Brunchin’ at Pip’s Railway Carriage Café, Lopen (Near Crewkerne/Ilminster/South Petherton)
Updated: Jun 7, 2020
I’ll set the scene. It was day two of the May half-term holidays and I have to admit, I was feeling pretty smug about what a breeze this holiday had been so far after having had a lovely family BBQ the day before. Andy was heading off out solo that day leaving me in charge of the girls and I’d made plans to meet one of my oldest and bestest friends at an absolute corker of what I’m going to call a ‘destination café’ near South Petherton.
On arrival to Pip’s Railway Carriage Café the pre-schooler had a meltdown because we'd chosen a table in the marquee area of the café rather than on the double decker bus, much to her fury, shattering my initial smugness and relaxed frame of mind. (I’ll explain this café’s quirky seating options and layout in a minute.)
Anyway, coffee orders taken by a lovely member of staff who intuitively knew that a chocolate brownie for Livvie would probably fix the situation, and with meltdown finally over, the morning was back on track.
Pip’s is a brilliant place for families and they keep adding to their child-friendly offerings, most recently by expanding their selection of outdoor toys. It’s a quirky place with seating options for visitors in an old railway carriage, or you can walk through the railway carriage and out into a bunting-adorned marquee with long wooden tables and benches covered in soft furs. The marquee has a little wendy house in the corner and a selection of toys – ideal for a family with younger children who don’t want to sit up to the table for long.
Adjoining the marquee is a double decker bus (of course, why not!) – which has been completely transformed into an amazing space to eat or drink – the bottom floor looks out into the enclosed marquee area (great for when impatient youngsters want to be cut loose from boring parental conversation and want to go and play!). The top floor of the bus has long-reaching views across the pretty kitchen garden and beyond over the Somerset countryside.
The bus and carriage are heated in the chillier months and are kept nice and toasty, as is the marquee, but it can be a bit draughty under canvas and although blankets are thoughtfully available it's worth bringing a coat if you’re visiting in cooler weather. You can reserve tables in the bus and carriage but I THINK they mostly leave the marquee open for walk-ins – at busy times, or if you have a preference for where you want to sit, it’s advisable to book.
Pip’s has a DELICIOUS selection of cakes, beautifully decorated, and many of them cater for a range of dietary requirements e.g. Gluten free, vegan, etc. They do a full range of teas, coffees, and a really interesting food menu – the lunches are bright, tasty, and very possibly something you’ve never tried before. But there’s always the Busman’s picnic (like a ploughmans) to fall back on if you’re not in the mood for something more adventurous. They only open for dinner (and pizza nights) on certain evenings throughout the year, so check out their Facebook page for more info on that – it’s currently more of a daytime place.
But back to my own visit – we decided to have some brunch, or should I say I got forced into saying yes to a sausage sandwich by my eldest, and my friend ordered some sausage and egg sandwiches for her two kids along with a full cooked breakfast for herself. The portions were incredible! You could easily share one between two if you’re stingey like me, or if your kids don’t eat much. Having said that I thought the brunch menu was really well priced – the kid’s breakfasts were £6 including a drink.
The lunches are a little pricier (£7.50 - £13 mark) but the ingredients are grown on-site and it’s really delicious so no complaints there, but don’t expect a cheap sandwich menu as there isn’t one. The menu changes according to whatever is in season and available from their own veg patch.
Once we’d re-fuelled we let the kids break free from the confines of the marquee and let them loose in the fantastic little garden out the back. The owners have recently extended the garden offerings for children and let me tell you, it’s an awesome little spot with plenty of sturdy picnic bench type seating on a lawn next to the well-tended kitchen garden that supplies the café with fresh produce.
The children played with wild abandon (read – the kids fought with force over the two ride-on toys) and had a blast playing in the sandpit, then enjoyed playing picnics with the sweet little mud kitchen. There’s a mini skittle alley to further entertain the ranks, and for some reason there’s a large dug-out ‘bowl’ in the ground which the kids liked rolling in, getting covered in orange dirt, and driving the mini-tractor down at terrifying speed. There’s plenty of space to let them run around.
While you’re there you can pop into the Trading Post farm shop which is right next door, for farm shop produce and an organic refill room, which ties in well with the sustainable, locally sourced ethos of the café.
I’m afraid I visited before I decided to start blogging about stuff so I didn’t take my own photos, maybe I’ll have to go again in the next few weeks and take some to add on to the post.
To summarise, go to Pips if you’re looking for a child-friendly café with a bohemian vibe and a fab garden, or if you're simply in the mood to try some interesting food and a damn good coffee in some quirky surroundings.