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simon gueller back at the stove?


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I reviewed Gueller's for t'Big Ish when I was fairly strict veggie. Yon chef sayeth, 'problem with vegetarian is whatever you do to it, it's still just a mass of vegetables...', which I found a little unadventurous.

Mrs. B. was (and is) red in tooth and claw though so we got the blood racked side of things.

Don't know if G. has improved his supply for veggies now.

Looking at the menu, there were a number of dishes that were straight lifts from his old menu--which is good or bad depending what you thgouht of it.

Jeez, I'm sitting on the fence this am.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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Went for Sunday lunch , menu as Gary said, only with Wild Salmon standing in for the John Dory. The Mrs and her mum both had the Roast Beef. Meat was good if somewhat fatty. I had the salmon which was lovely, though, well...

Overall, 7-ish out of 10. The food was good (the langoustine risotto as a starter was excellent, very delicate flavourings, just the right amount of clarty-ness).

downside markings...

1) No one asked the ladies how they wanted the beef, or even mentioned how it was done.

2) Drinking wine by the glass, no one came to ask if I wanted another till they were clearing the plates away. By which point I didn't.

3) The salmon WAS lovely, but compared to the roasts, its a meal for dieters...why can't fish have some pots or something with it as well? Or at least be somewhat filling.

4) The gingerbread cannelloni wasn't at all gingerybread-y...

So, apart from the last two, its service teething troubles at fault. The place has been cleared of the junk nicely and doesn't stink of mould and rot anymore.

Only other downside was the ex-Emmerdale actress braying right behind us (the whole dining room and they do that trick of putting all three parties within touching distance to save the waiters trouble) and calling the waitresses 'dahhhling'. Which is hardly the Guellers' fault!

We'll be back for 'proper' evening nosh in a couple of weeks.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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Only other downside was the ex-Emmerdale actress braying right behind us (the whole dining room and they do that trick of putting all three parties within touching distance to save the waiters trouble) and calling the waitresses 'dahhhling'. Which is hardly the Guellers' fault!

We'll be back for 'proper' evening nosh in a couple of weeks.

whilst it might help the staff it does also provide a bit of atmosphere too, no?

i can't remember much of the old box tree, it was '97 when i went so, i'm glad you approve of the changes!

cheers

gary

you don't win friends with salad

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, Saturday night and the previous opinions were proved to be well-founded. The food is somewhere between good and very good, but the service is struggling. Rena as maitresses is very good, there was a French bloke who seemed efficient but didn't come near us after taking the food order, and a wine waiter who--well, see below. The complement was made up by two or three local girls, one of whom seemed to have trouble keeping her mouth closed, and had to have things explained to her at least three times every time.

Four of us arrived a bit early, and got put upstairs and, uhhr, left for about ten minutes. So, okay, we WERE early...Ordered food, pointed out we hadn't seen the wine menu by the point we were being taken to the table. So, uhhr, okay...

Seated in a corner near the kitchen door. But two 4-tables were in a space better suited to a 4 and a 2. Which meant the waiters couldn't really get to my chair and spent the night leaning across others to pick up my plate and so on.

Ordered wine, nice tannic Oz Shiraz and a house chablis. The latter arrived with ine waiter saying 'we've sold a lot of these tonight, so it might not be cold'. It was actually warm, so it took fifteen minutes to chill it--no offer of an alternative, no attempt to get another bottle. Gritted teeth result.

Amuses were cucumber (?) jelly things with salmon froth. Very gentle, sharp tang, really rather nice.

Starters--Risotto of lobster for me, excellent, gloopy not soupy. Mosaic of farmhouse chicken, wild mushrooms and pancetta, pronounced over-complicated. Looked interesting, but not a patch on Ramsay's chessboard. Roast sea scallops---great hulking things, very good

Mains--I had Roast Wild Sea Bass, Aubergine caviar, anchovy beignet, confit tomoatoes. V. tasty slice of fish, the anchovy was the most interesting bit. This sort of thing is a dish that often annoys me because the pieces don't fit together, but here it worked very well, the anchovy thing was strange but surprisingly good. Others had veal with sweet potato puree, adjudged fine, and the fillet of beef, with petit onions, lardons and ceps. The meat (this time they had asked how it was wanted) was excellent, but fatty--weird for a fillet, not something we'd encountered before.

Dessert (accompanied by some ports because we'd run out of wine--it was that sort of night)--panna cotta, pistachio biscotti, raspberry milkshake, an amazing dish, or rather three, mixing flavours, alternating fruity joy and alum tight-mouth, also Lemon Tart, which was very large and the cheeses which were too much for one.

