I really couldn't decide between 3 or 4 stars. 3 gives the outcome as 'average', and our meal was better than average but it wasn't 'very good' (4). More just 'good', so 3.5 really!
Firstly, the service here is excellent. A very friendly and welcoming team of staff, attentive without being overbearing and a pleasure to deal with. The atmosphere is also equally welcoming, there’s a good distance between the tables and it general it all has a very nice feel to it. The wine list is extensive and reasonably priced and there is a good selection of ales available. As mentioned by other guests, it’s a dog friendly pub which on the whole is a good thing, and I love dogs, but the table next to us had their dog ‘loose’ and it came to sit under our table whilst we were eating. We had to ask the owner to come and retrieve it. I wouldn’t have my own dog sitting with us when we’re eating, let alone someone else’s. The waiting staff could see this happening and I really feel that they should have spoken to the owners before we had to.
The food was good, and the menu is extensive but I really do feel that our meal should have been much better for the price of it. The Gardeners Arms is one of the most expensive pubs in the area, and these days it is more restaurant that pub, so food should be outstanding to justify the high prices. Our starters were good, however my duck salad (£8.25) should have had more dressing; there was a tiny amount around one edge of the plate and none over the actual salad or duck. In contrast, the salad I had with my main course (stone bass from the specials board, £16.50) was so over dressed it made the whole dish quite greasy and unappetising. Also, there was supposed to be fennel in the salad. This was one of the main reasons I ordered the dish as I love fennel, but I couldn’t taste any or see any at all. There was a lot of raw red onion, definitely too much and this was very over powering. The fish itself was cooked beautifully but the mashed potato it was sitting on was served almost cold, tepid at most and the fries with my partner’s main course were the same (he had the handmade cheese burger £13 plus an extra £1.50 for a thick slice of bacon. He said it was good but not great and for the cost it should have been amazing!). It made me wonder if our dishes had been sitting in the kitchen for some time before they were brought to our table. Our desserts were good (chocolate brownie and chocolate fondant) and tasted homemade. What’s more, they told us our desserts would be complimentary as my partners main course wasn’t available (he ordered it and then after a little while the waiter told us there had been a miscommunication and it wasn’t available after all). I thought this was a very nice gesture.
So all in all, excellent service, a great atmosphere and a good menu but the food itself is disappointing and does not justify the prices they charge. If the food was all cooked and served perfectly then the prices would be justified, as you can tell that the produce is fresh and of good quality. They need to work on the balance of flavours in the dishes and make sure that the food is served hot not lukewarm. We will go again in the hopes that our next experience justifies the price.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.