Since it was named Britain’s best pub garden in 2020, The Rising Sun in Pensford hasn’t really had a full, uninterrupted summer to show off to visitors exactly why it won such a prestigious accolade. Lockdowns and restrictions meant that the past two summers have been disjointed for all pubs.
Luckily, The Rising Sun did manage to operate more than many without the benefit of having a large outdoor space as it ran an outdoor bar and also did takeaway food. However, the coming months will be the first time for two years that drinkers and diners can enjoy the garden in all its glory.
And it really is a stunner, especially if you time your visit when the sun is setting. Next to a trickling river and a beautiful 14th-century church, the beer garden is set against the timeless, bucolic backdrop of a vast Victorian-built viaduct – originally a sky-high railway line – and fields of sheep.
With some areas covered for those rainy days, it’s spacious and family-friendly. There simply isn’t a better pub garden in the area – and if there is, I want to know about it.
Inside, the pub retains a traditional look and country pub feel with its real fire, a gallery of black and white village pictures on the rough stone walls and wooden settle benches. On the bar, there are handmade sausage rolls – a perfect snack for hungry ramblers popping in after one of the countless walks near the pub.
There’s also a full menu for those who fancy something a little more substantial. It changes all the time but when I visited, choices included beer battered cod, bashed peas, curry sauce, tartare and triple cooked chips; Somerset chicken breast with mash, cabbage and mushroom sauce, and Daryl’s dry-aged 10oz rump cap steak with braised mushroom, slow-roasted tomato and triple cooked chips.
Due to growing demand, there are also more vegetarian and vegan options than many pubs. These include roasted butternut squash risotto and a lentil and carrot burger.
I went for the £ 15 pie of the day, which was steak, mushroom and red wine on this occasion. Served with new potatoes and spiced red cabbage, it was a hearty dish and as good a pie as you’ll find, the rich and tender beef and mushroom filling beneath a golden, buttery pastry lid.
There is also a ‘little ones’ menu for children aged 12 and under. Sausages, fries and peas; beef burger and fries and tomato and basil pasta are among the choices, all at £ 7.50.
The pub is owned by Cornish brewery St Austell and three of its beers – Proper Job, Hicks and Tribute – are on draft. This being in cider country, it comes as no surprise there are three types of Thatchers on offer – Gold, Haze and Dry.
There’s no printed wine list. When I asked for it, the bar staff smiled and told me ‘it’s in our heads’ before rattling off the wines on offer.
On Sundays, as well as ‘must book’ roasts, the pub often has live music in the bar. It also plans to host a Jubilee afternoon tea on June 4 – bookings for that are apparently already strong.
Since taking over the running of The Rising Sun in 2019, Rebecca Fricker and Lisa Faulkner have certainly had plenty of challenges, not least a pandemic to deal with. On the mid-week evening I visited, the pub was busy, buzzing and back to normal.
With summer upon us, this charming and friendly Pensford pub is only going to get busier and busier. And if you want to bag a bench in that remarkable beer garden, you may want to arrive early or book in advance – you won’t regret it.
The Rising Sun, Church Street, Pensford, BS39 4AQ. Tel: 01761 490006.