The Pony & Trap is back...
"The plan: to reopen as a more interactive place to enjoy food, with baking, foraging and fermentation courses, a walk through kitchen and a host of other immersive foodie based events."
Please understand that this review is a little skewed because the "renewed" Pub is only just about to open to the public so there are always understandable details that will need ironing out as they get into swing of things, but we hope it's a fair look at what we had on a given evening ...a preview if you will and a look at what might be to come.
So Josh Eggleton and his sister Holly opened the Pony and Trap in Chew Magna around 18 years ago, and the quality of the food gained a worthy reputation, even earning one of those coverted stars. The use of great produce and clever cookery made it a well deserved accolade, born of much hard work.
Subsequently the business has expanded and branched into a host of other foodie based eateries to include the Bristol based Pony Bistro (Now closed), The Queens Pub, Root , Yurt Lush,The Kensington Arms and also the Salt and Malt Chippies, all of which amount to a varied and excellent span of good food to be had in the West Country at a range of prices.
Recent years have seen a change in the the 'Gastropub' that was "The Pony and Trap", the flag ship, it closed down for some time, exasabated by a pandemic to take on a total refurb, facelift and "reset". The plan: to reopen as a more interactive place to enjoy food, with baking, foraging and fermentation courses, a walk through kitchen and a host of other immersive and community food based events.
"..the large open plan, but tented, space attached to the rear of the building, full of neatly placed tables and a bar which has been added to this new space, an array of cool lights gave a dim but wintery feel..."
We were able to get in on a sneak preview of the changes being made because of helping out with the Kick Starter fund raising campaign to get the renamed " The Pony Chew Valley" back up and running. The Eggletons reached out to the community of food lovers around the area to ask for help in fundraising for the redevelopment, and in return they offered various levels of food rewards for the help. Not wanting to turn down that opportunity we bought into a night at the Pony Bistro and also a Steak night in the new PCV.
Our prelim visit took place Mid Jan 2023, The weather was freezing and the prospects of seeing what changes had been made were exciting. We would be treated to a three course meal prepared by Josh and his team. We arrived to a rammed car park, it is small, had we arrived any later or had someone come in two vehicles I don't know where else you would park. The Pub/restaurant is on a tight 'cut through' road to Chew Magna and there simply isn't anywhere to go without a substantial walk.
We did a little wandering round the building until someone spotted the latch had dropped on the front door locking us out, all adding to the anticipation bit i guess, nobody could get in, but hey teething problems kinda add to the charm and hopefully this review will give some pointers for them going forward.
Once inside the newly refurbished Pub we were warmly greeted with sparkling wine and taken to our table in the large open plan, but tented, space attached to the rear of the building, full of neatly placed tables and a bar which has been added to this new space, an array of cool lights gave a dim but wintery feel, a wintery feel added to by the fact it was bloody freezing.
Now we get it is new and also get there has been some serious expense and money raising going on to get it to this point, BUT we would say there is a simple issue putting a stretch tent on as a roof to a big space in a restaurant/year round venue, Insulation! There we said it, yes it looks cool yes it's a cheap way to put a roof on a building, but the lack of insulation means in winter the heat goes out and in summer the heat stays in. We didn't remove our coats and nore did anyone else. There was a small gas hot air blower which staff moved around but sadly all that heat just goes straight out the tent above. We did ask if there were plans to add Air Con that heats and cools but it didn't sound like it would be coming anytime soon, we were told that plans are to turn the tent into a large orangey type extension, so it seems they are thinking ahead which is a positive sign.
...The beef was tender, the sauce delicious, Pomme Anna was crisp and hot and fluffy inside, the cabbage OH MY! the cabbage was a delicious, a balance of that peanut favour giving a hint of Thai and spice and tender veg...
So our table was nice, clean and neatly dressed staff were on it under the watchful eye of Holly Eggleton and we had drinks served in good time, plus a menu of the food that was being prepped.
The starter was delivered on a warm plate and comprised of a slab of toast that was basted in dripping, topped with braised beef parsley and horseradish, nice presentation and portion size. The flavour was great the beef tender and tasty , if we had one criticism it would be where's the Horseradish? I mean if its gonna have it then let's have it!!
We want a hot hit of horseradish to counter the unctuous meaty flavour of that dripping and beef, and it simply wasn't there, well not on our plates anyway.
The main was 'Dry Aged Rump' with a green pepper corn sauce , baby gem parsley salad with caesar dressing, Pomme Anna and BBQ cabbage in a peanut sauce.
Well,where to start? The beef was tender, the sauce delicious, Pomme Anna was crisp and hot and fluffy inside, the cabbage OH MY! the cabbage was a delicious, a balance of that peanut favour giving a hint of Thai and spice and tender veg. The baby Gem, cold and crisp with Parmesan, no caesar going on that i could find ...'but'... and yes you can tell there's a 'but' coming, we just didn't get it all together. It was bizarre, as individual items of food, fabulous, but together just a bit weird for my palette. Do I want a cold gem with parmesan on top (it was huge not baby ) that is sat next to hot beef and gravy?? not so much.
I would have sacked that baby gem off and had more cabbage. I mean it was sold as a steak night, so you know what lets do steak , serve it with gastro chips for all I care but the steak is the deal here not a weird lettuce with Parmesan, you can see from the photos its a bit out of balance. Anyway thats the only thing food wise really to flag. You probably wont be disappointed with the food, it's good.
Desert was a fabulous winter warmer of sticky toffee pudding with a toffee sauce and cream, what can go wrong, the sponge was light and tasty and the cream set it off very well I would have eaten two of them.
"...you just don't know what Josh will conger up next his food is undoubtably delicious, his staff were on it..."
Having visited the place in its previous incarnation we felt perhaps it has lost the cosy pub charm and perhaps has more of a wedding venue feel to it, certainly no sign of a walk through kitchen, perhaps they have decided to change the business model from what was originally planned?
The toilets are new and clean and well kept, and access is possible for disabled users although we would mention the large dining area has a set of rather nice wooden steps to get down to it which might make things tricky, and that car park...eeek! so ask.
Would we come back? ...thats a resounding yes because you just don't know what Josh will conger up next, his food is undoubtably delicious, his staff were on it, Holly ran the floor with diligence and spent time talking to all the guests. It is definitely one to watch out for, but for now in winter take a hot water bottle and in summer take your own fan.
Have to place a note here on the scores, this was really a tester session and so isnt a reflection on what The Pony Chew Valley will become, so the scores are a base line and we look forward to going back as restaurant customers later this year.
SCORE, EXCELLENT - 7.87
Food score 9/10
Service Score 9/10
Comms Score 6/10
Disability Access 7/10 (needs clarification from organisers)
Sticky Table 10/10
Value for Money 8/10
What is cost - £63.80 per person BUT remember this was a donation for fundraising not a restaurant charge.
What it’s worth - Impossible to say yet
Would we go back ? Yes!