Established with the aim of providing an environment where carnivores could dine with their vegetarian friends and not miss that meaty presence on their plates, much of the menu seems designed to appease meat eaters while satisfying the palates of those who forgo flesh. As a result, textured vegetable protein (TVP) makes more appearances than I'm used to seeing on vegetarian menus, with chilli and meat-substitute burgers sitting alongside vegetable-based offerings. There are plenty of the latter too: a mushroom pie, an Indian thali platter, Greek salad and a selection of calzones, among other dishes.
I opted for the thali platter (£9.95), which consisted of the curry of the day (a dhansak on this occasion) served with rice, poppadoms, mango chutney and sag aloo with some salad adding another shade of green to the plate. The dhansak was mild and tasty; the sag aloo slightly unusual with what appeared to be thick-cut chips nestling among the spinach. The portion was enough to satisfy even the hungriest of diners, and the selection of small dishes is ideal for variety-seekers (or the indecisive).
|Indian thali platter|
The chilli was definitely the dud dish of the bunch: both A's veggie burger quarter-pound veggie burger (£8.50) and N's spinach, tomato, olive and feta flatbread calzone (£8.95) were much more successful. N confessed that on previous occasions, she hadn't even noticed that the burger was vegetarian: meat-eaters afraid of the green stuff should take note. Served in a basket with chips, it was certainly classic pub food: tasty, filling and unfussy.
|Spinach, tomato, feta and olive calzone|
As pubs go, the Gardener's is a winner: with a laid-back atmosphere and no indication that they would ever dare stray into over-sanitised gastro territory, it's an ideal spot to settle in for the evening with a drink or two. Despite not eating meat, I'm not entirely convinced I'd go out of my way to dine there, though: if I found myself famished over a drink there, I wouldn't hesitate to order, but I don't think I'd make a special trip to Jericho just to dine at the Gardener's. A meat-free menu in a pub is definitely a welcome sight, as drinking dens aren't exactly famed for their ability to cater well to vegetarians, but the idea that the Gardener's is a restaurant created false expectations in my head. It does good (if pricey) pub grub: if you want a burger and a pint then great, but if fine dining's what you're looking for, look elsewhere.
The Gardener's Arms is on Plantation Road, Jericho. Tel: 01865 559814.