Saturday was one of those weird nights. During the drive from Ventura to Ojai my iPod jammed and mercilessly played Abba over and over. We arrived at The Village Jester with Mamma Mia going through our heads.
The Village Jester looks larger than its former incarnation, Pangea. The palm reader storefront is gone and now houses street-view dining tables during the day or a band at night. The ceiling rafters are exposed, and a Leslie Marcus show dressed the teal and cranberry walls.
As we sat down and started looking at the menu, Nigel, the English owner of the pub, introduced himself and asked if we minded him turning up the sound on the television set. He explained that the Mayweather-Hatton fight was on, and as we looked up we discovered we were the only females there.
“This is not a sports bar, it’s a pub,” he said. “So if the television will bother you we won’t put on the sound.” I felt the weight of the entire male “pub-ulation” on me when we agreed to turn up the sound. As Pat Benetar’s voice faded out, the roar of the crowd rose.
My sister and I ordered a small bowl of chili, the Jester salad, chicken piccata and the Jester pasta with shrimp. We tried to talk in-between the cries of “Go Ricky, Go Ricky!”
I impulsively looked up at a couple of crucial moments during the fight when the crowd yelled and instantly regretted it. During the breaks between rounds Nigel would call out, “Ok! Everybody has one minute to order a drink!”
The environment was as genteel as a bar full of men watching a fight could be, and the staff was gracious but it did make for a distracting review.
We quite enjoyed our jester salad with pixie tangerine vinaigrette and the homemade chili but found both of our entrees lacked something. Parts were done very well and others lacking in basic ways. With everything going on that night we decided to go back the next day so we could concentrate on the food.
Sunday was a crystal clear day. We entered The Village Jester and chose a seat on their large outdoor patio. We could see a slice of mountain and streaks of sun crossed our table. There was a slight chill in the air, so the staff ignited a propane heater.
Our waitress and most of the people around us were hungover from fight night. It was the perfect time for some good old pub food. We ordered the fresh cod fish and chips, and the angus beef, stuffed bleu cheese burger. We dove into the fries, which were just the right amount of crispy and salty. The fish batter was thin and crunchy, and the cod steamed as I broke a piece open. We sprinkled everything with malt vinegar and for a brief, holy moment, I felt like I was on the East Coast. This was by far the most authentic fish n’ chips I’ve had in Ventura County.
The bleu cheese burger was my companion’s favorite. It was perfectly cooked, and the bleu cheese in the center made for rich, melty bites. The toasted bun crunched with each bite. “I don’t need it, but this is where true passion comes in.” sighed my friend as she reached for the last quarter of the burger.
I also discovered an amazing random fact. If you have café au lait while eating fish and chips, the battered fish tastes like a beignet! My friend didn’t believe me, but after she tried it I could hardly pry my coffee away from her and had to order a second cup.
We found The Village Jester accommodating and lively. If you go there I recommend sticking to the traditional pub menu, as it is done so well — the stuffed burger, meaty homemade chili and crisp fish and chips are very satisfying — especially after fight night!