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Gary Marshall

simon gueller back at the stove?

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whilst it might not mean much to many of you the box tree in ilkley does have a certain place in the uk's gastronomic history as the first serious restaurant that marco-pierre white worked at and gained his interest in fine dining.

personally it was always a place i had read about but never had the funds to go, marco at one point was finishing service in london (at the canteen i think) then driving to yorkshire to do sundays at the box tree and then drive back, it didn't happen for long.

i did eventually make it to the box tree in 1997 to celebrate my return to the right side of the pennines after a sojourn in manchester, it was very pleasant, very french and very old school.

of late it has struggled to keep chefs, lost its star and i did not even realise it had closed.

It is neat symmetry that simon has picked up the box tree, he is a friend of marco's and worked at harvey's with him. i often thought his cooking was as close as i'll get to a trip to harvey's, he certainly can cook and i for one look forward to seeing what he can do with such a historic restaurant.

cheers

gary

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could be very good news indeed if it comes off - do we have any more details? dates? prices? and in which case it'll be another one to add to list of restaurants to visit (mortgage payments and pensions aren't that important are they?!)

Does this mean that the Leeds guide that Tarka referred to in another thread will need a "trips out of town" section?

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Sounds good, only went to Box Tree once, on a Times cheap lunch in around 2000, was ok, limited by the £15 menu. The room was hideous though, like an old ladies house, full of chintz!

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could be very good news indeed if it comes off - do we have any more details? dates? prices? and in which case it'll be another one to add to list of restaurants to visit (mortgage payments and pensions aren't that important are they?!)

Does this mean that the Leeds guide that Tarka referred to in another thread will need a "trips out of town" section?

eGullet - Finally, a very real alternative to a comfortable retirement!

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A little more info here. According to the Caterer, Gueller is keeping quiet about his exact plans for the restaurant, so whether it will mark his return to the stoves and an attempt to reclaim a Michelin star for himself we will have to wait and see. He currently runs what I assume to be a successful catering company so he may want to concentrate on that and install an up and coming chef at the restaurant. But who knows, this could be his last hurrah.

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This is great news. I work in Ilkley and it has missed the presence of The Box Tree as a Yorkshire dining institution. Never eaten there before as it was already losing its reputation when I moved to the area.

I am excited about a new Gueller venture tho' as I was always a fan of his eponymous restaurant - Pigs Trotters with black pud - excellent.

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Ah, the Box Tree, I remember it well, first went there in '71 or '72 and it was the restaurant that sparked my abiding interest in food, at that time there were very few restaurants of that quality (Thornbury Castle and The Gavroche spring to mind) and certainly none that I had been to, it was, as they say, a revelation, an epiphany. The fixed price for three courses (before any extras) was £3.25, which was a hefty sum for food back then. Went regularly for 8 or 9 years before a new family and move out of the area stopped the pilgrimages to this gastronomic shrine but in all that time the food and service were always superb. Revisited about 5 years ago but under the new owners it was but a shadow of its former self, competent but not exciting. Anything that can bring back glory to this fabled establishment has got to be welcome.


Edited by britcook (log)

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It's very good news for those of us who live in Ickley. The Box Tree has really suffered over the past couple of years, barely being able to hold onto a chef, and being very limited by Madame Avis's preconceptions of what her restaurant should be--it seemed to ignore the world around it which could have been fine if the sort of cooking it was providing wasn't being bettered by pubs in the dales charging a tenth of the price. She also had little incentive to change the place because she owns so much property in Ickley, bought as result of money presumably made when the Box Tree was a success. She used it instead as a place to socialise and to do the upper class equivalent of propping up the bar chatting to her cronies.

It's also a logical move as Guellar did a couple of weekend special sessions there earlier in the year (he seems to have been working as a consultant for the last year)

In the last listing on my website, I'd shoved it down to fourth in Ikley alone, behind even the local Thai...a bit disingenuous on my part, but a sign of how fr it has falen from its hey-day.

It also means that the building, which is one of the town's oldest, will be preserved. And while I hope the chintz goes, and the unctuousness of some of the waiting staff, I sincerely hope there's no attempt to gut the inside and turn it into Rascasse Mk.2 (I know it's hardly a wharf-side venue, but the delight is the small and inteimate rooms...)

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In the last listing on my website,

For which the URL is...

Misspelt! I worry about people who have difficulty spelling the place where they live (unless that's Yorkshire humour tha' noz)

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Uhhr, it's deliberate!

URL (and there's not much about food, which is why I didn't list it...) is..

http://ilkley.blogs.com/ilkleyrocks

and I assure you britcook, I misspell the name frequently and equally deliberately (though looking back at my last post on here, I have no excuse for misspelling everything else...)

