The drive from the Jurassic coast back to Birmingham was always going to require a stopover. It’s not like the journey there, when the anticipation of the sea breeze takes over and five hours in rush hour traffic doesn’t seem too bad an idea. The trip back to reality is a gruel where work and bills and air pollution await. We needed somewhere that isn’t a Welcome Break to recharge our internal batteries. To take stock of reality. To bemoan that nauseating fool in the office who will ruin the holiday mood first thing Monday morning.
The Pony and Trap was our choice. Located nine miles away from Bristol in the quaint Chew Magna, it would split our journey in half. The food also promised much; chef Josh Eggerton is a Gordon Ramsay scholar with the pub holding a Michelin star and current number two ranking on the list of UK gastropubs. Inside is a mish-mash of woods, pale green panelling and off white walls. There is a dining area overlooking the pastures of Somerset, and a jukebox that ventured from Radiohead to Aaliyah via Andy Williams. We waited a length of time to order that would have raised eyebrows in the city, though here in the countryside it felt fine. It is impossible to be pissed off with service whilst “Music To Watch Girls By” plays in the background.
Despite its star, there is no amouse bouche, no fiddly canapés, and no bread offered on this sunny Sunday afternoon. Its straight into the starter of mozerella and heritage tomatoes with basil. The salad is the first indication of what is to come; the tomatoes have a firm texture and flavour seldom found in this country. The basil as a dotted puree around the edge of the plate and also fragrant leaves. Its late June on a plate – as seasonal as Only Fools and Horses on Christmas Day. Only a jelly from tomato consommé felt misplaced, with the flavour muted and the texture unwarranted with the luscious mozzarella already providing the creamy mouth-feel.
The ethos here is “Field to Fork”, which was in full effect on the main course. A slab of organic pork with a thick ribbon of fat, some roast potatoes, apple sauce, a cauliflower puree and gravy from the roasting juices. It was an imposing plate for its simplicity; the pork, amongst some of the best I have ever eaten, blushing pink and tender, with a crackling full of crunch and salt. On the side were a small pot of more veg and a substantial cauliflower and leek cheese worthy of a paragraph of its own. The whole heads of the flower full of texture and a cheese sauce with the faint suggestion of mustard. My girlfriend, who was tucking into a meat-free plate, commented that nothing fancy had been done to any of the veg to highlight the freshness and quality of the ingredients. I agreed with everything she said.
Desserts maintained the high standards. A peanut mousse with a chocolate brownie-esque base was overshadowed by a salted caramel ice cream that had me scraping the textured black plate to a sharp shrill. Better still was a strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake of ethereal lightness with a strawberry sorbet. It was a day at Wimbledon a week early, only without the Pimms or screams of Come On Tim whilst Andy Murray plays.
Its impossible to dislike The Pony and Trap. Even with the gaps between courses and the winding paths between tables, its an immensely likeable place. The larder on their doorstep serves them well and they utilise it with skill and respect. The bill placed on the table seems remarkably cheap for what we ate. I pay it and meander to the toilet to see they are doing an offal evening in November. Bits of animal organs seems a good enough reason to return on its own steam. We’ll be back and next time it wont be out of convenience.