Tucked away in a side street a short walk from the hospital, the Gardeners Arms’ very existence had completely escaped our attention until it came to compiling the list for this series. And even then, having found out that it existed, we did wonder if it was still open. Take a look at the image on What Pub? and compare the image there to the image below:
The blank space on the first floor corner, where the pub sign used to be; the blinds pulled across, instead of open curtains; where there used to be picnic benches on the street outside, now, just an empty pavement. So RealAleRocks and I did wonder: were we too late?
We popped along a few weeks ago just to see if it was open, and the signs looked promising. So now we’re back, this time during opening hours, and with beer money in hand.
We attempt to enter via the obvious side door, in Ridgmount Street, only to find it locked – but a voice inside calls for us to wait a moment, and it’s unlocked for us. “The doorman wasn’t paying attention”, we were told. Over the course of our stay here, various locals do come and go through this door, and sometimes it’s locked, and sometimes not. Disappointingly, WhatPub was completely correct in that real ale is not served here; we pass on the Fosters, Kronenbourg, Strongbow and John Smiths, and instead both opt for Guinness extra cold; two pints for £7.20.
This is a small, L-shaped, single-room bar: No lounge or beer garden here. It’s quite cosy, and with its wooden floor and white-painted walls and ceiling, the noise of the chatter echoes around.
In the corner of the “L”, there’s the main seating area: a cushioned bench running around the two walls, with a few round tables, low stools made of a dark-stained wood and with soft green tops, and some wooden chairs. To the right, butting up against the bar, is a pillar, on which is hung a TV. It’s showing Bargain Hunt; mercifully, the sound is almost inaudible.
It’s just getting on to 6pm on a weekday, and there are quite a few locals in here: it’s surprisingly busy, for a quiet backstreet boozer. Four men in their 40s or 50s play a lively game of dominoes on a green baize table. “I’m not going to expose a three on each end!”. They drink Fosters, Fosters, Kronenbourg, and Coke (or something mixed with Coke).
Now, normally I wouldn’t mention it, but these gentlemen were people of colour, and it’s relevant here because of a thing that happened next that I didn’t notice, but RealAleRocks did:
One of the locals, a white woman, to one of the domino players: “Shut your mouth you <racial slur>”
One of the other domino players: “He’s white, he’s just got a sun tan”
White woman: “Oh you know I don’t mean it”. She laughs.
I didn’t hear this first hand: RealAleRocks told me this after we’d left. It made her uncomfortable, put her on edge for the rest of our time there – and if I’d have heard it, I think it would have done the same to me too. Still, they kept playing, and nothing more was said about it.
At the end of the bar, sat on a stool and leaning against the pillar, sits a man in his 70s, wearing a trilby; his pint of Guinness nearby. Also at the bar, a woman in her 60s, and a group of four men in their 40s or 50s; they’re quite loud. It sounds like they’re listening to the football on the radio: one of them occasionally chants “Wem-ber-ly … Wem-ber-ly … Get in there you f***er!”. One of the men winds up his mates as he passes: “Nice to see Crystal Palace beat Liverpool”.
A man and a woman in their 40s sit in the corner; after a while, they leave. Now, there’s two kids aged about 6 running around; they don’t seem to be causing any trouble.
To the left, beyond the part-time-locked side door and the coat rack next to it, there’s a juke box (I think), a pool table, and a fruit machine; framed paintings of sporting equipment? (I really should have gone over for a closer look). Behind the bar, a collection of small trophies. Around the pub there’s an assortment of branded mirrors: Guinness, Carlsberg, Adnams, Charrington IPA. A sign reads “Beer is cheaper than therapy”.
After our pints of Guinness are gone, we go to leave – out of the other door. Past the pillar to the right, there’s a small extra area, but it’s deserted. Here, there’s a dartboard, another table or two, and some rather interesting art on the walls:
On the wall next to the pillar, a sign reads:
IK HEB NIET ALLES WAAR IK
VAN HOU MAAR IK HOU WEL
VAN ALLES WAT IK HEB
Google to the rescue. Translated from Dutch:
“I do not have everything I can hold,
but I love everything I have“
Images by GirlMeetsPint, CC BY 4.0