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...I misspell the name frequently and equally deliberately

It looked too much like a deliberate misspelling to be an accident but, as I have found in the past, attempts at subtle British humour don't always travel well. I assume that the ilkleyrocks are the Cow and Calf? (and that will probably miss more than most).

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Indeed! Well, a bit of a pun...the first post to it (now long gone as I've moved host) was about Jimi Hendrix's abortive gig in the town in 1968..

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think I read somewhere that it's due to open on the 9th September - but no info on website as yet. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

cheers

Yin

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And I've heard the 16th, so it's probably still a bit up in the air!

Nice that Simon and his Mrs were happy to take the award for 'great champagne lists', even though that was the previous administration, and they've got rid of the old sommellier.

Still, I guess at this stage any publicity that doesn't ask, 'Simon, you're a great cook, but you've completely failed to run the last place you were at, what gives you the confidence that you can make this one work?' is going to be taken.

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in think a kitchen refurb has delayed things but haven't heard any specific dates as yet.

i'll certainly be heading down as soon as i can.

is it the 'trophee gosset celebris 2004' that you are refering to bertie?

i saw they were nominated (along with winteringham fields) but thought the results weren't out for another month?

gary

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Yup it is...I've only seen the local rag commenting, so it might well have been press for getting nominated. Have to admit I was more entranced by the piccie of Mr and Mrs G. trying to crowd previous sommellier (noted as 'former employee') out of the frame, and probably didn't take the whole article in.

Anything longer than a paragraph will see me doz...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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yes, it opened on friday night.

i was going to head over on sunday but for the first weekend they were closed to give them time to ensure everything was in order.

they have slightly unusual opening hours, tuesday to saturday evening only and lunch on sunday. I can see from an operating perspective it's nice not to do lunch but from an economic point of view if the chefs are there prepping they might as well do the odd lunch too!

i may well see you there next sunday!

cheers

gary

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well, mrs marshall has revision to do and the choice was go to the box tree or accept the invite from mrs marshall senior for lunch, so i'm going on sunday!

had pleasant chat with Rena Gueller, it sounds like the refurbishment has been a much bigger job that expected but they have tried to stay true to the identity and history of the box tree so expect a sympathetic update.

they were hoping i think to open quietly and get the place running smoothly but demand has been very strong so far.

they seem acutely aware of the heritage of the box tree and the chance finally put some cooking that is worthy of the restaurant was too big an opportunity to pass up.

If the food is anything like rascasse/guellers then i think it will sit well in the surroundings, although they too are fans of Anthony's, i expect the food to be more at the 'haute comfort food' end of the spectrum. Which is fine by me.

the 'no lunch' policy may be re-visited if there is demand, there wasn't under the 'old' regime, it also takes the pressure off the brigade but may change in the future.

hopefully the website will be back up and running shortly.

gary

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I'm a bit gutted that they don't open for weekday lunch. I had visions of creeping in once a week for lobster thermidor mmmmm.....

The menu does look good, definately on the comfort food side of things, but no bad thing - especially if they maintain comfort sized portions :-)

P

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I'm a bit gutted that they don't open for weekday lunch. I had visions of creeping in once a week for lobster thermidor mmmmm.....

The menu does look good, definately on the comfort food side of things, but no bad thing - especially if they maintain comfort sized portions :-)

P

Rena said they'd been suprised by the number of people who had asked about lunch so it is not fixed in stone, they thought the demand wasn't there and in the early days doesn't put pressure on the kitchen.

they still have the outside catering business, they could come to you once a week :biggrin:

cheers

gary

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A quiet night in on Saturday saw me raring to go for a trip to the Box Tree on Sunday. It's amazing how much time you release by being full of beans at 8.30am rather than neurofen on a sunday morning! A simpler-than-it-sounds car and two trains got me to Ilkley in plenty of time for my 1pm reservation. (Ilkley is about 1/2 an hour from leeds station, trains run once every hour)

The restaurant is easy to find being on the main road through Ilkley and once inside the miserable sunday weather was quickly forgotten.

The interior has been completely re-furbished, re-upholstered and re-painted nothing jars, everything looks like it has been there for years, which in most cases it has. It's just had a face lift.

And immediately it is a very welcoming space, both guellers, simon and rena, appear captivated by the place and think they are lucky to have it , they are right. It has a certain magic, somehow the atmosphere of thousands of dinners over the years are soaked in the walls.

That's just the walls, the plaster ceilings are another delight and you've not even had a drink or anything to eat yet!

