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Secret Drinker reviews the Gardeners Arms pub in Higham, Gravesend


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It’s not that I don’t see the reason for booking a spot in the pub at the moment, or don’t realise some folk are a little OCD and like to know what they’re doing.

But there’s something which intrinsically links the pub with popping out – whether it be to the local or further afield to a boozer hitherto unvisited.

The Gardeners Arms, aptly named for the current conditions, occupies a v-shaped corner plot in the village of Higham
The Gardeners Arms, aptly named for the current conditions, occupies a v-shaped corner plot in the village of Higham

I realise this more ad-hoc approach, particularly in the current climate, could end in disappointment, but for me the principle is important enough to justify the risk.

So it was I found myself calling unannounced at the Gardeners Arms in Higham to see if they had a table for two free?

This unassuming Shepherd Neame pub occupies a v-shaped corner spot in this historic village between Gravesend and Strood and is clearly popular with the locals.

The garden was busting and full of banter on the day I visited
The garden was busting and full of banter on the day I visited

Although it was busy and bustling, a friendly waitress made enquiries and said they could find a slot to fit us in.

We were directed to a table in the small, but beautifully formed, garden and our drinks order was taken – the usual, a pint of your best bitter and a large glass of Sav Blanc please.

Whilst waiting for my Master Brew I took stock of our surroundings and decided that although there’s undoubtedly been some extra tarting up of the outside area in readiness for lockdown ending, this garden has a well-established look to it and has been developed over a few years, rather than just a few weeks.

There were a good few folks in hats, scarves and coats, but if you look carefully you’ll spot one brave soul exposing his knees
There were a good few folks in hats, scarves and coats, but if you look carefully you’ll spot one brave soul exposing his knees

Both peckish by this time on a Saturday evening, when the drinks arrived I tentatively asked if, despite our impromptu visit, we might order some food. After another quick check and a warning it might take a few moments longer than usual we sat back to await meat feast and chicken tikka pizzas.

A large section of the garden is covered by a well-established structure, complete with heaters and a lighting system which wouldn’t look out of place at a village hall disco. To one side, a more temporary roof has been constructed from scaffolding poles and corrugated iron – not as sophisticated maybe, but still a decent shelter for those seated in this area.

All in all, it’s obvious plenty of thought has gone into the new arrangements and despite the fact it’s equally clear this is predominantly a pub for locals, outsiders are warmly welcomed and we shared several interesting conversations, mainly weather related, with regulars.

Here’s what you can look forward to when we are allowed back inside – a fairly recent makeover has introduced lots of trendy furnishings
Here’s what you can look forward to when we are allowed back inside – a fairly recent makeover has introduced lots of trendy furnishings
The very solid, and well-designed, covered area in the garden has temporarily been extended with scaffolding poles and a corrugated tin roof
The very solid, and well-designed, covered area in the garden has temporarily been extended with scaffolding poles and a corrugated tin roof

Most folk had learnt their lesson from a week of evening drinking in the garden and were unashamedly wearing hats, scarves, coats, gloves and even thick socks with boots – though there were two hardy (foolhardy) fellas showing off their legs in shorts.

Despite the warning, two freshly made and cooked pizzas were served on wooden boards within just 20 minutes or so of ordering and were so tasty all conversation stopped for some time.

The music being played was piped at a sensible level and I later discovered the tunes were being selected on the jukebox inside by the guy behind the bar.

I’ve said it before, but there is no better pizza than a meat feast – and this homemade one was a beauty
I’ve said it before, but there is no better pizza than a meat feast – and this homemade one was a beauty
Mrs SD has far more bizarre tastes and selected the chicken tikka option – she failed to finish and the staff kindly boxed the rest for lunch the following day
Mrs SD has far more bizarre tastes and selected the chicken tikka option – she failed to finish and the staff kindly boxed the rest for lunch the following day

I don’t know the relationship between the various staff but, whether they are related or not, they certainly manage to create a family feel to this pub and you can tell the locals appreciate it. For a pub to be accepted this well, particularly with so many near neighbours, I’m confident it must be run responsibly and care about its local community.

For me this is a great little, unassuming pub which is punching well above its weight, particularly at these challenging times, and deserves every success. Last, but by no means least, landlady Sarah, must have a special mention – professional, efficient and effective at all times, she still found plenty of time to chat to just about everyone.

I sincerely recommend you considering seeking out the Gardeners Arms and hope you have as enjoyable a visit as we did.

Sadly standing idle at the moment, hopefully it won’t be too much longer before a game of arrows can take place
Sadly standing idle at the moment, hopefully it won’t be too much longer before a game of arrows can take place

Gardeners Arms, Higham – 2 Forge Lane, Higham ME3 7AS

Decor: Whilst it might be described as bijou, the garden is carefully planned and has been well maintained. ****

Drink: The wine was an excellent drop and, although I’m not a massive fan of Master Brew, it was a good pint. ***

The village pub sits between the Medway Towns and Gravesend and is a short distance from the home of Charles Dickens at Gad’s Hill
The village pub sits between the Medway Towns and Gravesend and is a short distance from the home of Charles Dickens at Gad’s Hill

Price: A pint of bitter and a large Sauvignon Blanc for £10.90 – when I switched to Kronenbourg the price rose by a quid to £11.90. ***

Food: The menu is kept plain and straightforward with just pizzas and boards – the homemade pizzas, both hot and tasty, arrived promptly. ****

Staff: Right from the off they couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming, they were all kept busy and needed to be on their toes but definitely rose to the challenge. ****

I’m no green-fingered expert, but the garden looked well established to me and didn’t seem to have been tarted up simply for the end of lockdown
I’m no green-fingered expert, but the garden looked well established to me and didn’t seem to have been tarted up simply for the end of lockdown
This being a Shepherd Neame pub I was obviously making a selection from the usual suspects. Master Brew doesn’t top my favourites list but this wasn’t a bad drop at all
This being a Shepherd Neame pub I was obviously making a selection from the usual suspects. Master Brew doesn’t top my favourites list but this wasn’t a bad drop at all
I don’t want to reignite a ‘wine price debate’ but this one was seven quid and according to Mrs SD was one of the best she’s had recently
I don’t want to reignite a ‘wine price debate’ but this one was seven quid and according to Mrs SD was one of the best she’s had recently

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Clean, fresh, white and functional, the gents were well maintained and are checked regularly
Clean, fresh, white and functional, the gents were well maintained and are checked regularly
Likewise the ladies – and here you get the added benefit of the outside light show through the frosted window
Likewise the ladies – and here you get the added benefit of the outside light show through the frosted window
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