The best roadside cuppa in the UK is served at the Megabites café, of Copnor, Portsmouth, according to the first-ever AA Patrol Approved awards, in which staff from the roadside rescue organisation voted for their favourite stopping places throughout the country.
The best roadside refreshments in general are served by the Mainsgill farm shop and café, by the A66 at Richmond in Yorkshire
The Mainsgill Farm business, which won five meat-industry gold awards for its sausages in December and has also been featured on TV's Hairy Bikers programme, won the AA's Best independent Venue award, having been judged across a series of subjects including its tea, its toilets, and its bacon sandwiches.
"A big thing was temperature. About 75% of cafés got it spot-on, meaning that we could drink it immediately or within a couple of minutes, and that it would be ‘sippable' to start with.
"Two other big things turned out to be cups and refills. Some people offered a choice between a mug and a takeaway cup, which was good. What we began to see happening in a few places was that they now begin to offer a free refill on tea - some of them offer a continual top-up, which means a patrolman can pop in all day and get a free refill."
Andy Taylor was also required to decide between the top bacon sandwiches - a title which went to Bob's Big Bite of Stourbridge - and the UK's top roadside toilets, which was won by Mickey's Diner of Aylesford in Kent.
"The important thing is that we all have to go," says head judge Andy Taylor, pragmatically. "Our view is that hygiene is where it starts and finishes, and that if a café doesn't keep the toilet clean, they won't keep anything else clean."
By Ian Boughton