The Pony and Trap is the sort of place you’d love for your local. Long wooden pews, shaded lamps, tiled and wooden floors, leaded glass. It’s cosy, welcoming and intimate: stuffiness and over formality are strangers here, and the view is of endless fields.
Oh, and it just happens to have a Michelin-starred kitchen. But they seemed to have the missed the ‘ponce it up for the punters’ memo, because there’s no pretension on this menu. No Cauliflower Embarrassment Grieving on a Turbot Tristesse. No Evisceration of Haddock on a Rhubarb Foreclosure.
Welcoming? This is what they brought my daughter. And she’s two. Proper food. One of the many bees in my various bonnets is the widespread and explicit condescension to younger diners. ‘Oh, you’re only little, so colour this in while we open some freezer bags and hey presto! Here’s some bland, overprocessed crap shovelled on a plate. Ta.”
It scores heavily with this parent when a kitchen has enough respect for younger diners to send out scaled-down versions of main courses. (A passing mention for Miskin Manor here, who also have the right attitude.)
There’s a tasting menu but due to a strict timetable- and doubts as to whether our daughter could ‘last’ three hours and more- we ate from the daily-changing a la carte menu. There’s a focus on the local; the menu’s reverse shows a map of their suppliers.
Home made crisps with a chive-heavy sour cream while you ponder? Chimay on tap- the beery Holy Grail? Don’t mind if I do.
A goose bresaola (£2.50) is nicely fatty with a subtle sweetness, served at room temperature. A Scotch quail’s egg (£3.00) is a lovely thing: a perfect crumb, delicately herbed meat, a deep yellow yolk. The homemade brown sauce is almost good enough to eat by the spoonful.
A bowl of mussels, with a cidery waft cloaking the plump little blighters, comes in a strikingly green liquor that’s just made to be mopped up by the sourdough. (£9.00)
Now, the parsnip, as any right-thinking person will agree, is the work of The Evil One. Proof of his existence, his influence in mortal affairs, in fact- further proof, if Ed Sheeran wasn’t enough. I have long held them in cordial loathing: when I was a kid, my mum used to serve me the thicker end, but sliced to look like a roast potato, with her wily Castilian ways. To no avail: the ‘seam’ gives them away, and they were duly and quite rightly rejected. Foul things, a blemish and an abomination: a pox and a murrain upon them all.
And yet…this starter (£8.50) had a lot to like, with its textures and the bitterness of the chicory. The salty sharpness of crumbled stilton, the firmness of the pear, the skill shown in the perfect cooking of the parsnip croquette; I shan’t be adding to my tattoos with an homage to parsnips any time soon, but it was a striking plate.
Quite how I managed to resist the allure of a 47 day aged ribeye with bone marrow is beyond me, but I was impressed with my eventual choice. My venison (£25.00) was superb. Served both as a loin fillet and as a faggot (insert own ‘too dear’ gag here) it was superb, the faggot bearing the faint musky uric whiff of proper offal, the sauce so luxuriously thick and glossy you could make posh pyjamas out of it.
A sizeable tranche of brill was deftly done, meaty yet delicate. Sweet brown shrimps took us right back to Morecambe and happy days on the Lancastrian coast: wilted celery and lettuce completed the picture.
Desserts were similarly excellent.
‘Chocolate and Orange’ was decadence in spoonfuls, the dark mousse studded with the vivid citrus burst of orange gel, candied peel and slices of blood orange. A white chocolate cheesecake was almost ridiculously thick while somehow feeling light. The crunch of honeycomb and the frozen yoghurt delivered a memorable finish to an excellent meal.
If you have no room in your heart- and stomach- for a Michelin-starred restaurant which will also do you ham, egg and chips- then there’s no hope for you. To boot, their attitude to young children is to be applauded. This place should be on your list.
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.