From humble beginnings to running a Michelin-starred restaurant, Josh Eggleton knows good Bristol food. Josh is hosting a special edition Yuup experience, created to celebrate local produce and share a food experience with a difference. He tells us why the Bristol food community is so important, how he's hoping to reduce food inequality and why he's decided to host such a unique, local food experience...
The story behind The Pony & Trap is a simple one – I wanted to run my own restaurant. I had trained for a couple of years, but I wasn’t really a chef then. I’d been offered jobs in London with people like Gordon Ramsay, but even then I knew one thing for sure – whatever I was going to do, I wanted to do it for myself.
At the start it was all really simple. We spent a lot of time doing it up, just to be a great little pub. We did a pork chop with blue cheese sauce, and a steak with grilled tomatoes, and a lasagne. We just wanted to do simple food that puts a smile on people’s faces. Then it all just grew from there.
The next big thing that we did was EatDrinkBristolFashion, the food and drink festival – then we did Yurt Lush – and then in the four years since then, we’ve opened another four or five restaurants. We did loads of media work, including the Great British Menu, but really what we’ve done is build up a huge community of people. When you’ve got a business with so many positive, invested people involved in it, it’s a great thing. The community is really young and dynamic. When I started Pony & Trap I was only 22 and no-one took me seriously, and I’m the oldest one in the business now!
Winning a Michelin star was a surprise to me and it still feels a bit weird if I think about it. But our biggest focus at the moment is how we operate our restaurants responsibly. We’re thinking a lot about how we can help enhance our community and our environment, starting with the people who work for us and how that radiates out into the public. We want people to come and enjoy the restaurant, but how do we integrate further into society? Pubs can do that. They can form the heart of villages.
Look at what we’re doing here at Wapping Wharf. You can get fresh bread, you can get cheese, you can get locally-sourced produce. Our focus is, how do we make that work for everyone? When we closed this place down because of the Coronavirus restrictions, we gave all the fish and chips to the homeless. We’ve since spent the last five months cooking for the homeless, and we’re about to launch a programme to share places in our restaurants for people who suffer from food inequality or food poverty.
I’m proud of the way that the Bristol restaurant community binds together. That was what happened with EatDrinkBristolFashion. We had all these chefs coming in, and we got to know all of the other restauranteurs in Bristol. Now we’ve all become very tight, and lots of people are involved in other projects, like cooking for the homeless. For me, it’s all about creating that strong network of people.
The range of things that we do as a business is a reflection of me, as I just can’t sit still and do one thing. We try to do our best and we want to improve all the time, but you can never keep everyone happy. Everyone has their own opinion – and they deserve their own opinion. Their opinion of what I do is technically none of my business!
Bristol is a big small city, it’s very accessible. Everyone knows everyone, but there’s so much culture and so much diversity, especially in our food scene. And it’s beautiful too. The countryside is great and you can get to places easily. My tip for people visiting Bristol is to get away from the city centre. If you just trot around the centre and visit Cabot Circus, you’re really not seeing Bristol. You need to go out and explore what’s going on; on the Harbourside, in Stokes Croft, on North Street, to name just a few. Seek out the local art, the local scene, and all the different cultures.
Our rationale for creating an experience with Yuup is really simple – because it’s good fun. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to go to great places and talk about great, local produce? That’s what we do on a daily basis in our restaurants – we try to convey our cuisine to people. When people find out more about the thought processes and the work that goes into it, they appreciate the restaurant experience even more.
Discover Josh's personally hosted food experience with Yuup...
Local food tour and tasting with Josh Eggleton