This was the trip during which I was going to be reviewing Fergus Henderson’s St. Johns or maybe Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck. But no. None of that…at least not yet. Instead, here I am reviewing a service station. That’s right: a petrol station. More specifically, a food shack just outside of that freeway-side services stop, abutting the car park.
But oh what a service station food shack it is. Tebay, you see, is not just a petrol station, and it is not just a food shack. A family-owned operation with one set of facilities on the northbound side of the M6, one on the southbound side, Tebay offers everything a gas station offers, but also gorgeous farm shops and restaurants – all set in open countryside surrounded by trees, small lakes and fine panoramas of the Cumbrian landscape. To round it all off, the buildings are constructed in timber and local stone.
The Farm Shop, indeed, would be notable in and of itself…no matter where it was located. The vegetables are every bit as beautiful as any you see at any farmers’ market. The quality and selection of meats are beyond what you would see at any American butcher’s shop. And that’s not to mention the venison and other game, smoked and cured meats, homemade preserves and chutneys and an unbelievable selection of sausages and other charcuterie that I have seen before…well, never.
But who would ever have thought of finding a brilliant, unbelievably fresh Portobello, Mozzarella and Pesto sandwich at a freeway-side filling station grilled right before you in the middle of nowhere? Not me, for one. Farm fresh vegetables are not often to be found at freeway exits. Of course, while I usually like some meat in my sandwiches, even the best of them is rarely memorable…but, I can easily recall a brilliant Zucchini sandwich from a Folk Festival in the middle of the Pyrenees, so I was willing to take a flyer.
This was easily as good as that Pyrenees sandwich. Even after five minutes grilling, the Portobellos screamed their newly minted pedigree. The mozzarella provided the dish a richness and the pesto brought it all together.
A quick trip to the condiment bar yielded some freshly made chutneys which, together with the grilled onions made this a truly memorable sandwich in an entirely unlikely location.
And the petrol wasn’t bad either.
- Tebay Services Food Shack
- Old Tebay, M6
- Westmoreland, CA10 3SS, England, UK
— Michael A. Gardiner