What are bank holidays for, but to loll around watching a plethora of vacuous daytime TV interspersed with a trip to your local gastro-pub? I had to satisfy my foodie need to check out a place that has been on my radar since last year, and so it was on Good Friday that I eventually found myself Quarndon bound for a trip to The Joiners Arms.

The Joiners Arms is owned by the same cool bods at The Bull’s Head in Repton; read my original review here (their desserts are to die for). The exterior of the Joiners Arms isn’t promising and the car-park lies like a barren stretch of forgotten land. Inside, the place is full of character, from the beautifully rustic wood theme to the stunning Burlington toilet. Yes I had to mention the toilet, because the ladies’ powder room and facilities are pretty and you’d be a fool not to check it out. (I’m assured that the gents is equally tasteful.)

We ordered at the busy bar, were served by shiny happy people channelling their inner REM, and took a seat near the window overlooking the front courtyard. It’s a place much like Sean Connery – you can’t help falling in love with it. Food was served pretty efficiently within 20 minutes. I had the Joiners Club Sandwich (Josper roasted chicken breast, crispy chorizo, tomato, baby leaf, mayonnaise on white bloomer, real chips).

Quarndon gastro-pub
Chicken & Chorizo Club Sandwich

The chips were tasty – a little scrappy for my liking, otherwise very tasty and moreish. Big chips were piled on the top of the chip pot, with 95% of its contents consisting of crispy ends. The sandwich itself was unfortunately an anti-climax. A sandwich made up of three thick bread slices is always going to be filling and something of a carb-fest. I felt the sandwich was an unpalatable mountain which I had trouble eating and resorted to discarding the top bread layer. The bread was dry, the chicken dry, there was no tomato (which would have helped as when salted, would have released juices to create some form of moisture), and the only chorizo in the whole gigantic sandwich was half a medallion. I was expecting more and I was frankly, disappointed. The salad dressing on the side salad was very good, in all its pungent mustardy glory.

Spicy Thai Beef Fillet Salad
Spicy Thai Beef Fillet Salad

The Dude had more luck with his main. Spicy Thai Fillet Beef Salad (cashew nuts, baby leaf, bamboo shoots, baby corn, cherry tomato, bean sprouts, red onion, spicy Thai dressing) went down a treat. I snaffled a fork-full and loved it too (the spicy Thai dressing is very special indeed, with a gorgeous hint of ginger and soy). It is little wonder that this main is also available as a starter, because I can see its mouth-watering appeal to those who love scrumptious tasty Thai dishes.

Chocolate Guinness Cake (with liquor marinated cherries, hot fudge sauce, clotted cream) was the saviour of the meal. Gorgeously moist sponge with a hint of malty Guinness on the swallow was sublime. The cherries were heaven on a plate, and I have no shame in admitting that I wolfed the whole dish down in three minutes.

Gastro-pub Quarndon, dessert
Chocolate Guinness Cake

As I looked around the busy pub, I spotted a newly vacated table with two dishes which looked barely touched. I got chatting to a couple dining next to our table who also said their sandwich (they had the same as I) was dry and “too bready”. Just a suggestion to the team of chefs – perhaps the sandwich bread could come pre-buttered? Or for those who are calorie counting, maybe serve the sandwich with some butter, or include moist ingredients such as beef tomato, or slices of cucumber, or perhaps a home-made relish to dispel the dryness?

I love the Joiners Arms. It has that rare appeal of making you feel welcome and fills you with warm comfort. I will be returning for sure – but I will be steering clear of that sandwich.

Star Rating 1-10 (1: “I’d rather eat my own shoe, I hated it that much” – 10: “I’d pillage for a meal here”.)

Food: 4

Value for money: 7

Ambience: 9

Rate or Slate? Rate. Just about.

Address: 60 Church Road, Quarndon, Derby DE33 5JA

Tel: 01332 552 875

Website: www.theja.co.uk