Review: The Gardeners Arms

The Jericho withdrawals currently feeling very real after I left Oxford University Press, I made plans to meet a friend back in that part of the city for dinner, before a trip to the theatre. Despite having worked a stone’s throw away from the only vegetarian pub in Oxford for over two years, I had never actually visited, and I have since discovered that this is probably a good thing, otherwise I might have put on a stone or two in weight.

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The Gardeners Arms serves pub favourites such as pie, curry, and burgers, at student-friendly prices. Easily half of the menu is suitable for vegans. We got to Plantation Road at just gone 6pm on a Friday night, and although the cute residential street was very quiet, when we entered we found the busy pub was the opposite. There was only one table left in the corner which seated 6, and we felt a bit guilty about the two of us taking it but there was no other option! This is obviously where all the cool people kick off their weekends.

You place your order at the bar and are given an order number, which you have to listen out for when your food arrives. I usually just have tap water but decided to order a Diet Coke (thought I’d treat myself, it was Friday night after all). Sadly the bar tender reached underneath the counter for a plastic bottle of the stuff and poured me out a slightly flat half pint. I expect the pub is too small to warrant having it on tap, so now I know not to order it for next time. To eat, I decided on a vegan burger with tofu bacon, vegan cheese slices, burger relish, vegan mayo, lettuce and tomato, with fries on the side, but opted for it all in a flatbread rather than a bap. Vegan junk food fans get ready to rejoice at what was served to me, essentially a giant vegan kebab, stuffed with two burgers, all of my chosen toppings (of which I could’ve had more, included in the price, if I’d have really felt it necessary), and a mound of chips that was certainly big enough for two. I actually had to leave some on my plate which is fairly shocking for me, having a real hatred for food waste, I will often continue to eat despite feeling uncomfortable so that it doesn’t get thrown away. I can’t say the meal was gourmet but it tasted amazing, or rather, was everything you’d hope for from a huge kebab!

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Becky ordered the Thali platter, which I would probably have gone for had I not had a curry the night before, as it sounded delicious. It consisted of the curry of the day (Jalfrezi) served with aloo saag, basmati rice, mango chutney, poppadums, and a carrot salad. Becky said the curry was fairly spicy but she really enjoyed it, the potatoes were nice but came with a bit too much spinach (which I agreed with from what it looked like on the plate), and everything else was great, it was just so huge she didn’t manage to finish her meal either!

If you’re looking for something fancy, this pub probably isn’t the one for you. However, if you are looking to fill yourself with no frills veggie pub food that tastes great, with a chilled out atmosphere, at a very reasonable price, The Gardeners Arms is definitely a place to seek out. They have a pub quiz on a Sunday, and you can even join the monthly vegan meetup if you’re new to the city or otherwise looking to make vegan friends in real life (ha, as we all know this can be pretty difficult). Just get there early if you want a seat!

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