A Jolly Good Meal

MasterChef winner Dhruv Baker has bought his local Earlsfield pub. Kate Miranda samples the new menu at the Jolly Gardeners
MasterChef winner Dhruv Baker has bought his local Earlsfield pub. Kate Miranda samples the menu

The Jolly Gardeners pub in Earlsfield is a true local. When I arrive on a Thursday night the bar is heaving with suited professionals enjoying a drink on the way home. Yet one step past the bar and through French doors is an ambient dining room.

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‘While it is a pub 100 per cent and we want it to stay a pub at heart, we want the dining area to be restaurant quality,’ Dhruv tells me. The 2010 MasterChef winner lived in Earlsfield for ten years and was a regular at the pub before he bought it in 2014.’

The lines between pub and restaurant are increasingly blurred and the quality of food served in good gastro pubs is on par with quality restaurants, yet usually its better value for money and the clear winners are the punters. ‘We focus on keeping our regulars and locals happy. Our residents are an evolved foodie crowd. They are food savvy and well travelled. Our locals feel connected to the pub and have a sense of ownership. I like that,’ explains Dhruv.

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As the dining room begins to fill up, I’m served a selection of starters, beginning with dressed crab, pickled cucumber, avocado and tamarind yoghurt (£7.50). The presentation and taste is what you would expect to find in a top restaurant. The homemade smoked aubergine and goats’ cheese ravioli is divine and as I sample the red onion and blue cheese tart with vegetable shavings and black garlic, I begin asking about the chef. Marco Sanna is from Sardinia and worked at Hélène Darroze’s two Michelin-starred restaurant at the Connaught, which is where he first met Dhruv, who also trained at the Connaught following MasterChef.

But what about Marco’s food? My main dish of pressed shoulder of lamb, red cabbage, vanilla mash, savoy cabbage parcel of braised lamb (£19) is superb. The lamb is tender and rich, perfectly complemented by the vanilla mash. It’s a taste sensation.

214 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield
020 8870 8417, www.jollygardeners.com

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