I feel compelled to tell you about Gloucester Services because it’s like no other motorway services I’ve ever visited. As a general rule I try to avoid service stations because they are so noisy, busy and full of the same selection of eateries. I normally aim to get in and out as quickly as possible. But this week we stopped at the southbound and northbound Gloucester Services and what a glorious surprise.
Gloucester Services is a family-owned business with no franchises. So you won’t find any of your usual burger and coffee joints. However you will find a place full of home-cooked meals and locally-sourced food from artisan producers. The whole place has a lovely vibe to it. If like me, you enjoy visiting independent shops and restaurants, rather than the ubiquitous stores that pop-up on every high street, this is the place for you. And if you’ve got children it will make you even happier because they are catered for brilliantly in terms of food, play and freshening up.
Gloucester Services are situated between junctions 11a and 12 of the M5, on the outskirts of Gloucester. We were on a trip to Cornwall, so this made the perfect stopping point for us on the way there and back. As soon as you arrive in the car park you know you’re not in any ordinary service station. The building has been designed to almost camouflage into its surroundings and is a wonderful example of form and function.
Once inside the whole place is light and airy. It’s a feast for the eyes as you take in the farm shop, quick kitchen and main restaurant area. Although the car park was quite full, it didn’t feel busy inside, with plenty of room to move between the different areas and choose what we wanted to eat. Rocket man was keen to walk everywhere and was able to, with no concerns he would get in the way or wasn’t safe.
FRESH, HOME-MADE FOOD
The key aspect that appealed to me in each of the different zones, was how fresh all of the food looked. The quick kitchen is ideal if you just want to grab a sandwich, salad, soup, pie or cake (I think I also noticed sausage sarnies). These aren’t your usual fare though, oh no, there is lots of variety. It all looked delicious and we bought an avocado and sundried tomato sandwich for rocket man and Hubster and I shared a chicken and bacon salad, which tasted so fresh. I consider myself a bit of a sandwich connoisseur and this was a good one.
On our way home we sampled some food from the main restaurant and it was equally yummy. There was a lovely selection of hot and cold food including fish and chips, meat and veg, stew, foccacia, frittata and salad. We also got rocket man a children’s lunchbox which we were able to fill ourselves. You could choose a finger sandwich, along with four other items such as fruit, raisins, juice, jelly, biscuits, cheese and crisps.
We’ve all witnessed those wilting sandwiches and the lasagna that’s been kept warm a bit too long. But there is none of this at Gloucester Services. The food is beautifully displayed, easily identifiable (no dodgy concoctions!) and it was obvious that everything had been prepared with high quality ingredients. According to their website Gloucester Services say that as much of the food as possible is made in their own kitchen every day, with all ingredients sourced locally. This is the key difference between them and every other service station you visit.
I mentioned earlier that you’ll be happy with the kids’ facilities because I certainly was. Before children you don’t give play areas, selection of food or ease of changing nappies a second thought. But having been in several difficult situations, I now choose where I visit based on the facilities they provide. Gloucester Services have tried to make it as easy as possible for children, with the following available:
- Organic baby food
- Child-size food portions and lunchboxes
- Dedicated family toilets with spacious changing areas and child-size loos and wash basins
- Family eating area with a small kitchen including a microwave and bottle-warmer, plus a free play space.
It’s the last point which I found really great. The play area is hand-crafted from wood and is a cheerful, safe place to keep children entertained while you’re eating. The facilities in the little kitchen are also so useful when you’re on the road. And I must say the toilets are fab! Clean, tidy and lots of space for us all to fit in one of the dedicated family rooms.
AM I ON THE MOTORWAY OR IN THE COUNTRYSIDE?!
When you’re inside Gloucester Services it’s easy to forget where you are. One of the reasons for this is the large farm shop they have onsite. We couldn’t stop long, but it looked amazing. A wonderful selection of home-made breads, butcher, deli and cheese counters, plus every food you could hope for, including locally-made jams, fresh fruit and veg, cakes and pies. Seriously, if we lived closer I’d be going here for some of my Christmas food!
Gloucester Services say their key aim is to be part of their local community and work closely with local farmers and producers to provide the best possible experience. Apparently they also donate a percentage of sales each year back into the community. That makes them pretty great in my book.
I know this is a very glowing report of a service station (I haven’t been asked to review), but these days it’s quite rare to find places that exceed your expectations. It isn’t often that I’m genuinely impressed and because of this I wanted to share what a lovely place Gloucester Services is and to just say, if you’re on the M5, find an excuse to go!