Josh Eggleton's country pub in Somerset, offers a sophisticated menu with big flavours, which won it a Michelin star this year. Lisa Jenkins reports
Chew Magna is an area of outstanding beauty in Somerset close to Cheddar Gorge. It's where you will find the Pony & Trap pub. Josh Eggleton, a former Ramsay College Scholar, took on the lease in 2006 and subsequently the freehold in 2009 and set about transforming it into a contemporary yet sympathetic country pub restaurant.
This January the Pony & Trap was awarded a Michelin star, which Eggleton says was completely unexpected. "I nearly fainted," he recalls. "We were definitely not ready for trading to go through the roof. But we got it for what we were doing so we will go on doing it."
The Pony & Trap is about 10 minutes south of Bristol, just off the A37. It's housed in an attractive 200-year-old traditional white stone building and looks like a pub you would take your family to for a celebratory lunch. The interior is clean and welcoming, with a large bar and a good selection of beers and ciders. It's not huge, but the conservatory on the back with its views over the surrounding countryside gives the Pony & Trap 60 seats and is tempting in clientele from nearby Bristol, Bath, Wells and Weston-super-Mare.
The team rears its own pigs although the ingredients for the duo of pork (£14) - one of Eggleton's favourite dishes on the menu - are sourced from local supplier New Manor Farm. Char-grilled marinated fillet and pressed belly are served with cauliflower purée, apple sauce and gravy.
They also produce their own butter and black pudding and use a variety of other locally sourced ingredients including Hereford beef from Newton St Loe Farm, smoked fish, meat and specialist French products from Chew Valley Smoke House and specialist English and European cheeses from the Bath Fine Cheese Company.
It's pub grub elevated to an excellent standard. The average spend is £25 per person for three courses, with an average of 650 covers per week. The brigade is small - just Eggleton, two full-time chefs and two apprentices. In spite of this the menu changes twice a day depending on demand and product availability.
The menu seems simple but there is a great deal of effort involved in each dish. The ingredients are fresh and full of flavour. The duck liver parfait with smoked duck breast and blood orange chutney (£7) is rich and smooth. The braised shoulder of lamb, sweetbread sausage, liver and chops with aubergine and Tahini salad (£17) offers a delightful combination of flavours and textures. The portions are generous and among the desserts a caramel panna cotta with gingerbread (£4.75) stood out. Some of the great cheeses on offer include Montgomery Cheddar; Barkham Blue; Tunworth Soft and Bond de Gatine.
Eggleton and his team are now focusing on refining the dishes and organising future projects. Their outside catering venture is doing well and the team have a pop-up restaurant to prepare for the Chew Valley lakeside event - a Sunday roast for 450 people.
Sample dishes from the menu
Parsnip, celeriac and apple soup with walnut fritters £4.75 Home-cured Bresaola with blood orange and Mizuna salad £6.50 Sautéed devilled chicken livers and hearts on toast £6.95
Pan-fried fillet of mackerel with English asparagus, green beans, nicoise olive, soft boiled egg and potato salad £13.95 Pan roasted duck breast with Dauphinoise potato, beetroot gel and red wine sauce £13.95 ‘The Story' organic stuffed chicken leg with wild mushrooms, hodge podge and carrot purée £13.95
Spiced apple crumble with cream or ice-cream £4.75 White chocolate and toffee tart with an almond gel £4.75 Lemon Plate: posset, polenta cake, curd and tart £6.50
The Pony & Trap Knowle Hill, Newtown, Chew Magna, BS40 8TQ
Tel: 01275 332627