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Restaurant review: Welcome Break, Burtonwood Services

Angie Sammons stops on the M62 and is not unpleasantly surprised to encounter services with a smile

Written by . Published on January 14th 2010.


Restaurant review: Welcome Break, Burtonwood Services


IT could be a line from Father Ted: “Ah, go on, go on, go on. Won't you have a lovely mug of tea? Just one, go on... No. A lovely POT of tea then?”

Cue studio laughter at mildly surreal line from Mrs Doyle.

It's like being cosseted by your grandma. And even mean, hairy arsed lorry drivers were little truckers once

"Or would you like to try my nice buns?” (Raucous guffaws as Father Jack's monocle falls and camera pans on look of bemusement from the rest of the cast, etc).

Yet “lovely mugs of tea”, “lovely pots of tea”, “nice buns” and more tweeness in this vein courses through the corporate identikit menu at Welcome Break, the motorway services at Burtonwood, Warrington.

It's like being cosseted by your grandma. And even mean, hairy-arsed lorry drivers were little truckers once.

When I think of "motorway services", I think of them. I also think of surly staff doing a thankless job in stark, anodyne, exposed surroundings, balefully and knowingly serving overpriced, reheated rubbish to needy customers who don't really want to be there, and who know that what they are about to receive is overpriced, reheated rubbish.

I think of nasty coffee that leaves as bitter a taste in the mouth as the bill. I think of UHT milk cartons and displays of tartan picnic rugs on special offer, coin-operated massage chairs and how no social study has ever linked the whole experience to the rise in road rage incidents.

Tiredness kills, warn the road signs, but so pisspoor is the lot awaiting you at British service stations, I am willing to take my chances.

Then I think of my kids, untruthfully insisting they are going to be sick in the back of the car right now and how we must stop at the next services: “NO, REALLY! REALLY!”

Which is why we are here.

Welcome Break, Burtonwood, used to be an east and west side story on the M62. Then Marks & Spencer had the bit going to Liverpool demolished to make way for its car park on the site it occupies next to IKEA. So should you be caught short and heading away from the rainy city into the Mersey sunset, you have to do a complicated U-turn.

Meanwhile, this is nothing to the crime of the US airbase hangars being torn down, a prompt for another rant as you sail by on oily Tarmac that used to be the Allies' runway to victory over the Nazis, and now is marked out for future young generations as the exit for Gulliver's World.

Sheila has probably heard all this whingeing before. She is a Speke girl who has worked in catering for 30-odd years, 15 of them at Welcome Break, Warrington. The kitchen here is her domain.

Down the years, the separate greasy spoon for Eddie Stobart employees has vanished, and a KFC has nudged in on her space, occupying the next counter. The clientèle is varied. Some Americans. A very elderly chap, digging into an all day breakfast at 8pm. He is poring intently over a Sunday Mirror spread about Heidi from the Sugababes.

Meanwhile, Sheila seems married to the job. She is finishing at 10pm and she will be back first thing at Monday breakfast. Who said tiredness kills?

Have a safe journey, she offers later, as we leave. In every sense, a Welcome Break departure from the norm.

Meanwhile, she bakes her own muffins (£1.95) and the Welcome Break boss from down south apparently loves them because they spill over the edges of the paper cases, all untidy, as they rise. Chocolate chip (good), dark chocolate and orange (superb, rich, tangy and moist) and banana and toffee (untried) push themselves forward. That's them Nice Buns, next to the till.

In between, Sheila waits tables, she clears up, takes money and cooks the kids and their father that new fad, "Proper Fish and Chips" (£5 for him, £2.99 or free for a junior, if eating with an adult). With mushy peas and “free bread and butter”, which isn't butter, it's sunflower spread. Bizarrely, KFC next door, do Country Life pats among their self-service condiments selection (Why? To smear over a bucket of wings?), so we nick a couple of them and coronary joy is complete.

.

The fish, described only as “a white fish”, is, on further enquiry, “a Greek one, it begins with P and I can never pronounce it,” Sheila smiles brightly.

Doesn't matter. The dish is pleasant enough, the batter, made there and then, is good and crunchy, as craggy as Mrs Doyle's island, and the fish gleams. The chips are all odds and sods of shapes and they aren't bad at all. Mushy peas do let the side down a little.

Staying with them for a moment, I order steak and mushroom pie (£5 with all accompaniments) from the duty manager, a terribly nice young man whose attempts to discover whether I want them, or garden peas, and my attempts to reply to him, are repeatedly interrupted by a chap best described as the Mr Overall of Burtonwood services. He urgently needs to tell the boss that he is about to replace the toilet rolls. Everything else can wait.

We get there in the end. The pie is the size of a house brick and shaped like the gingerbread dwelling from Hansel and Gretel but doused in glossy brown gravy (“Who makes your pies?” “No idea”). It is called steak and mushroom, singular, because lifting the lid reveals just one tiny fungal specimen amid plenty of steak chunks. The top puff crust, is good and light, but the rest of the pastry casing is as heavily set as the road haulage operative it is designed to sate.

The star, however, is the mash it comes with. 10/10 utterly buttery. Sheila's given it the personal touch and beaten it into submission. Perhaps after dealing with those hairy-arsed lorry drivers all her life, she knows the secret to creating a tastier bit of fluff.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind in the area: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this, the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Don't be daft.

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2009.

What the hell are you on about? the food is UNBELIEVABLY AWFUL! and its not even good business, because it if was anywhere approaching decent then more people would buy it! Its a tragedy! why are you being sympathetic to them? did they offer you free petrol for life? I WILL NEVER TRUST LIVERPOOL CONFIDENTIAL ABOUT ANYTHING AGAIN! WHAT A POOR ASS REVIEW!

jaySeptember 29th 2009.

They'll struggle to make the former airforce base into an entrance for Gulliver's World what with the Omega development being built on it.

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2009.

I have stopped off at the Burtonwood station 3 times in the last couple of months and the sausage and mash was ace! Pork and leek I think. better than the stuff i had on Allerton Rd a while back. My accomplice also enjoyed the fish n chips. And the staff were so friendly. It used to be awful when the other side was open that was sole destroying...or it could have been cod.... Do you know that during a week long run in Liverpool in late 70s Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris ate there everyday for a week! Well Harris and O'Toole had theirs brought out to the car as they wouldn't go in, but Burton would. So would his Norwegian friend and the bloke who played Callan.

TRUCKERS HEAVENSeptember 29th 2009.

If you want a good laugh combined with the best service ever, in any shop, go to Whsmiths and see Sue and Tim. for best food see Rob in Eat In.

Anonymous 2September 29th 2009.

Sshhh! Stop shouting, anonymous. As far as I can see, the food here is described as rather middling saved by personal touches and the service is good. Are you a stalker, anonymous?

AnonymousSeptember 29th 2009.

Anonymous no.1 is plainly Scrittipolitti, the mincing twerp of Lark Lane.

TRUCKERS HEAVENSeptember 29th 2009.

Friendliest staff on the motorway network.

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