Service throughout was, uhhr, interesting...dropped cutlery, much leaning over, many near accidents.

Simon came out a few times and was looking sort of hassled (understandable I guess) and a bit nervous. It was very busy, which was good. As the night went on, Rena was getting more and more irritated--also understandable. Especially when at least two parties started asking her about Anthony's success ('well, of course, Simon did all that, and now we want to be a bit more relaxed...' Hmm, lady doth protest???)

But, anyway, a good night, the food was near to v. good, company excellent, lots of alcohol drunk. We waited and waited for the taxi, then just walked home. £300 sovs for four, including three bottles of wine, a couple of ports. On the expensive side for what it was. Not sure it rates even as the best in Ilkley yet. I'm sure the problems will be ironed out soon.

(and the exam was a beeyatch, but I'm sure I struggled past the pass mark...)

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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panna cotta, pistachio biscotti, raspberry milkshake, an amazing dish, or rather three, mixing flavours, alternating fruity joy and alum tight-mouth,

Not sure it rates even as the best in Ilkley yet. I'm sure the problems will be ironed out soon.

(and the exam was a beeyatch, but I'm sure I struggled past the pass mark...)

Finally made it in for sunday lunch on 17th since I can't seem to find the time for an evening meal at the moment. (exam issues as well I'm afraid).

The welcome and initial service was ok, nothing special. The front room is nice and welcoming and has got rid of the previous peeling paintwork and smell of damp. We were ushered upstairs were unfortunately for a cold October day, the central heating seemed not to be on. Goosebumps ensued since our coats had been whisked away.

I nice light dutch beer arrived promptly nad was a very pleasant aperitif ( sorry I can't remember the name of it - but it was first on the beer list) and a mineral water for the wife ( driving :cool: ) - Source I think.

After a short while we were led downstairs to the dining room. I can see why people might have problems with this room as its not large. Every table is kind of stuck against the wall because its long and narrow. I had taken a recommendation on the wine and a 1999 Gigondas by Guigal arrived - very good indeed.

My starter was pumpkin soup with a roasted scallop nestled within it. I really enjoyed this. I'm not usually the greatest fan of squash soups but this went down well. I think that one of Simons strong points is definitely the soups. My wife had a mushroom risotto which was not too innovative but very fresh tasting and light.

Mains were roast beef for both. Not too much to say here. It was well done, good quality beef etc. etc.

Puds were the raspberry pannacotta described above. Very good. Did remind me of an anthonys style pud somewhat. Great combination though. My wife had passion fruit sorbet - again something we used to really enjoy at Guellers - and it did not disappoint. Coffee and petit fours upstairs again.

Service was adequate/ good. All the staff obviously need some bedding in time but everything was relaxed and very friendly. No complaints really.

All in £120 with wine. The Sunday set menus are £18 for 2 courses and £25 for three.

I do have to disagree with the above though. It is already the best restaurant I've found in Ilkley. Nothing else really offers that level of dining. Still got the Steps restaurant to do as I hear it has a new chef - but I'm not holding my breath.

P

Edited by Plutocrat (log)
Gordon Wallace
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Simon came out a few times and was looking sort of hassled (understandable I guess) and a bit nervous. It was very busy, which was good. As the night went on, Rena was getting more and more irritated--also understandable. Especially when at least two parties started asking her about Anthony's success ('well, of course, Simon did all that, and now we want to be a bit more relaxed...' Hmm, lady doth protest???)

But, anyway, a good night, the food was near to v. good,

Not sure it rates even as the best in Ilkley yet. I'm sure the problems will be ironed out soon.

sounds an interesting evening, i need to get my arse in gear and sort out another table.

conversations about anthony's shouldn't grate, it's the new kid on the block but it's not really competition in terms of style or location even.

The pressure is on to get the box tree right but i think they genuinely don't want to be city centre restaurateurs anymore, the box tree suits where they are with their family etc and it's the sort of place they can still be there in 20 years time it's not as subject to the vaguaries of fashion like the town centre.

as per pluto, despite my limited Ilkley knowledge can't think where else could match the box tree cooking though my friend who lives there said there's some big money being poured into a few places at the mo.

cheers

gary

you don't win friends with salad

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'Twere definitely fillet on the menu, cos I'm looking at it now!

