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|The Gardeners Arms, Plantation Road, North Oxford. Tel 559814|
"What, no meat?" is the usual cry of a regular dinner partner of mine when I suggest the Gardener's Arms for a bite to eat. We discuss the alternatives, argue good humouredly for a while, then end up at the Gardener's for an evening out that both parties thoroughly enjoy, without even a hint of rare steak or juicy lamb.
The Gardener's Arms seems, at first, like any one of the many small, cosy pubs that you find amongst Jericho's terraced streets - but with a twist. Appearances can be deceptive. Walk through the door and you find a welcoming atmosphere, a clientele nearly all under 35 and an eclectic CD collection behind the bar. The pub has well-kept and interesting beers, a good choice of wines and an entirely vegetarian menu. Furnished with tables in one half of the main bar, and a huge sofa with armchairs in the other, this is the perfect place for a Sunday afternoon lounging with the papers as well as a mid-week 'I can't be bothered cooking' night out.
So, an entirely vegetarian menu eh? I am an omnivore but the meat-free food at the Gardeners is simply lovely. From ciabatta to pasta, curries and lasagne to salads, snacks and breakfasts, it is all high quality, tasty and mostly good value for money. I recently had the goat's cheese crostini with red onion marmalade - delicious grilled goats cheese on pieces of baguette, tangy marmalade to compliment the cheese and crunchy lettuce to ensure you eat your 5 servings a day.
My dining companion had the Thai Green Curry - fresh vegetables in home-made curry paste hot enough to need washing down with another pint, but not uncomfortably hot - and perfect sticky rice. No chicken or pork - and no one missed them!
If this is to be a fair review, I must highlight two slight low points - the pasta dishes are a little disappointing and the pub does sometimes get very hot and busy, although probably because overall, this is a great place!
Sunday night is quiz night, there are frequent live music and poetry nights, they have a bar billiards room and there is a walled garden for sunny drinking, making this one of the area's best pubs, with or without meat on the menu.