PUBLISHED: 12:02 25 July 2013 | UPDATED: 12:02 25 July 2013
Paddy Bishopp and wife Sarah take their place at The Table in Woodbridge.
After firing probably my 20th question at Vernon Blackmore, owner of The Table and the highly respected Anchor in Woodbridge, he commented that it was like being on a first date. I have known Vernon for years, as a chef, outside caterer and as a friend but this was probably the first time I had actually sat down and really got to know the man who has made a success out of his passion for food.
In the last five years Vernon has become an important part of the Woodbridge food revolution, a town that now boasts a number of fabulous places to eat.
Like a lot of chefs, Vernon’s love for food came from his mother, herself a talented chef who always cooked with fresh ingredients and Vernon grew up believing that ‘the whole world ate as well as I did’. His parents opened their first café in Maidstone in the early 1980s and then a pub in Kent that specialised in Malaysian food, very cutting edge for this time.
Being a close family they decided to look for a business that would give them more of a work/family balance and reading about a beautiful building in Suffolk that was on the market they opened Satis House in Yoxford, who many will remember fondly for its amazing hospitality and Malaysian food.
After helping establish Satis House, Vernon set out on his own. His first venture was The Spice Bar in Woodbridge and it was here that Vernon perfected what is now his aim for all his restaurants, ‘before the food create the right atmosphere which is relaxed and brings enjoyment’. When he felt that The Spice Bar was exactly how he wanted it, he sold up to start his new venture which is still going strong, The Anchor Pub in Woodbridge. Here he managed to create that tricky beast, a drinking man’s pub with a great restaurant, once again with his South East Asian influence. It was also the start of the recession but with Vernon’s model of informal dining at affordable pricing it has gone from strength to strength.
And now, five years on, comes Vernon’s next challenge – the Table, only three doors up the hill from the Anchor.
We arrived for lunch on a beautiful sunny Wednesday and could not turn down the opportunity to sit outside in the welcoming courtyard, where the scattering of small tables make you feel that you could be in the Dordogne or Tuscany. This comment brought a smile to Vernon’s face as it was exactly the effect he was seeking. The Table is a move away from the Asian-style cuisine for which Vernon is so well known (though he has kept a curry on the menu). He wanted to set up what he felt Woodbridge was missing, a brasserie style restaurant concentrating on fresh ingredients including fish, minute steak, tapas style snacks and what has become a very popular salad bar that serves quiche, cold meats and the most amazing selection of salads.
Vernon joined us for a pre-lunch drink and on the first properly sunny day of summer a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio Rose from Laroma, Italy, perfectly hit the spot – to the extent that when we left we ordered some for Mrs B’s birthday lunch a few weeks later.
It took a while to choose from the many dishes on the menu but when we did we chose well. Sarah started with smoked seafood platter, featuring smoked prawns, trout, pate and the highlight – melt in the mouth smoke cured beetroot salmon which is actually cured on site. I opted for the soused mackerel with a new potato salad . The fish was fresh and succulent and served with a salad of potato, carrot and onion in a wonderful mayonnaise. To accompany it we had another Italian wine, a white Palladium Garganega, Veneto, Fattori Giovanni. A great choice and I do recommend asking for advice on the wine here, they know their grapes.
Sarah just cannot resist a Vernon curry so for main course she had her favourite Malaysian beef curry with rice. I decided on the minute steak with fries and green salad. It was as good as any I have enjoyed in Paris or the French countryside, perfectly cooked, unfatty and accompanied by skinny fries with that wonderful crispness to them. Even the salad had the perfect dressing. With this I enjoyed a glass of Portuguese red, Vega, Douro.
I am not a big pudding eater at the best of times, especially on a hot sunny day at lunch, but for Suffolk Magazine we persevered and were very glad we did. My chocolate cheesecake was delicious but Sarah played a blinder, choosing lemon posset and mint ice cream which kept her smiling all the way home.
Eating at The Table is a wonderful experience and Vernon and his team, (and Vernon stresses it is the great team around him that makes it work), have really excelled themselves here. Plans are afoot for a summer of street food and markets in The Courtyard to include farm foods to take home, barbecue with grilled fish and meat and potentially a seafood bar.
It’s not just the food but the whole experience that makes a visit to The Table so special. Vernon has achieved exactly what he wanted – a relaxed and informal envoronment with wonderful freshly cooked food. The place for ladies at lunch, a family outing, meeting up with friends or perfect for that first date!