On Ilkley, I'd still say Tubby's is a better experience, but it's a bistro not a 'rest your ant'. Steps needs a new chef, as it's just been awful up to now. The real problem for everyone in Ilkley is the quality of the service they can provide--if you use local schoolkids, you can't expect perfect every time. Or any of the time in some cases

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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On Ilkley, I'd still say Tubby's is a better experience, but it's a bistro not a 'rest your ant'.

surley you're talking quality/price ratio here, rather than saying de facto the food at tubby's is better than guellers?

did you see Jan Moirs review in the saturday telegraph?

a more reasoned piece than her unwarranted trashing of 'guellers' last time which focussed more on her perception of the customer base than the food.

cheers

gary

you don't win friends with salad

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I would agree that Tubbys is a pleasant experience but if price is not a factor then The Box Tree is far better food and surroundings. I always feel too exposed in Tubbys because of all the glass (but mabye thats just my inbuilt paranoia). The food is good enough for lunch but I don't think it can really be compared. I had a very decent duck breast with goats cheese a couple of weeks ago but it does lack a bit of finesse.

Off to hunt down Jan Moirs review now.

P

Gordon Wallace
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To be pretentious, how easy is it to separate your food experience from everything else you experience in a restaurant? Can you simply isolate the sensation of taste (well, even then, vision is also part of one's understanding of a meal, and vision involves what ese is going on around one).

But, nah, I wouldn't argue that the technical ability going into the food is greater at Tubby's than at the Box, but I simply don't believe that the actual experiecne of 'taste'/'consumption' can be separted from everything else when dining out.

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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  • 1 month later...

With a few days holiday to use up i felt an appropriate use of time would be a trip to the box tree with a lovely sleep in the next day to look forward to!

We went up to ilkley on a particulalry cold and miserable thursday evening, we were welcomed in from the cold and the maitre d' noticing sarah's shivering state (even though we'donly walked a few steps from the taxi!) suggested a seat by the fire in the middle room which we happily accepted.

our arrival coincided with that of rena gueller who joined us for a chat whilst we got on with the serious business of a) drinking the very agreeable glasses of house champagne we had ordered b) devouring the excellent canapes and c) the obligatory gossip! Special mention must be made of the canapes, one in particular- a plaited of bread straw thingy with anchovy in the middle of the plaits, they were delicious, our enjoyment of the canapes was evident as rena ordered us some more!

For me the only low point of the evening was the starters, the selection just looking a little uninspired for a new restaurant, the website menu looking much more interesting. From memory there were 2 sperate soups (one a fish with the usual trimmings) can't remember the second. Two foie presentations one a mosaic and one with quail, the scallops facon simon (which i had last time) asparagus with warm hollandaise and duck egg, and lobster risotto with tarragon and lobster essence. I would normally leap at the asparagus but thought it unseasonal so had the rissotto.

Simon's risottos are usually pretty special this one wasn't badly cooked or anything it just didn't seem to gel cohesively, there were reasonable chunks of lobster but didn't discern much tarragon and i also remember it being £14 odd, which i thought a bit toppy price-wise. Sarahs foie gras mosaic was wonderful though, served with a warmed fig and a chutney and toasted brioche.

i was undecided on mains when rena mentioned she'd seen them plating up a squab pigeon and it looked good. so i had that. Bloody hell, it was good. It may have been cooked 'en vessie' but to all intents it was a perfectly roasted, and more importantly, rested, breast, i like pigeon, and i like rare meat but sometimes it can be a bit too rare, you know, like a good vet could get it flying again? this was rare but not bloody with a lovely seared outside.

Then there was the red wine jus, what was a couple of magnums of wine and stock (probably) reduced down to a dark sauce -perfect, but it gets better. The legs often an afterthought tasted almost confitted/griddled with a lovely caramelised underside, they demanded picking up and chewing - so i did. Guess what? there's more ... a small paupiette of savoy cabbage wrapped foie gras, perfectly steamed and sliced in two.

Certainly one of the best dishes i've eaten this year, just goes to show you can foam and dessicate to your hearts content but yet there's still place for the classics intelligently done.

Sarah had i think seabass or turbot with a red wine sauce, that looked and tasted pretty good too, the small bits i got!

Cheese followed, a pre plated selection of english cheese - did the trick, had better/had much worse.

but the finale was a triumph. Pastry has always been a strong point of simon's kitchens, his tatins are fantastic unfortunately they were not on the menu.

what was though was a pear crumble with vanilla ice cream and lime custard. it had been made and served in a fine pastry case, with just the best crumble on top. The accompanyments added to it but i could have eaten two or three crumbles no problem. We shared it and i would have ordered another but wifey forbid it!

Coffees and calva followed in the reception room and all too soon the taxi appeared to whisk us back to our glamorous 5 star hotel (ok, the cow and calf pub!).

