There are few more exciting treats for a self-confessed foodie than learning you’re heading to Ilkley’s Michelin-starred restaurant, The Box Tree, to celebrate a friends birthday lunch.
It was one of those wet November days, perfect to be tucked up in the Yorkshire Dales while continuing my Michelin Star journey through the county.
The Box Tree sits modestly, like a small quaint cottage, on Church Street where it has been a dining institution pretty much since it first opened as a tea room in 1962, winning two stars in 1977 and still retaining one of those precious stars.
The Box Tree matches its cottage-like exterior, with old-fashioned furniture, ornate armchairs and grand, gold-framed paintings on the wall in the ‘bar area’. A suited waiter swiftly took our coats and showed us towards a pair of cosy chairs where we were asked if we’d like some drinks.
Not long after they arrived, a plate of six – three each – exquisite-looking canapes were presented – including a melt-in-your-mouth pink peppercorn macaroon, which had a hot peppery kick immediately softened by a cream cheese and chive filling. We tried to leave at least 10 seconds between devouring each one. It was in this room we were given the menus to browse.
I loved these porcelain tea light holders which were on all the tables.
We chose to eat from the tree-course Menu Du Jour.
A waiter then showed us to our seats, through one dining room, ducking under a low ceiling and into another small room which had varying sized circular tables. It was all very plush – thick carpet, high-backed cushioned chairs, crisp white tablecloths, candles glowing inside thin, domed china holders and a small orchid on each table.
The attention to little detail was everywhere to be seen. Take this butter carved as a rose … it was shame to break into it!
My starter was pure wet day comfort, butternut squash veloute, swirled with Crowdie goats cheese curd.
My main course was pan fried fillet of stone bass, San Marzano tomatoes, aubergine puree, and caper beurre noisette.
It was only in between courses – when your attention was not on every morsel on the plate – that you could take in the surroundings as we watched the staff glide in and out. Dishes were brought in on a tray and met by a waiter who then described each plate before placing them on the table.
One of the waiters had a sharp-looking implement which was used to quickly scrape the crumbs away from each table in between courses – a surprise when it first happened and a reminder of how out-of-the-norm we were.
Dessert was raspberry soufflé with raspberry sauce, which was beautifully light and fluffy – swelling up about an inch above the bowl and skilfully coated with a sugary biscuit crunch. The waiter cleverly poured the sauce into the soufflé and made me a smiley face. Just for me I hoped!
A pot of green tea was served with handmade chocolates which were selected from the chocolate box, rounded off a spectacular lunch.
I feel Simon Gueller will be retaining the star for his bijou Ilkley cottage where Marco Pierre White started out, long enough for another visit when there is an excuse for another celebration.