For such a small village, Tintern has a remarkable range of cycling-friendly cafe options. But, for my money, the best coffee can be found at The Filling Station.
The Wye Valley is a playground for Bristol road cyclists. A mere 25 miles from the capital of the South West, there is no finer cycling territory in such close proximity. In almost every respect, it is my personal favourite place to cycle to, in and around. The burnished colours of autumn are reason enough to visit every available weekend.
Strange then, that until now I had never ventured into the only “cycling-friendly” cafe in the Wye Valley, instead opting for The White Monk or The Old Station. Both are, of course, exceptional in their own right; The White Monk for its bara brith, and the Old Station for its bacon baps. But neither have got it quite right on the coffee-front, an area in which The Filling Station Cafe excels.
Diving right in, the coffee on offer at The Filling Station is the very best anywhere on the river Wye, and doesn’t find a challenger until Glasbury far to the north. And while it doesn’t threaten the caffeine-imbibing options of Bristol, there’s little to be critical about.
“My flat white was short and strong. Pleasing.”
My flat white was short and strong. Pleasing. Too often rural cafes get away with serving a latte, whether you’ve ordered a latte, flat white or cappuccino. It certainly gave me the wakeup call I was in desperate need of 40 miles into my 100-mile venture.
Being as balanced as possible, the only slight disappointments were the almost-scalding temperature of the milk and the over-enthusiastic amount of “froth” atop my flat white. Flat it was not. Having said that, my coffee was neither burnt, nor did I feel particularly hard done by at the presence of a smidge too much frothed milk.
The Filling Station certainly lives up to its name. Food is plentiful, with a range of panini and baguettes as long as my left leg (it’s slightly longer than my right). There was nothing to be done but sample one; a ham and cheese panini.
As expected, my lunch was delicious. In particular, the bread used was far superior to the sesame-seed covered panini usually seen. The filling too was flavoursome and of reasonable quality, though it could have been a little hotter and oozing at the centre.
Somewhat disappointingly, there was no classic bacon bap on offer, a mainstay of The Filling Station’s Tintern competitors. But that’s personal, and not a comment on quality.
And now we arrive at cake. A humble flapjack. Everything you’d expect, no more no less. Punctuated with dried fruit its buttery bulk certainly satisfied any remaining hunger I was experiencing. The quality wasn’t perhaps as high as those we produce at home, but comparison in that regard would be unfair. It got me home, didn’t it?
The Filling Station itself is one of the more cosy establishments in Tintern. Featuring a clean, wooden-clad design and log burner, there’s no better Wye-based destination in the winter months (especially in the absence of the seasonal Old Station). The solo cyclist or small group will be more than happy.
“The Filling Station is on the bijou side of roomy.”
However, in the above comment lies a word of warning; The Filling Station is on the bijou side of roomy. Assuming you’re the only visitors – and you probably won’t be – your tribe will find seating for around 25 (some within, most without). Not tiny, but not suitable for a well-attended club ride either.
There’s no card machine either, so bring cash. It’s a strange decision in a world dominated by wireless transactions you’d think. But it’s not for me to comment on the financial viability of such a device in a small cafe. Margins and all that. Still, it’s a limiting factor.
The Filling Station offers the best coffee in the Wye Valley and anywhere roughly nearby. Even Chepstow, a mere 6 miles down the road, doesn’t boast coffee of the same quality. The food too is delicious and well-priced if a tad basic.
But the bottom line is that the warm embrace of The Filling Station is the best choice for solo and small group cyclists looking for winter sanctuary in Tintern. Things get a little more complicated if you throw The Old Station (open seasonally) into the mix, but let’s not worry about that until spring.