Wednesday, 4 June 2014



NEVER mind who killed Cock Robin. Forget about who framed Roger Rabbit. What I want to know is who is responsible for the disappearance of Little Chef?

The perpetrator of this ghastly crime should be hanged, drawn and quartered.

Where once Little Chef could be seen adorning the frontage of prefabricated buildings serving as enticing eating places for the weary traveller, from John O’Groats to Lands End, now stands monuments to the 21st Century’s new age of fast food joints and coffee houses.

Having recently completed the near 1,200 mile return journey from Inverness to London I confess to having lost the will to live at various moments in my quest to find an establishment that actually serves good, wholesome food – the sort that leaves you with a feeling of contentment.

The early starter, the all day breakfast, the Olympic breakfast, sausage and mash, pie of the day; all have been replaced by tasteless burgers, supermarket fodder for food luvvies and pre-packed sandwiches full of disgusting concoctions ranging from ham, mayonnaise and dill to egg with cress and cold crispy bacon and sausage. I wouldn’t feed most of it to a starving dog for fear of offending the animal’s taste buds!

We are assured by Alex Salmond’s rapidly expanding food police that such offerings are far healthier than a traditional fry-up. Maybe, but I would prefer to be given the choice between eating a meal that satisfies certain cravings when you are driving hour after hour than one that tastes like it’s been made from sawdust and pigeon droppings.

Not that I appear to have much say in the matter, judging by my experience of trying to find desirable sustenance on Britain’s motorway network.

Just for a moment I thought I had cracked it on the journey south when I spotted a sign informing that I was approaching a Road Chef at the Sandbach Services in Cheshire. Not so.

Road Chef would seem to me to imply exactly that, food prepared by a chef or chefs. Instead, when I enquired as to exactly where this facility was located in the complex I was informed by the young lady serving behind the Costa Coffee counter that I had a choice of her establishment or McDonalds. Not wishing to dine on packets of biscuits, slabs of cake or cardboard Panini, I opted for a Big Mac.

To be fair, choice is not limited to Costa or McDonalds. For those who wish to turn their comfort break into a shopping expedition, there is also the choice of Waitrose or M&S at some service areas.

Do me a favour. What are you supposed to do; purchase a loaf of bread, a packet of ham, a jar of coffee, a pint of milk and a set of cutlery? Evening officer, the reason I’ve parked up on the hard shoulder is to prepare my evening meal. You don’t happen to have a kitchen table and a kettle on you, by any chance?

I could go on listing my many complaints, but what’s the point? Little Chef is almost no more and we’re stuck with sub-standard alternatives.
But there is at least one bastion of good, old fashioned cooking – The Ballinluig Services in the Perthshire village of the same name, just off the A9, where they serve traditional grub.

And while I am on the subject of traditional food, why the hell can you no longer seem to get a roll and ham or a plain egg roll without any of the other gunge included? I’m sure the Ballinluig Services do them, so why do other outlets simply refuse to cater for those of us who enjoy their food plain and simple?

No, don’t bother replying as I have neither the will nor the patience to listen to some sort of cack handed explanation about nutritional values.

Just so long as the Ballinluig Services continue to flourish there remains a glimmer of hope and a refuge from the average speed cameras the SNP’s appallingly arrogant and self important Minister for Transport Keith Brown assures us will make the A9 a safer track.

But that’s another rant for another day.