Is there such thing as the perfect country pub? If there is, then it’s likely to be the Pony & Trap in Chew Magna, Bristol.
Brother and sister duo Josh and Holly Eggleton’s Somerset boozer has held a Michelin star since 2011, largely due to Josh’s devotion to British cooking and local produce.
Josh has become something of a superstar, having appeared on BBC2’s Great British Menu alongside former Top 50 Gastropubs alumni Emily Watkins who used to own the Kingham Plough, Oxfordshire, and Dominic Chapman of the Beehive, White Waltham.
Chef-patron Eggleton’s obsession with food is reflected in the Pony & Trap’s daily changing menus. But, despite having won a Michelin-star, the Eggletons aren’t interested in running anything other than a cosy country pub that serves those from all walks of life.
Taking inspiration from the local area, the Eggletons grow a lot of ingredients in their garden and pride themselves on continuously learning and evolving with the rapidly changing sector.
Keeping with the country theme, when describing the pub in three words Josh says: “Local, homely and fun.”
Holly, a seasoned front-of-house professional, has previously won Top 50 Gastropubs’ Front of House Manager of the Year award for her dedication to making every guest feel welcome and looked-after.
As well as an affordable à la carte menu, which includes Josh’s takes on pub classics as well as high-end options, the Pony & Trap offers a range of tasting menus for those who want a true tour de force from the kitchen.
Menu highlights, past and present, include stuffed Savoy cabbage with puy lentils, polenta and artichoke; neck, fillet and glazed cheek of Blagdon pork with apple and kale; and hot white chocolate fondant with burnt apple and cinnamon.
Josh is known for playing with bold flavours and flexing his muscles when it comes to his cooking technique, almost as if he’s afraid of nothing in the kitchen.
Eggleton’s style of cooking is very different from what it was five years ago and matured into its current form over the years. He explains: “When I first started cooking, it wasn’t necessarily that way, but as I’ve been here and as we’ve put our roots down, we’ve started to learn all about the produce around here, which has a distinct British style. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take on influences from all over the world.
“What inspires me to cook is produce, but also the people I work with,” he continues. “We have a very collaborative approach to the way we cook at the Pony, we have a lot of very talented chefs and we talk about the dishes and everyone gets a project and we all talk about it, it’s not always me talking from the top saying ‘this is what we’re going to do’.”
As with almost all gastropubs, food is the lifeblood of the Pony & Trap, and Josh firmly believes the pub would have long since died without a strong dry offering.
“The gastropub movement was a great thing,” he explains. “The gastropub is a fantastic thing. Pubs are changing to suit the environment because over the years we’ve had things like less people drinking and people drinking at home, so our pub has had to adapt.
“If this pub here hadn’t started to serve food, then it would be closed now – it was going to close in the ’50s. Food is a great thing and our gastropubs are rivalling the great brasseries of France.”
The chef maintains the gastropub – a name that some chefs do not like – is an establishment we should be proud of, as it showcases great British cooking.
The Pony & Trap / CHEF
We’ve been focusing more than ever on the provenance of absolutely everything we use in our dishes