The Gardeners Arms turns out to be a pub that doesn’t serve crisps. It’s simply too posh.
“We see ourselves as more of a restaurant,” the barman explains, patiently, a teensy-wensy bit patronisingly, as if to foreigners unfamiliar with the British Way.
Come to think of it I suppose he’s not really a barman if it’s not really a pub. Anyway the point is that it’s five o’clock and the not-pub doesn’t serve food until six o’clock and we’re good old-fashioned hungry.
“Olives then?” my friend ventures. Olives are quite posh, after all.
“Ah yes, olives, we’ve got some somewhere… but I’m not sure where they are.”
“Nuts? We do have nuts. Would you like some nuts? Cashews? Peanuts? Mixed nuts?”
The not-barman in the not-pub waves to three large glass jars of nuts on the shelf behind him. The voice of hunger shouts louder than the OCD whisper: “Who’s touched those nuts? How long have they been in there?”
We munch warily on cashew nuts and I reflect on how much cheaper a good old packet of salt ‘n’ vinegar would have been.
When six finally strikes, the not-really-a-pub menu reveals restaurant prices that could give London a run for its money. The service is friendly to the point of annoying. The food is OK but the sausages are venison, if you get my drift.
Why can’t a pub remember its roots and not do a nanny-state thing with the crisps and a capitalist thing with the prices and a Heston Blumenthal thing with the food?
The old gardener would be turning in his grave.