Vegetarianism is a form of extremism, and all forms of extremism terrify me. However, not being one to judge from the sidelines, this week I ventured to The Gardener’s Arms in Jericho, a small unassuming pub tucked away on Plantation Road that specialises entirely in their own vegetarian fayre.
After actually finding the place you walk into a building with an almost maze-like design, where wooden panels jut out at all angles creating a series of cosy inlets and alcoves. The quaint décor includes walls laden with books and other quirky clichés, and after claiming my seat in earshot of the reassuringly energetic kitchen I navigate the slightly claustrophobic route to the bar where I place my order. The bar itself is stocked almost entirely with brands I have never seen before, aside from some flash continental lagers, so rather than take the plunge and order a pint of something dandelion-based I settle for a beer and wait for my food.
Terrified by the concept of a ‘vegan burger’ I opted for their ‘medley mushroom pie’ and it arrived reasonably quickly. It wasn’t bad. The puff pastry was crisp without being dry and was the perfect consistency to mop up the creamy, winy filling; though, to be perfectly honest, I find it hard to enthuse about something modelled predominately around the mushroom. Once the pie is polished off, I am greeted with a flatbread calzone filled with sundried tomato, olive and feta cheese, though disappointingly it seems to be predominately formed out of scorched dough. However, once the filling is found in the crescent of starch it is light and completely satisfying.
All in all, The Gardener’s Arms is definitely not the worst meal I’ve had in Oxford, though it definitely isn’t the best. I suppose for a vegetarian diner the place does offer some respite from carnivore-centric ‘only one veggie option’ menus of most Oxford eateries. And to be fair, I was pleasantly surprised by what a pub kitchen could execute without a single scrap of meat. However, for me, the novelty of eating vegetarian didn’t quite compensate for the quality of the food. To their credit, The Gardener’s Arms pride themselves on an environment where both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike can enjoy a nice meal, and I am sure that my experience would have been enhanced by the company of an animated vegetarian finally relieved that their choices extend beyond a mundane Caesar salad.
Sadly, I am not converted to the green side, but if you are a vegetarian (or are friends with one and would like to show just how considerate you are) The Gardener’s Arms provides, if nothing else, an interesting experience.
Overall Score: 4/10
Price: Main courses under £10
Service: Friendly, fast and energetic