In every city you have hidden gems, those places that are off the beaten track and only really known to the locals. In fact I suspect that if you asked most Oxfordians about The Gardeners Arms they would say “oh yeah, rings a bell… I’ve heard good things. Somewhere in Jericho isn’t it?”. It is in Jericho, to be precise it is on the corner of Plantation Road, between Woodstock Road on one side and Walton Street on the other. Here’s a useful map so you have no excuse (I love how Google Maps sums it up, pretty spot on I think!):
The Gardeners Arms is unique in Oxford in two respects; it is the only pub in the city with a grass lawn in the beer garden and is the only dedicated vegetarian/vegan pub in Oxford. As it was a cold and dank November evening when I visited it was definitely the vegetarian food that I was interested in and specifically their burgers, which I had heard numerous good things about and was keen to try for myself.
The interior of The Gardenerjus Arms is fantastic, it is a proper pub that hasn’t been renovated or ruined with a load of ‘trendy’ or kitsch bits of rubbish. The wood panelling and sparse lighting give it a subdued and intimate feel, selected records from the landlord’s vinyl collection on display around the top of the pub the only nod to anything vaguely modern. The only downside is that the lighting doesn’t make taking food photos very easy, so forgive the limited and rather rubbish photos!
The Gardeners’ kitchen started in 2003 with the intention of serving no-nonsense, quality vegetarian food that was appealing to both veggies and meat eaters alike. Vegans will be happy too as all the dishes on the menu that are suitable for vegans are clearly marked with a (V). You will find a selection of flat bread calzone pizzas, burgers (in buns or wraps), hot dogs and 5 main options; Mushroom Pie, Indian Thali Platter, Mexican Chilli, Greek Salad or a Spinach, Olive & Mozzarella Puff Pastry Parcel.
I have tried the chilli and the hot dogs on previous visits and can vouch for them both being excellent but it was the burgers that I was here for… You get a 1/4 pound veggie burger served in a bap with toppings and sauces of your choice on a basket of fries for £8.50 with the following options to pimp it up:
Toppings – tomato, lettuce, onion, pickled chillies or sliced gherkin
Sauces – mango chutney, burger relish, garlic mayo, curried mayo, sweet chilli sauce, mustard or mayo
Extras – additional burger, emmental cheese or burger cheese
After much deliberation over the possible combinations I opted for the burger with tomato, lettuce and sliced gherkin with burger relish and emmental cheese. A delicious pint of ale was added to the order, as a free house The Gardeners Arms has an ever changing selection available on tap making it worth a visit purely for the beer alone!
Before long my food arrived and I was presented with a basket of fries topped with an appetising looking burger. Personally I would have preferred it was served on a plate rather than a basket, it is good to have somewhere to put your sauce for dipping and be able to spread things out a bit. I also felt the fries could have been better, though well cooked they appeared to have come from a bag rather than having the home cooked feel you get from the burger.
The floured bap was warm, soft, tasty and of a good size to grab hold of without everything falling out. The burger patty itself was fantastic, meaty and delicious, holding its shape and not falling apart like some veggie burgers have a tendency to do. I reckon you could serve this to a lot of carnivores and unless you told them they wouldn’t notice that it was a veggie burger, it is that good.
The toppings were generous without being over the top and combined to make a really good burger. It might not be as polished and fancy as some of the chain outlets but it has an honesty about it that suits the venue perfectly and makes you feel like you are eating something that has been made with care and attention.
I am not alone in singing the praises of The Gardeners Arms, PETA have just ranked the pub among the top 10 best vegetarian/vegan pubs in the UK with a follow-up article appearing on The Oxford Mail. Next time you are wondering where to eat in Oxford, take a trip to Jericho and check out The Gardeners Arms for yourself, we would love to see if you agree!