The Blacksmiths Table Restaurant Washington Village closes after 25 years

On 21st October 2013, The Blacksmiths Table restaurant in Washington Village finally closed its doors.  It's a shame ... but it ends 25 years of disappointment for me.  The restaurant is in a fantastic building - a former blacksmiths, a historic location, a wonderful setting in the heart of picturesque Washington Village.  It was once described, probably by a reviewer in the Evening Chronicle, as "one of the best if not the best restaurant in the North East".  Wot a crock of shit!

Photo by me taken in 1989/1990
A statement on their website blames their closure on, amongst other things, the tough economic trading conditions that have been experienced over the last few years.  This just doesn't ring true.  Times are tough, but good restaurants continue to prosper - and Washington is crying out for a few more good restaurants or pubs serving quality grub.  Good pubs and restaurants continue to be packed, the demand is there - this place should be coining it in!

During this recession, there have been a number of new restaurants that have opened and continue to survive. In 2009, a new Italian restaurant, Amiros, open up in what was The George pub in Harraton.  This restaurant is always busy at weekends, whenever I go there with my wife. Having our young children with us, we tend to go for the early evening slot between 5pm and 7pm, and it's always busy then.  By the time we leave the restaurant, it is practically full - with diners who honour their reservations (unlike The Blacksmith Table's customers apparently). Similarly, The Tavistok Italian restaurant at Portobello, Birtley, which opened up a couple of years ago, is also very popular.  There are many other "gastro" type pubs in the areas around Washington that continue to thrive.

Back in June 1988, I visited the Blacksmiths Table restaurant,for the first time, shortly after it had opened, and I loved it: the building, its interior, even the menu - which had dishes with local or historical names e.g. Barmston Bird .   Back then, what I thought was quaint, novel, and appetising even, 20 years later, I found to be tired alliterations which were bordering on the fraudulent - especially given the trend over recent years for "locally sourced" produce:  Barmston is a grim council estate - not an organic farm*.

The owners tried too hard to be an up-market restaurant, had pretensions of grandeur, aspired to haute cuisine - but could never deliver gourmet food.  It was pricey too.  I would visit every few years or so, expecting an improvement, but like Charlie Brown in the long running gag in the Peanuts cartoon - where Lucy pulls the (American) football out of the way just before Charlie kicks it, I would end up a crumpled heap on the floor, figuratively speaking, bitterly disappointed.

One criticism of the restaurant was that the tables were crammed in; this is true but it didn't feel like it when you were dining. Intimate perhaps, but my problem was with the small bar area you were forced to sit in before waiting an age to be shown to your table; having to go throughout the rigmarole, the tired ritual, where the restaurant owner explains patronisingly, but with some flourish, how the menu worked and what was on.

You cannot but admire his ability, stamina and acting ability; how many times over the last 25 years has he delivered the same routine to every diner - with the same dollop of theatre and smugness, as if it was his first time. Even if he delivered the line "You realise, I really do know more about food and wine than you do", you would feel compelled to agree with him and be thankful you had been allowed on to this hallowed establishment.

Last time I was there though, I did feel sorry for him, his heart did not appear to be in it, but as if he had to go through the motions to earn his crust. Perhaps it was the fake bonhomie which kept punters coming back for more - the restaurant did have a local loyal customer base - but for me, it never masked the poor quality of the dishes served up.

Sorry Blacksmiths Table, sad to see you go, but I really do hope a revamped restaurant opens in its place soon.

* Aye OK, I know, there is a farm in Barmston - but it doesn't supply Barmston Bird or any other produce to The Blacksmith Table.  Oh, and there are some nice parts in Barmston, including "Snob Hill".

"...repeat, cafe is now closed - i'm off to Carricks for my doughnuts. . over"


  1. Apparently they called the chef Jiz cos of the quality of his roux


Post a Comment

Popular Posts