I needed a break and a coffee

Travelling back from Manchester I stopped off at the services for a break, stretch my legs and grab a coffee. Of all the services on the M6 and the M5 between Manchester and Weston-super-Mare, the services at Gloucester are my favourite.

These services are so different to virtually all the others on the motorway network. Unlike the mix of high street chains you seem to find at Welcome Break, Moto and Roadchef, the services at Gloucester are more like a farm shop.

There is a cafe area, with a range of food options, you can have proper meals, snacks, or coffee and cake. They also have a food to go area as well, for those in a rush with pies, sausages, sausage rolls and homemade burgers.

As well as the catering places, the services also have a big farm shop which is full of lots of stuff, including fresh meat and fish, bakery goods, deli stuff and cakes.

It is so different to the other services on the motorway network, you probably wouldn’t even realise that it was a motorway services area. The fact that they are also built into a hill also helps distinguish them totally from the others.

So needing that break, I stopped for a coffee, and ordered a flat white. It was very quiet, but I suspect that was down to the closure of the M5 a few junctions further down.

Another aspect of the services I like is that they have a lovely outdoor area. So I grabbed my coffee and went and sat outside in the sun. It was a little windy, but I found a sheltered table and enjoyed the view as I drank my coffee.

I would say that this is not the best flat white I have had, but it was good flavoured coffee and I enjoyed it.

It was then back into the car. It had taken me two and half hours from Manchester to Gloucester, even with some snow around Keele area. However due to closure of M5 between J13 and J14, it took me another two and half hours to get from Gloucester to Weston-super-Mare, going via Stroud and the M4.

There are services and then there are services

Back in September I was driving back from a conference in the East Midlands. I decide to stop off at the services for a coffee. I could have stopped off at Starbucks at Hopwood Park, but I had decided to avoid the M42 and was driving down the A46 to the M5.

I thus decided to stop off at the Gloucester Services for a coffee.

I really like these services, they are so different to basically all the others on the motorway network. As well as a range of food options, they also have a food to go area as well, for those in a rush. As well as the catering places, the services also have a big farm shop which is full of lots of stuff, including fresh meat and fish, bakery goods, deli stuff and cakes.

I wasn’t hungry, having had a nice lunch at the conference, so I just ordered a flat white.

What was nice, was that the sun was shining, and they have outdoor seating. So out I went to drink my coffee and enjoy some fresh air and sun.

I would say that this is not the best flat white I have had, but it was good flavoured coffee.

These are really nice relaxing services. There are services and then there are services.

Down at the Portivo Lounge

Portivo Lounge

The last time I went to the Portivo Lounge on the quayside at Gloucester I sat outside, on a more recent visit, we sat inside and I was able to appreciate the internal decor. Every Lounge branch is different, unlike other chains where they work hard to ensure that all their branches look alike. The concept behind the interior is to reflect the location in the decor. As the Portivo Lounge is by the docks, they have gone with a maritime theme, which works quite well. The lighting for example appears to be have been taken from the corridors of a large ship (or a submarine). The furniture across the Lounge is all very different, reclaimed probably, but comfortable. I did like the look, it was calm and comfortable and it is certainly somewhere, where you could sit for a while chatting with friends, or working on something.

As for the food and the coffee, I did enjoy my coffee and though you order at the bar, they at least bring it to your table, rather than waiting around for it to be made and then spilt as you try and find somewhere to sit. I’ve not eaten at Portivo Lounge, and I probably won’t have the chance now, but the food did look good as it was taken out to other people.

The place appears quite popular, very full at lunchtimes, and even mid afternoon, when we were there it was buzzing, so it must be doing something right.

Portivo Lounge

A new cafe has opened in the Gloucester Docks and it’s rather nice.

Portivo Lounge

I really liked the design of the place. They have taken notice of the building they are in and its location in the docks. The interior, fixtures and fittings reflect that. It’s calming and relaxing. Having said all that I am not sure about the bright orange and lime green chairs outside…

Now I’ve only had coffee and a pastry, but both were very good. The double espresso was strong and smooth, the pain au chocolate was fresh and flaky. What I did like was, I was able to have a glass of iced water with my espresso.

I am not sure which coffee they are using, there were no signs for Illy or Lavazza that you sometimes see at places like this. I did enjoy it and the next time I go I might try an Americano as a taste comparison.

The service was also excellent, well with one minor exception. The welcome and service was friendly, calm and professional. The minor exception was the “keenness” of one member of staff to clear our table. We hadn’t finished our drinks or food, but she wanted to clear some of our cups and plates. Yes this is useful if you are ordering more food and drinks, but we were nearing the end of our drinks. What it felt like was that what she actually wanted was either for us to go… or they had run out of cups in the cafe! As a result we felt rushed and in the way. For me the reason I go to a cafe to drink coffee, is for the whole calm experience, a chance to drink, think, chat and reflect. It has to be said this was a really minor point and the rest of the service was excellent.

Grilled Sardines

I have been tempted many times to visit the Tall Ship in the docks in Gloucester, but have never really found the time. On a recent visit for lunch though I realised what I had been missing. This is a very traditional pub in the Gloucester Docks that specialises in fish and seafood.

I had initially anticipated that the “speciality” may mean a reliance on their “special” deep fat fryer. However perusing the menu and the specials showed that this was most certainly not the case. There was a wide choice of dishes, as you might expect a fair bit of fish and seafood, however there was a fair few meat dishes and a nice selection of vegetarian food.

I have found with some pubs an over reliance on the deep fat fryer and the microwave. Processed chilled dishes then reheated either in the fryer or the microwave. Looking over the menu in the Tall Ship, it did appear that wasn’t the case. There was no lamb shank for example. If you ever see a lamb shank on the menu, then be warned I would suspect a lot on that menu would be chilled meals just waiting to be bunged into the microwave.

I decided after a good long look at the menu on the grilled sardines at £8.95. They came with crusty bread and a crispy salad. I really wanted a relatively light lunch. I also wanted to try something that was slightly different to what I would normally have and I also wanted freshly cooked fish, with no chance of reheating.

The food was delivered promptly, but certainly not rushed. It certainly looked great, four whole sardines alongside a small bowl of salad.

Grilled Sardines

The sardines were delicious, moist and full of flavour. Sardines can be a little tricky to eat due the bones. They had been seasoned and garnished with some olive oil.

The crusty bread arrived in a basket, there was a nice selection, it looked homemade, but I wasn’t sure how fresh it was, some pieces were a little dry.

The salad was basic, some iceberg lettuce with tomato, cucumber and a slice of orange! Now that could have been so much better.

However the centrepiece of the meal were the sardines and they were delicious.