lake, as well as shopping – think Fortnum and Mason with petrol.
Just before Bristol, make an excursion to the excellent Ronnie’s in Thornbury (BS35 2AB) for two AA rosette cooking.The Ethicurean at Wrington (BS40 5SA), offers delightful field to fork dining in an old glasshouse, while The Globe at Milverton is a fab foodie pub (TA4 1JX) in Somerset countryside.
If you’re driving over the A39 across the top of Exmoor, keep going until you reach The Luttrell Arms (TA24 6SG) in Dunster. The food’s great, there’s a beer garden with views of the castle and if you over-indulge you can stay the night very comfortably too.
Don’t sail past Bideford, take a four minute detour into the town where you’ll find seriously good French cafe food at Cafe du Parc at the Burton Art Gallery (EX39 2QQ). A few miles further, The Old Smithy Inn (EX39 6HG) at Welcombe is a funky, foodie pub just off the A39.
We never do the A39 without a pit stop at Strong Adolfo’s (PL27 7LR) for fab Swedish inspired food and coffee. Alternatively, hit the St Tudy Inn (PL30 3NN) a short drive away for a smart lunch from chef Emily Scott. Just five minutes off the A39, the tranquil beer gardens and roaring log fires at the St Kew Inn (PL30 3HB) are as much a draw as the pub menu of Porthilly mussels and St Austell ales.
The bottom line
Heading west via Dorset and Devon on the A35 and A30 to the A38
It’s an easy detour to visit Bridport where former coaching inn, The Bull Hotel (DT6 3LF) offers stylish interiors and exciting food. Pop out the back to a pretty courtyard and its second eatery, The Stable, where you can pick up wood fired pizza, and a huge range of ciders for the non drivers.
Pull off the road at Chideock for the George Inn (DT6 6JD), a handsome thatched pub, complete with courtyard garden and wood fired oven; or go a mile down to Seatown for the Anchor Inn (DT6 6JU) which sits right on the dramatic Jurassic coast, and is well worth a visit. The Holt in Honiton (EX14 1LA) is a characterful pub/restaurant that’s part of the Otter Brewery family, and which has its own smokehouse which plays a central role in the quality pub food offering.
We’d grab any excuse to eat Matthew Mason’s food at the Jack in the Green (EX5 2EE) which is just a couple of minutes off the A30 at Rockbeare near Exeter. Expect seriously good food and sit out in the courtyard in summer.
Take a short detour to Darts Farm (EX3 0QH), the huge and fabulous farm shop with fresh fish and chips at The Fish Shed, good food in the restaurant and loads of local produce and stylish shopping. With lots of space and some animals to visit it’s a great pit stop for families.
You wouldn’t expect to find a proper restaurant at The Cardinals Hatt (PL12 6PJ) off the A388, but this roadhouse-meets-pub-meets-restaurant is roomy, friendly and serves good food in hearty portions. It’s great if you’ve got kids in tow as there’s something on the menu for everyone and space to stretch their legs.