IT was a pleasant surprise when I pulled off the M4 at Junction 17 for breakfast.

Usually I get a slight sinking feeling thinking about the mass catering in the cafes and the massive prices at the fuel pumps at places like Leigh Delamere.

Over the years I’ve stopped at all of the service stations on the M4 in trips back and forth to London.

They have improved greatly since my hitchhiking days in the 1970s when there was only one option in terms of somewhere to eat. Despite its improvements I feel the service station at Leigh Delamere can’t compete the Pit Stop Café Chippenham that lies if not quite over the road but over the other side of the roundabout at Junction 17.

Half expecting a traditional greasy spoon café I was pleasantly surprised to find what was in effect a superior mini service station crossed with a transport café which was more akin to some of those you find on the continent.

There’s a shop with all the essentials, plenty of food to take away and the restaurant, which was clean, busy and bright.

Service was quick and delivered with a smile and the quality was top notch.

OK, this is not a restaurant where waiters ask you which wine you’d like, or listing dishes you are unsure of or prices to make your eyes water.

There is a wide range of nosh but in general it’s variations on an all-day breakfast with a few more dishes included.

After a long drive, a hang-over, or simply a desire for a Full English, the Chippenham Pit Stop does the job.

I popped in for their £4.95 power breakfast with a guaranteed 500 calories of protein, carbs, fibre and some fat - which we all need.

It included Wiltshire dry cured bacon which as they say in the establishment “contains no nasties, is paler in colour but just as delicious,” a line I can concur with along with two poached eggs, toast, tomatoes and the essential mug of builders’ tea.

There are certain criteria that I always judge a restaurant on and that’s not just the food. Clean toilets are essential, hot plates if you are having a hot meal, and quick service, especially if you are on the move.

All could be ticked off from this visit.

But there was more when I had a scout about. The outdoor gym was a bonus. How often when you’ve been driving all day have you wanted to more than stretch your legs? A lift on the bars and a couple of press ups in the gym out by the car park was an agreeable addition.

And the under 500 calorie breakfast was appreciated as I was having another attempt to arrest middle age spread.

Three meals of 500 calories, a glass or three in the evening and sugar in my tea meant I could just about keep to the limits of food and drink I had set myself in order to slowly lose the pounds.

And there was another bonus.

As I drove away past the massive rigs in the lorry park I realised I’d spent less than a tenner which cheered me on my way down the B4122.

Harry Mottram