Published 20 August 2021
by Josh Barrie
Charlie Chaplin’s dad used to play the piano that still sits in the Jolly Gardeners. Guy Ritchie chose the pub as a backdrop for scenes in Snatch. It is a Victorian boozer in Vauxhall, fairly nondescript save for these two claims to fame. It is now also a place where you’ll find accomplished food with a menu taking pub grub beyond what might be considered classic, while continuing to serve decades-old locals alongside young professionals new to the area.
Opening somewhere inclusive but progressive is a delicate balancing act. It is hard to gauge whether the Jolly Gardeners team – Jonathan Kaye and Dan and Nick Blucert, all of whom spent years in hospitality before taking a chance on their own pub – are managing to do this entirely. The early signs are good. The two older gentlemen who frequented its bar when it was an old-time spot called Zeitgeist to spend time completing crosswords over tall glasses of wheat beer still visit. During the Euros, there were football fans filling the tables next to summer supporters.
Kaye and the Blucert brothers have chosen to put a £5 pint on. In London, even south of the river, this is becoming increasingly uncommon. Their menu is not too fanciful or demanding. There’s a plant-based edge but it isn’t overzealous. Somehow, though, it is interesting. The cauliflower wings are a must – no, really – and the Marmite and south London stout rarebit has the makings of a favourite. That’s why we spoke to Daniel, the head chef, to talk more about his food.
It’s been a lot of fun for me and my friends opening the pub. A steep learning curve but we have really built something special and are now a pillar in the neighbourhood where everyone feels comfortable.
We have the luxury of 63 years in the industry between us so know how to treat guests and have high standards for the menu. We plan to be a destination venue for all of London and for amazing roast dinners week in week out for our ever-growing regulars.
It’s what and how I would want to eat – a sharing style, nothing too heavy, small plates rather than being too full after eating starter and main course. There is nothing worse for me than not being able to sample a range of what the chef has to offer. We will keep raising the bar for great food while keeping it accessible to the community.
Me and my brother Nick (who runs the bar) were brought up on a Sunday roast every week. If we weren’t having roast chicken at home, we were in our grandparents’ pub in Essex eating family food with all the trimmings. At the Jolly Gardeners we have replicated that feeling of childhood Sundays by having tasty meats with family style sides, which just happen to be unlimited.
We achieve this by making the dishes more interesting. The double burger is with bacon and stout jam and half the menu is plant based (without bragging about it). I’m fascinated by British food history and came across a ’scrumpet’ while reading an old cookery book and put it straight on the menu as a point of intrigue. It’s a great dish – braised lamb neck, pressed into a finger then crumbed and fried, served with black garlic romesco.
This is about making the pub accessible to everyone in the community. If you want to come in, have a couple of pints and a few snacks it can easily be done for under £20 or you can buy a top-end wine and have a five-course meal. We really want a mix of people in the pub, we also believe pubs should bridge generational constraints, so our price points factor in all those things.
I have a bit of a sweet tooth so I’m going to say our Lambeth Mess. It’s similar to its posh Eton cousin but totally plant-based, aquafaba meringues, vanilla cream, raspberries and black sesame.