Blacksmith’s Table, The Green, Washington Old Village
There aren’t many creatures Jeremy Cajiao can’t cook, but the African python proved a fillet too far.
“We grilled, poached, marinated and plain boiled the creature, but absolutely nothing worked,” Jeremy told me. “We just couldn’t get any flavour out of it.”
If it doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t get beyond the serving hatch at Jeremy’s Blacksmith’s Table.
The 33-year-old has taken over the helm of the restaurant from his mum and dad, Paul and Pam, as it celebrates its 25th year in the village.
Jeremy and his backroom staff are already making an impression.
While the snake didn’t make it to the menu, other exotic creatures have proved more accommodating.
Kangaroo, pan-fried with a spicy noodle salad, hops onto the a la carte menu as a starter, as does crocodile deep-fried in beer batter and served with a sweet chilli and coriander dip.
The adventurous additions come from Jeremy’s desire to experiment.
Themed wine-tasting evenings, where a country’s traditional dishes are served up with complementary native wines, have provided the inspiration for some of the meals on offer.
The kangaroo and crocodile creations emerged from the Australian wine tasting evening, the unsuccessful snake from an African-themed evening.
Next up is the double header of a South African and Australasian night at the restaurant tomorrow.
The Blacksmith’s Table is not all about the unusual, far from it. The decor is homely and traditional, harking back to its old-time roots (the building has reputedly stood on the Green for more than 400 years).
The walls are festooned with historical memorabilia and there’s a warming glow throughout.
Like all historically-significant buildings, there’s tales of ghosts. In the case of the Blacksmith’s Table, there are three.
So when we landed there for Sunday dinner, ghost spotting was top of the agenda for our two boys.
We were seated in a booth at the end of the restaurant, adjacent to the table where the ghost of a blacksmith has been spotted observing the diners. He didn’t show up.
The three-course Sunday lunch is a very accommodating £15 with plenty of options. The starters included garlic mushrooms topped with blue cheese, and a refreshing melon with strawberries and mango sorbet.
I opted for the barbecue-glazed chicken in a spicy noodle salad.
Sunday dinner equals traditional roast beef and at the Blacksmith’s Table I’m happy to report they don’t skimp of quality and quantity – lashings of gravy, crispy Yorkshire puds, roasties and veg.
Between courses we chatted with the staff, who confirmed that ghostly goings on had indeed occurred. Many’s the time, they reported, the colour-co-ordinated napkins had been switched around after tables had been set.
The culprits are either the blacksmith, the highwayman Robert Hazlitt, or the ghost of a woman killed for being a witch in the 1600s. The boys reckoned it was the highwayman. They could just tell.
What they couldn’t tell was the mystery ingredient in their dad’s choice of pudding, a home-made apple pie with custard that should have come with a warning from the British Heart Foundation. Superb.
And the mystery ingredient? There’s amaretto in the custard.
Another exotic twist from a restaurant that, while playing on its traditional roots, likes to conjure up a few surprises along the way.