As we were nearing the end of a 45 minute taxi ride which probably should’ve taken 30, had it not been for the road closure, backtracking, and detour, I thought, ‘jeez, we go to great lengths for dinner’. The taxi was the final piece of the puzzle too; months before that there was the restaurant reservation, hotel and train bookings, and the actual journey from London to Bristol the day before. When we eventually arrived at the restaurant, the driver was in a state of disbelief because our destination looked like any other country pub, and not the Michelin star restaurant we were describing.
However we know that not all pubs are created equal, and we assured our driver that The Pony and Trap was one of the exceptional ones. It first came onto our radar during last year’s Great British Menu – one of the few tv shows we actually watch and one of my favourites for providing dining out inspiration across the UK. As soon as I saw Josh Eggleton plate up a pie that wasn’t really a pie and a dessert that paid homage to the Calendar Girls, I decided his restaurant was one I wanted to visit. The chef himself was confident (maybe even portrayed as a little cocky through crafty editing?) and his food equally so, which was enough to convince us.
It was a few good months after watching Josh get pipped for the banquet that we finally got to eat his food for ourselves, no more salivating over the screen. After all the effort of getting there, we wanted to make the most of our experience at The Pony and Trap which made the decision to order their special ten year anniversary menu quite easy. A somewhat classic hits of dishes was an album I wanted to dive into, naturally with a prosecco in hand and some crisps to nibble on.
The feasting began with snacks; I ate the piquant bite-sized piece of mackerel and rhubarb with great pleasure, while the crispy oyster was definitely a welcomed sight by both a certain someone and I. He has a soft spot for deep fried oysters and though he might not admit it out loud, I suspect these might rival the ones his mother used to make. I may have then squealed with delight at the arrival of the beef tartare… stuffed into a Yorkshire pudding. Such luxury in such a small few mouthfuls already.
Even the bread and butter was an indulgence as that gave way to reveal the generous helping of dripping at the bottom of the bowl. We knew this wouldn’t be a light meal but could we handle another eight or so courses of such richness we wondered. A slight reprieve came in the form of the brilliantly refreshing yet meaty salt cod with their take on mustard and brown sauce, and the mysteriously named H.E.C. It all made sense when we saw it, this was The Pony and Trap’s version of ham, egg, and chips, perhaps the poshest and most elegant version I’ve ever had. It won over a certain someone who, you might say after years of experience, is the a connoisseur of the dish.
We were told the fish main of brill, seaweed and celery is a favourite – the fish was cooked perfectly but it was the other flavours of salty seaweed, sweet shrimps, and earthy celery which made things really interesting. The beef and onions consisted of beef done three ways which ordinarily is my idea of heaven on a plate, but in this instance it was all a bit too much for me. Too much richness and too much meat – I can’t believe I just said that, but with a considerable number of courses already under my belt, this one just defeated me. A certain someone however, had no such issues and cleared my plate in one fell swoop; no one can accuse us of wastage.
You’d think that given my struggles with the last course, we would forgo the cheese. I would have happily done so as I’m not the biggest fan of cheese at the end of the meal, but a certain someone was feeling greedy and therefore the Tunworth with lamb’s lettuce and poppy seed biscuits just had to ordered. The suggestion of an accompanying port however, I could not turn down. In my defence, port also goes well with dessert… perfect spheres of sugar coated doughnuts with dainty dollops of jam, custard and curd got us smiling from ear to ear, but the sticky ale and walnut pudding was the showstopper.
It might not look extraordinary but the proof is in the tasting of this pudding. They didn’t lie when they called it sticky, but it’s also decadent, unctuous, and will have you wanting to lick the bowl clean. Which we may or may not have done when no one was looking… and this is also when the taxi was called, before all dignity was lost to the bottom of that bowl.
While we were waiting for our ride back to Bristol, we sipped on a much needed cup of tea and munched on much unneeded petit fours of fruit jubes and chocolates. We mused over what a great meal we just devoured; I thought it was one of the most satisfying of the year because it was as good as I had been led to believe from the hypnotic shots on Great British Menu. The Pony and Trap may not be serving this particular combination of dishes, but their menu is still full of stellar hits – some classics, some new concoctions which I’m sure are soon to be favourites! However which way you need to take to get here, just do it… it’s worth the effort.
Have you dined at The Pony and Trap before? What restaurants have you gone to great lengths to try?
If you’re spending the weekend in Bristol, check out my guide for other things to do and places to eat!