Have cake in a railway carriage at this quirky Somerset cafe

The carriages and double decker bus where tables are placed are decorated in quirky designs

The carriages and double decker bus where tables are placed are decorated in quirky designs - Credit: Sophia Veres Photography]

Where else can you indulge in breakfast, lunch or cake in a vintage railway carriage or double-decker bus? Step inside this quirky cafe in the Somerset countryside with KATE WILLIAMS

For some, the thought of choosing to spend time on a stationary train might seem pointless, ridiculous even. But those people will not have experienced the delights of Pip’s Railway Carriage.
Set in a beautiful, tranquil space in South Somerset, the old railway carriage gives a perfectly quirky ambience for visitors to immerse themselves in this quaint restaurant and bakery.

The vintage style seeps through every inch of the refurbished 1850s train carriage booths and the double-decker bus, all enclosed in a rather stunning garden, ideal for children to play in.

There are even miniature buses for the children to play on

There are even miniature buses for the children to play on - Credit: Sophia Veres Photography]

The Lopenhead cafe serves coffees, teas and fabulous cakes which are crafted on-site at the new bakeshop, and the full-service restaurant provides exciting and innovative flavours inspired by the organic farm it is situated on, serving breakfast and lunch.

With a strong focus on local, ethical and sustainability, Pip’s has grown in size and stature, evolving over the years.

Born and raised in Somerset and living in West Coker, Philippa 'Pip' Coughlan started managing The Railway Carriage Cafe in 2012 for Sue Hasel.

Pip Coughlan has been at the railway cafe since 2012

Pip Coughlan has been at the railway cafe since 2012 - Credit: Sophia Veres Photography]

Back then it was just 18 seats and Pip did all the cooking and drinks in the train carriage. Then in November 2014, Sue retired and she took over the cafe as my own.  ‘In the spring of 2015, we added a double-decker bus with marquee and have been evolving ever since.’ 

The carriages and double decker bus where tables are placed are decorated in quirky designs

The carriages and double decker bus where tables are placed are decorated in quirky designs - Credit: Sophia Veres Photography]

Catering is in Pip’s blood with her grandfather working as a head chef in hotels and Pip herself having held posts at several local gastro pubs, including The Lord Poulett Arms for six years as sous chef. She also ran her own catering business at 18 before taking over the railway cafe.  

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She explains what her drew her to it: ‘I love food and I love Somerset and all it has to offer. Being on the farm with all its amazing produce is inspiring, so being able to take that and create exciting food then serve it in relaxed and quirky environment with such beautiful views. It just felt right.’ 

Not exactly a lifelong dream, the Pip’s venture is more something that happened on the journey of life. 
‘And what a journey it’s been,’ explains Pip. ‘Ups and downs, graft, sweat and literal tears, but it just keeps evolving and is a business built on passion.’ 

Described by Pip as a ‘relaxed and welcoming local spot that is all about food, family and friends’, the cafe is more than just a place to grab something to eat. It is an experience. 

‘The best thing about running Pip’s is being part of a creative and collaborative team,’ Pip enthuses. ‘They are all so talented and passionate about creating a great experience for everyone who visits. It is really them who make the dream a reality.’ 

The organic smallholding where the cafe sits has six polytunnels and one acre of ground, growing salad leaves, courgettes, peas, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, root vegetables and fruits on site, depending on what is in season, using all the produce in the cafe. Anything not grown on-site is sourced locally. 

The farm on which Pip’s Railway Carriage is sited is a constant inspiration to Pip and her chefs

The farm on which Pip’s Railway Carriage is sited is a constant inspiration to Pip and her chefs - Credit: Sophia Veres Photography]

‘Our ethos is seasonal and Somerset and good for the environment. We also have an on-site bakery, 
which grew out of lockdown. We converted two shipping containers, glass-fronted where we are constantly baking cakes and making savoury pastries and salads. We open up on a Friday and Saturday 10am-3pm alongside our restaurant. 

‘Bakebox is available to eat in our farm garden, or takeaway, and can be ordered on our website so perfect for planning picnics this summer as you can order and collect from our safe one-way outside undercover system. There is also a lovely farm shop on-site too.  All the desserts are made by Harriet Tait who is our head baker in our bakery department, which is flying at the moment.'

Pip admits to what makes her get up for work everyday: ‘My kids! Seriously — they are up at 5am everyday! Life is so different now with them, and priorities totally change.  
‘But as soon as I get in, the ideas start flowing and I get to be creative, whether that be cooking, baking, gardening or decor.’ 

On her day off, Pip spends time with the family: ‘Family day is Sunday and I absolutely love it; slow days, full of good food, games and walks. 
‘Somerset is just packed with hidden gems. I love nature though so my favourite thing to do is to head somewhere for a good walk, usually chosen close to a great place to stop and have breakfast or lunch at  — occasionally both!’ 

Popular bites at Pip's

The full-service restaurant provides exciting and innovative flavours inspired by the organic farm it is situated on

The full-service restaurant provides exciting and innovative flavours inspired by the organic farm it is situated on - Credit: Sophia Veres Photography]

For breakfast
Brown and forest smoked salmon, farm spinach, muffin, poached egg and hollandaise. 
Sweetcorn fritters, charred tomato salsa, coriander, guacamole, poached farm eggs. 

For lunch 
Mussels in a local cider, chorizo and wild garlic cream, sour dough and fries.
Curry burger — spinach, red lentil and curry leaf spiced burger, our mango chutney, crispy beetroot baghi, cucumber, coriander and lime pickle, soy milk bun and fries.

Sweet
S’mores cookie sandwich — chocolate and hazelnut cookie, chocolate ganache, peanut butter cream, salted toffee sauce, homemade marshmallow fluff. 
Farm rhubarb and custard slice — homemade puff pastry, proper custard and elderflower poached rhubarb 
Lemon meringue tart .