So i settled in with a glass of champagne and had a quick tour of the new dining areas. To regulars the layout is pretty much the same, a bar area with low level arm chairs and antiques, the middle room split in two with a large range fireplace separating and the main dining room at the end.

Upstairs is the traditional coffee lounge and the not-quite-finished private dining room.

In a marked departure from their usual menu and the box tree's traditional offering, the sunday menu is a bit more relaxed and casual.

It offers 3 choices for each course, from memory; a pumpkin soup with parmesan crouton, chicken mosaic and seared scallops with beurre noissette, celeriac puree and fried lovage as a garnish. I think you can guess which one i had :wink:

the scallops were decent sized and each were seasoned lightly with a few grains of salt, the celeriac was pureed to an inch of its life and almost double cream consistency. And it looked great, simon's plating has always been very clear and precise.

On the mains were roast pork, roast beef with yorkshire pud and jus roti and john dory with beurre blanc. Can you guess what i had?

Now that is a difficult one because all 3 are personal favourites :raz:

If it wasn't for the fact that a quiet night on saturday found me clear of head and palette on sunday it would certainly have been a soothing hangover clearing roast, but my love of butter, (second only to my love of salt) won the day. That and the thought of a nice bottle of chardy that would go with the scallops too made the decision.

It arrived in a plate-y bowl with two decent fillets of dory on a melange of perfectly prepared veg. Very few people treat veg with this sort of respect nowadays.

Each potato was barrel turned, each head of asparagus had the bottom centimetre trimmed and the thicker stem was trimmed at both ends. The fine beans, well, there's not a lot you can do with them. But you can glaze them with butter, which they did, and there's not much you can do with carrots, but you can julienne them into perfect rectangles. Which they did. Stick a slick of lovely beurre blanc in the bottom and you have a classic dish. As my american friends would say... it rocked!

It's not new news that i'm a greedy git and with 'nowt better to do than spend the afternoon marinating myself, i added a cheese course to the set 3 courses (£18 for 2 £25 for 3 i think).

The cheese was pre-plated selection on a stone/granite plate with grapes and walnut bread. It was a generous selction of a salty yorkshire blue, wensleydale a smoked cheddar and some others that escape me, about 6 in total. A glass of, i'm going to say barbera, italian red stood up well to this. I should have ordered a bottle as at this point my friend turned up. He had hoped to join me for lunch, but as his wife was away he had the kids for the weekend and babysitters were not forthcoming.

If you were in the box tree on sunday, apologies if we disturbed you, i think they may have been the youngest guests in the restaurant ever at 2 and 5 but a supply of grapes and ice cream kept them reasonably contented whilst pete and myself worked our way through another couple of glasses of red before mounting our assault on the desert list.

I had already ordered the white chocolate and gingerbread cannelloni and pete had a souffle. The Cannelloni was very much like my childhood fave of brandy snaps and very more-ish, the souffle looked good but between pete and his kids i didn't get a look in so can't comment on that!

Coffee and Petit fours followed the p4's little macaroony type thingies. I scoffed a lot of these.

With regards to the wine they have bought the old box tree cellar which is pretty impressive in its scope. They have tried to rationalise it from i think over 800 bins down to a more manageable level but it still runs to over 400 names. I picked a 1993 olivier leflaive bourgogne Les Setilles at £34.30. It was a bit cold to start with but out of the ice and in the glass for a while it opened up, a nice drop.

Simon gave me a tour of the kitchen, it looks very smart with a bank of induction hobs, which appear to work by witchcraft. together with some new toys such as water baths and low temperature ovens (for resting meat).

Although Simon and Rena have been out of the restaurant scene for 2 years they show no sign of being ring rusty, if anything they have come back brighter than ever, full of enthusiasm and with a restaurant that really suits their cooking and where they are personally. It's been hard work to get the box tree up and runnning with several 5am finishes for the brigade, but on sunday's form it was well worth it.

I look forward to a full attack on the a la carte sooner rather than later......

highly recommended.

www.theboxtree.co.uk (not quite up yet)

01943 608484

gary


Edited by Gary Marshall (log)

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Its seems like a long time since I sat opposite a strict vegetarian BT collegue in Rascasse, Leeds and tucked into Gueller's signature pigeon and foie wrapped in cabbage cooked very pink and served with the legs, feet intact. Hopefully, my cunning plan to get up to Ilkley in the near future will come to fruition and it won't be too long before I get a chance to sample the great man's food once more. All I need now is a willing vegetarian.

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. All I need now is a willing vegetarian.

sorry, can't help you there.

don't 'ave 'em in yarkshire.

if you want a dedicated carnivorous companion, give me a bell :raz:

cheers

gary

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