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All aboard for summery salads, irresistible cakes – and pizza

The Railway Carriage Café (now with a brand new – old – big, green double-decker bus around the back) is a quirky, eccentric place to come and enjoy a delicious breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake or, on a Thursday and Friday evening, a wood-fired pizza.  The food’s summery, salady, with a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean feel. It’s brilliant for veggies although meat eaters aren’t forgotten – and the cakes are to die for.

A finalist in this year’s Muddy Stiletttos Awards, the Railway Carriage Café, – and the Trading Post farm shop next door – stand on the site of an old filling station at Lopenhead, not far from Crewkerene and Ilminster in south Somerset.

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The railway carriage was built between 1887-90 by the Stratford Locomotive and Carriage Works, and was one of around 3,000 carriages used to transport Victorians in out of London’s Liverpool Street Station on the Great Eastern Line.

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Since coming down to Somerset in 2006, it’s been fitted out as a café, with a counter at one end, a few narrow tables to seat 6 sharing, with reclaimed cinema seats and magazines for browsing either side of a little wood-burning stove.

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Round the back there’s a big, green double-decker bus, a small marquee and some outdoor tables and benches for al fresco eating.

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Ding! ding! Hop on board…

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You can sit downstairs or upstairs.

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There’s comfy seating at the back.

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There’s a sign saying that the bus is a work in progress, so while it looks a little basic at the moment, expect some changes to the decor over the coming months. There’s also wooden seating outside in the farm garden. It’s a working organic farm, so the fields alongside, partially covered with black plastic on my visit, weren’t the most photogenic – but the food is.

They serve breakfast from 9am-11am. This is no greasy spoon: there’s smashed avocado & lime, smoked bacon and poached farm egg on toast and  toasted blueberry muffins with Greek yoghurt and fruit compote on the menu – though they do offer a thick-cut local corn bread sarnie with rashers of smoked bacon or big local pork sausages.  Lunch is served from 12 noon until 2.30pm. There’s a choice of five mains, which on my visit included a coconut, turmeric root, ginger & almond masala with chickpea and coriander (with garlic pitta, chilli & seed pesto, mixed lentil & beetroot salad);  smoked salmon, asparagus, dill and cream cheese quiche (served warm with a selection of house salads); and spiced lamb Merguez sausage with pickled cucumber, feta, lemon & parsley, alioli, garlic toasted corn roll (with coleslaw, sauteed rosemary new potatoes and dressed leaves from the farm). Here’s my choice:

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Chickpea and spiced carrot falafel, homemade garlic flatbread with mint yoghurt sauce (with Greek feta salad, pickled cucumber,  preserved lemon hummus and dressed leaves in a seed pesto, coleslaw). It was absolutely delicious. You can also order a breadboard, bowls of mixed olives, salads, dressed Puy lentils and sauteed potatoes. To drink, there’s the lovely Luscombe lemonade, ginger beer and elderflower bubbly; local apple juice and Rusty Boiler ale, house red and white and Dorset Tit (I sniggered, naturally) cider.

The food’s so pretty, I’ll show you what a friend and I had on a previous visit

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Caramelised onion, lemon marinated beetroot, feta & rosemary tart served warm with house salads

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Carrot, coconut, fresh turmeric root and cardamon soup, coriander & chilli seed pesto, mixed salad, corn bread and butter

Wear your elasticated trousers: the cakes and desserts they make at the Railway Carriage are irresistible.

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Oooh, chocolate, apricot & marshmallow tiffin or raspberry & lemon cheesecake & nutty granola pudding jar? I can’t decide…

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Persian love cake with poppy seeds and pomegranate

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Quadruple-decker Victoria sponge

I tried three (all in the course of duty you understand), along with a cup of excellent coffee (macchiato, latte, cappuccino, flat white or mocha all available).

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After you’ve stuffed yourself silly and before you squeeze yourself back into your car, do pop into Trading Post shop next door. It’s got a fab range of salads and vegetables grown on their organic farm, other local foods, Fair Trade and world foods, special dietary foods, environmentally kind beauty and household products – or treat yourself to a bunch of their beautiful cut flowers.

I’ll be returning soon one Thurs or Fri evening with the Muddies, to try out their hand-pulled pizzas cooked in an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven (the local cured chorizo with mozzarella, sweet peppers, red onion & rocket caught my fancy) and homemade cocktails. Anyone for a rhubarb and mint mojito?

The Railway Carriage Café is open from Mon to Sat 9am-5pm; serving with wood-fired pizzas Thurs & Fri 6pm-9pm (takeaway available).  Closed Sunday & bank holidays (except Good Friday).

MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: a very relaxed and delicious breakfast, coffee and cake or lunch alone, with a gaggle of girlfriends, your partner – or your mum. Bring the whole family over on a Thursday or Friday evening for pizzas in the farm garden.

Not for: evening dining, except for the al fresco pizza evenings on a Thursday and Friday, the cafe closes at 5pm. Don’t come during the day with kids who will only eat chicken nuggets.

£££: Very reasonable and good value – portions are generous. Breakfasts cost £5-7; lunches £8.50-£11. Pizzas £9-£11. House red or white £4. Local cider or ale £3.50. Soft drinks £2.75.

Railway Carriage Café, The Old Filling Station, Lopenhead, near Ilminster, TA13 5JH. Tel 07729 685412. tradepost.plus.com

4 comments on “All aboard for summery salads, irresistible cakes – and pizza”

  • John Milner July 10, 2016

    This place is every bit as good as it looks.

    Reply
  • Lyn Milner July 11, 2016

    Great photos -this definitely does justice to a fabulous and unique venue.

    Reply
  • Adrian Rogers July 14, 2016

    Superb place and amazing food, can’t speak highly enough of Pip and her team

    Reply
  • angela July 21, 2016

    One of my favourite places for a latte and a delicious and generous portion of cake!

    Reply

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Somerset