The Box Tree

126 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

5/5

Review type

Things to do

Location

Date of travel

April, 2016

Product name

The Box Tree

Product country

Ilkley

Product city

Ilkley

Travelled with

Reasons for trip

Ilkley in Yorkshire is a picturesque, up-market Spa town in the lush greenery of the Wharfe Valley. It sits sedately at the foot of extensive moorland which rises up gently on each side of the town.

The town has a long history, with archaeological finds dating back to 11,000 BC and is also home to a rich supply of early Bronze Age sites on Ilkley Moor, dating back to 1800BC. These include cup and ring carvings and a standing stone circle.

The Romans also left some building legacy and a stone plaque dedicated to Verbena, the river goddess. This was recovered from the bed of the River Wharfe in the valley bottom.

These people knew a great place to live.

The current day market and Spa town is a genteel and well-heeled place, largely Victorian, and built from handsome, Yorkshire stone. It is one of the most expensive places in the County to purchase property.

When the farmhouse on Church Street was built in the 1720’s, there would never have been a thought that it would become one of the foremost restaurants in the Country.

In the late 19th century, box trees were planted in the front garden and the property became Box Tree House.

In the early 1960’s the house was converted into an antiques shop and tea-room, and by 1962, it had become the restaurant we know today. Very chocolate-box in appearance, it still looks like a country cottage with a well kept and colourful front garden, though now part of the larger town centre.

The restaurant became one of the first four in the United Kingdom to achieve two Michelin Stars. Marco Pierre White, amongst several other renowned chefs, trained here.
Although the restaurant later lost both stars over the years, it was quick to regain one and is on an upward trajectory once more.

The premises were acquired and refurbished by Simon and Rena Gueller in 2005.
It has been maintained in excellent order ever since. Simon is a former head chef at Rascasse and the Box Tree currently boasts a Michelin Star and 3 AA Rosettes. The style of the menu here is modern French fine dining.

On entering the premises it is undoubtedly French in style. The internal decor is fresh sage and white with gilt features. Works of art dot the walls whilst various antiques appear throughout. The magnificent leaded, stained glass windows maintain the privacy inside.

There are easy chairs and small tables to relax at in the lounge and bar area just inside the front door. We were greeted immediately by attentive and pleasant staff and put at our ease. An unobtrusive jazzy/blues soundtrack aided the mellow ambience.

The a la carte menu is priced at £65 per head, but we chose the Menu Gourmand, a six course taster menu at £75 per head with a further £30 per head if you choose the Sommelier’s selection of wines to compliment each course. Be still, my beating wallet!

Whilst chilling in the comfortable lounge, we were served with a slate tray upon which rested intriguing canapes. On a curled spoon was a hen’s egg yolk with smoked bacon chips, this was accompanied by squid-ink crackers with pearls of cod roe and lemon, whilst bringing up the rear were savoury beetroot macaroons with goat’s cheese centres.

A delightful and tasty way to commence a meal.

Once seated in the one of the several small dining rooms, opposite the original stone arched farmhouse fireplace, the food courses began to arrive, like a caravan of exotic travellers.

Let me list the caravan:

First to arrive was a cup of spiced butternut squash with crowdie goats curd and warm bread. A thick and heart-warming dish.

The ox tongue, wild garlic and new season morels were exceptional. I had been walking in the Yorkshire Dales earlier that day and the bright green wild garlic brought back the aroma of the ransoms we had walked through in the woodland.

Roast tranche of halibut with oranges, fennel and coriander was simply sensational.

Fillet of beef, pink as a sunrise, came with mushrooms, daube en cassolette and potato foam. The flavours on this plate, ranging from intense to wonderfully subtle, danced on my taste-buds like a young Darcy Bussell.

Bitter chocolate sorbet Poire William was a light and fluffy palette cleanser for the signature Granny Smith apple soufflé with calvados sauce to finish the meal with a flourish.

Coffee and a superb collection of chocolates rounded off the evening.

Feeling hungry now?

The four wines which the Sommelier so expertly chose and patiently described, were a 2013 Chardonnay reserva Vina Mar from Casablanca Valley in Chile, a 2014 Verdejo, Trascampanas Bodega Gotica in Spain, a 2014 Alicante Bouschet Domaine Viranel from France and a 2012 Muscat de Riversaltes ‘Le Vin Des Noces’ from Languedoc, again in France. Each wine complemented the flavours of the food so beautifully, it was almost poetic.

The staff were attentive, professional and friendly all evening and clearly have a passion for, and a knowledge of, the food they are so clearly proud to serve.

It is a little known fact that Yorkshire has more Michelin starred restaurants than any other English County. The Box Tree is one of the standard bearers and does not disappoint.

Note that there is a smart dress code in operation at these premises which makes a pleasant change, making the experience more of an occasion. Some diners, all males significantly, chose to ignore this however, somewhat letting down their glamorous partners, I felt. Each to their own I suppose. Staff didn’t bat an eyelid.

It wasn’t just the high quality, locally sourced ingredients or the stylish presentation that made this meal so outstandingly memorable, but the breadth and subtlety of the small, yet inspired touches which complimented or contrasted the flavours. This was so expertly done.

For those with an interest in food and cookery, the Box Tree operates cookery demonstrations, ‘chef for a day’ experiences and also caters for weddings and private dining for up to 50 guests.

A three course Sunday lunch at £35 per head is perhaps a more affordable option to sample the same great experience.

Further details can be found at “www.theboxtree.co.uk”:http://www.theboxtree.co.uk, though I found the site user-unfriendly, the dark colours making it difficult to read and some section headers having side-ways writing making it even more awkward to use. A re-think here is needed.

If this is the only criticism I can level, then why not box-clever and pay a visit to this gastronomic delight. It is not cheap, but then you have to pay for such quality.

This visit will last long in the memory.

Paul

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