We had the '93 les settiles chardonnay with our starters and a domaine d'arlot clos de foret red both very enjoyable, and even better mrs M picked up the not inconsiderable tab! (around £200 don't get me wrong, it was worth it)

I think the box tree certainly has the hallmarks of reinventing one of the great names in english gastronomy. By now i think there will have been some staff changes which will tighten up the ship service wise and take pressure off rena who has had to do most of the 'guest liason' type stuff, i think they'll get there and it should regain a star if it carries on in this vein. they were un/lucky enough to have a michelin inspector through the door on the 3rd night of opening!

they are considering lunches friday/saturday too, if that would suit it might be worth emailing/ringing to let them know the demand is there!

cheers

gary

you don't win friends with salad

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Jay Rayner's rather negative review of The Box tree in today's Observer makes mention of something he calls "the wine test". This is when you dine in a Michelin starred restaurant, or I suppose any other type of restaurant, and ask "them" not to pour the wine for you. If the wine is still poured, then the restaurant has failed.

This seems a rather nonsensical test to me. In establishments above a certain level, it is the expected norm that the wine will be poured by the waiter. If the wine is put out of reach of the customer and poured either too rarely, leaving the poor punter's alcohol levels too low, or so often that it becomes intrusive, then you have an error in service.

However, for a customer to demand to pour their own wine when that is obviously intrinsic to the service offering of the restaurant might be interpreted as sheer obstinacy. What next, "don't bring the food to the table, I'll fetch it from the kitchen when I'm ready."? There is such a thing as making everyone's life needlessly difficult.

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Andy, why is wine poured by waiters intrinsic to quailty service?

Thats not what I said.

However, pouring wine at the appropriate time can be an indication that the front of house are being properly attentive to the customers needs and not just going through the motions.

Put this another way, what if I visited a restaurant that doesn't usually pour wine for it's customers (due to the size of the restaurant, the available number of staff or simply a wish not to be formal), and I demanded that someone pour my wine for me. If that didn't happen, would I then be in a position to say that they had failed my test of good service? Should I be able mark them down for it?

You have to qualify and contextualise the statement that "good service is about giving the guest the experience he/she wants", otherwise the next time I come to Margots I'll be demanding to end the evening with a line of coke and a lap dance from Jordan.

I think Simon Gueller could be forgiven, if when he read the review, for thinking "f***ing hell, now he's criticising us for pouring his wine." I could be way off beam here (I have been before and I will be again no doubt), but I think in the context of that review it was a petty remark and an unnecessary twist of the knife.

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Andy, why is wine poured by waiters intrinsic to quailty service?

Thats not what I said.

However, pouring wine at the appropriate time can be an indication that the front of house are being properly attentive to the customers needs and not just going through the motions.

Put this another way, what if I visited a restaurant that doesn't usually pour wine for it's customers (due to the size of the restaurant, the available number of staff or simply a wish not to be formal), and I demanded that someone pour my wine for me. If that didn't happen, would I then be in a position to say that they had failed my test of good service? Should I be able mark them down for it?

You have to qualify and contextualise the statement that "good service is about giving the guest the experience he/she wants", otherwise the next time I come to Margots I'll be demanding to end the evening with a line of coke and a lap dance from Jordan.

I think Simon Gueller could be forgiven, if when he read the review, for thinking "f***ing hell, now he's criticising us for pouring his wine." I could be way off beam here (I have been before and I will be again no doubt), but I think in the context of that review it was a petty remark and an unnecessary twist of the knife.

WHat a load of total bollocks Andy. It cost £180 for two. And at that price if I say I'll pour the bloody wine myself it should not be too much trouble for the waiter I've spoken to, to pass it on to his colleagues. They didn't do that (not once but four times).

Restaurants in this country are generally too expensive. The least those large sums should get you is a waiting staff who can respond to a polite request. You sound like a maiden aunt, ticking off their nephew for not knowing how to behave. It's that kind of response which holds this country back from getting the kind of service it deserves. Not least because, when wine waiters fill your glass they're not just attending to your needs; they're flogging wine.

Jay

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You sound like a maiden aunt, ticking off their nephew for not knowing how to behave.

I think its my age. Ever since I turned 40, the world seems full of young whipper snappers with no respect.

We're not going to agree on this, but the upselling point is a very good one. Its bloody infuriating when waiters are obviously trying to get you to drink up in order to sell another bottle (not that I've found any waiter yet that can pour faster than I can drink, but its irritating when you know they are doing it). Even worse is when they try the same trick with the water, filling the glass nearly to the brim and then asking immeadiately "would you like another one?"

Anyway, I sincerely hope this isn't a crusade on your part to stop the practice of wine pouring in restaurants, I rather like it. In fact I'm looking forward to the time when they butter your rolls for you and carry you to the loos in a sedan chair.

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