Michelin-starred Pony & Trap ‘ain’t closing but changing’

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Changes: Pony & Trap as we know it to close, but has new plans for the spring
Changes: Pony & Trap as we know it to close, but has new plans for the spring

Related tags: Coronavirus, Josh eggleton, Bristol, Top 50 gastropubs, Gastropub

Michelin-starred Bristol gastropub the Pony & Trap in Chew Magna is not closing down, but will change its direction this spring, chef-patron Josh Eggleton has told The Morning Advertiser (MA).

Speaking to The MA​, Eggleton confirmed the site will still operate once coronavirus restrictions are lifted, but this year he would be realising a long overdue desire by transforming it into something very special.

“I’ve had a vision for the Pony and Trap before Covid and that was to turn it into a school to train chefs and teach people about food,” said Eggleton.

“Now this happened [coronavirus lockdowns] and essentially you jump off a hamster wheel and say why don’t I do it now?”

Much of the change derives from Eggleton’s desire to give back to people in need.

The changes will see people who wouldn’t usually be able to afford to dine at high end venues have the chance to do so.

There will also be courses such as baking, fermenting and cookery available. The gardens will be open for volunteers, who will receive lunch and vegetable boxes in return for their work.

A community venue

It had been his ambition to turn the Pony and Trap into a community and local producer-focused venue for some years, but the daily task of running his five businesses had meant it would take time to realise.

However, while coronavirus has decimated the sector, it appears it has allowed Eggleton time to speed up his plans.

“First and foremost, it ain’t closing, but it is closed now due to Covid but when we do reopen it will be different, a different offer and a different name,” he added.

“What is the different name? I don’t know because I’ve been wracking my brains for a name for two years, but I want it to be about the people who work there and the food, not me. I’m just the facilitator.”

A spokesperson for the pub also told The MA ​the pub would remain open for dinner three nights a week, but there were plans to adapt the style.

"There are some much bigger changes to day times, as well as a name change to try and encompass what we hope to achieve," said the spokesperson. 

Eggleton has been working with charitable organisations for years, including food charities that provide food to Bristolians, work for which saw him serve over 800 meals to those in need in December.

Such work is guiding his vision for the Pony and Trap, which he “wants to become a food think tank, looking at food inequality”.

“We will reopen the Pony & Trap under a different name and serve food and drinks, but it will all be very different. Maybe it will have a 15-course tasting menu, because previously it was all things to everyone,” he added.

“At the Pony and Trap we’ll have some cabins in the garden where people can come and stay and we’ll welcome you, feed you with produce from the Chew Valley and show you suppliers in the area. It will be like coming into my house.”

But that does not mean the food and offering of the Pony and Trap is lost, as Eggleton and his sister Holly, who co-own the business, have bought up a new country pub down the road – the Queen’s Arms, which will open under the name of the Queen’s Chew Magna.

‘I don’t want the Pony and Trap to die’

“I don’t want the Pony and Trap as it stands to die, so the Queen’s is our country pub and will offer real solid country fayre, it goes back to my roots and that’s food for the locals. It will also have four double bedrooms,” he said.

In November, Josh and Holly revealed the launch of another venue in South Bristol – the Pony North Street – which was announced on Instagram​.

The Pony North Street is to be a bistro-style set up and is in addition to the Eggleton’s fish and chip restaurant Salt and Malt as well as its veg-led Root venue, the Kensginton Arms and Yurt Lush.

The Pony and Trap has held a Michelin star since 2010, the pub and its team have earned a series of significant accolades over the years, including a regular position on the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs list, a Great British Pub Awards and many others.

A temporary closure was announced on the Pony & Trap’s website last year, which read: “Unfortunately the world has become a strange place over the last few weeks. We are now closed for the foreseeable future, until it is safe for us to open again.

“We officially closed down The Pony and Trap at the start of the week and have moved all stock to our new production kitchens. All valuables have been removed from site.

“There will be someone popping in occasionally to check on things, but please don’t call the pub and leave a message.”

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