Ilkley Eating Pt. 82

Hadn't been to Farsyde for at least a year. Got a little bored with the 'meat + fruit' selection that Gavin seemed to be really into (previously on this blog I suggested it might be an Ilkley cuisine as Tubby's started doing the same).

So, Saturday was a nice opportunity to pop back and see how things were shaping. A late booking, not helped by quite a long wait at the bar, so stomachs were rumbling by the time the four of us were seated in the window. Uhhr, were seated at a table in the window. Perusal of menus showed only a handful of meat + fruit combinations, which was very welcome. I completely neglected to get a menu, which is very unlike me, so can't be precise about what everyone had. However, there was a fair bit of negotiation over pasta mains as starters, the presence of black pudding and how more of it was required, and what various weird dieters of the bunch couldn't eat. All dealt with with great humour and vivacity by main woman Zoe.

The food was generally topping, though you'll have to let it go at that as I can't remember much of what people had, and the menu we had bears only a passing relationship to the one on the website. Pig cheeks and black pudding as a starter twisted the current chefs' trendy ingredient into a northern ensemble. Ravioli as a main was tasty and soft, not at all dry, the apple and banana crumble did the thing right (ie no deconstruction). The breads were good too.

Service was okay, though suffering from the usual 'seventeen year olds earning a buck', and the white wine wasn't chilled when first delivered. But dealt with efficiently and happily. No idea what the white was, but the Red was a Martinez Azul, so we knew what to expect--tannic and big and crimson red (and only about 100% mark-up on retail prices, which isn't bad).

Three courses, two bottles of wine, a round of drinks at beginning and end, £150 for four or thereabouts. Damn good value thinks we. We'll be back we agree. Comfortably better than The Box Tree, at about half the price.

And an apology

After finding the general level of cheap-ish places to eat had gone way down hill, we've re-discovered Escape. Sure, the waitresses aren't really interested in much but flirting with the waiting/bar-guys (except for the inestimable Kirsty who seems to be running the place), but the food has definitely taken a turn for the better.

Walked past Bar T'at last Saturday evening and there was hardly anyone eating downstairs. It used to be impossible to get in on an evening even midweek before their chef left for his own place in Otley (my brain is teling me the Curlew Cafe, but my brain is unreliable in these things), so that seems to be losing its reputation.

Which is good news for Escape if they're really making a come-back. The plates are still cold though. Oh, and Escape now has one (count it) pump for proper beer. Wa-hey, as they say in North Korea.

B'ah...tat!

I've suggested before that Bar T'at, previously a favourite, is going downhill. Today it was just awful. Ordered the spinach canelloni. Very obviously. It arrives, we think, 'oh thy've chnaged it again, take a mouthful or two...'shit, that's mince'. They try to pretend the chef had had a misunderstanding, but given the bar guy had clearly written down which cannelloni I wanted, it was more of a feck up.

The 'real thing' arrives. Fork goes in. Fork goes in again. Where's the canneloni? They've given me some cheese and pasta sauce soup.

Still, at least the beer was nice. Offically off my places to go list (boy, is that getting small!).

Hip priest-ah

Made it back to The Priests House over in Barden for Sunday lunch. New owners, so we thought we'd try it out. Now, the previous owners produced honest English food, somewhat amateurish service, but it passed muster.

The new owners, refugees from Pudsey, don't even do that. Our lunch delivered to the wrong table, so they continue to make up their dishes, whilst mine sits under the pass lights (judging by its eventual floppy consistency), and finally my partner gets hers some ten minutes later. Not even a hint of an apology either. And then clearing up actually on the table--scraping food around. Like you were at your gran's for lunch. Then the bill was wrong even on the third attempt. Classic comment, 'sorry, Sunday only comes round once a week'. Like, yeah, but every week.

Hearing our spectacularly bad waitress talk of another employee, 'well, she'd never done any waitressing before...' Well, we had no luck with the experienced, so maybe the neophytes would be an improvement.

Insert own boxing pun here

Over at T'Observer Jay Rayner has reviewed the Box Tree. Personally I think it's a pretty fair review. Neither the food (which is as he says slightly old-fashioned) nor the service are up to the standards one would expect of a One Star.

It brought out a discussion about what can be expected in such restaurants. The minimum is good clinical service. What then goes on top is atmosphere and friendliness. Which is where t'Box falls down--according to rumour their French Maitre has already left for T'Grove unable to cope with Mrs Gueller, and I can see why. The service is so uptight, so desperate to please, that it falls down on the very level it is trying so hard to impress on.

Unfortunately, Gueller's cooking seems not to have moved on in the years since having his own restaurants in Leeds. Where Anthony Flinn and Simon Rogan are experimenting, Gueller is re-treading old experiences. I'm proud Ilkley has a one star restaurant. I'm just not sure that it (or the Box Tree given the recent hike in prices) will last.

Down the pan

Well, we had a good xmas, made rather nicer by some lively fluffy white stuff (stop giggling there at the back...) which is pictured over here. But we also eat out a lot (as we like to do), and, boy do things need improving in Ilkers.

First up was the Cow and Calf. After a nice couple of hours tramping the moors through a snowstorm, boy were we in need of some major stomach filling. The Cow's a lovely venue, beautiful fires, great view. The beer's not great, but I can deal with that. But oh the food--fsh chps for me and a Roast for angel. The chips were MacD's type, ultra thin, the fish was watery. Honestly, nothing tasted of anything (except the chips had that sour taste like the oil had been used too many times). The roast was lukewarm at best, and had obviously been lying about for too long. Foul. And the service was all you can expect from a bunch of sixteen year olds. Serious work needs to be done on this place, but, of course, the landlords don't need to, cos it's always going to be popular.

Bar T'at, however, might not be. Their old chef, having moved to Otley, the gorgeous food and very large portions seems to have gone with him. I don';t know where the order's come from, but the portion size has been reduced massively. I was still starving after my lunch, and I'm not the biggest of eaters.

Anyone know whay things are heading downhill? Sometimes I still think I can taste those Calf chips.

Boxed in

With the announcement of the Michelin stars today, I'm somewhat astounded to see The Box Tree getting one. It's not that Simon Gueller doesn't desrve it, he's shown before that he's a one star chef. But the food and especially the service are still only in their early stages. Simon's patently struggling with his kitchen help to produce the kind of food he's aiming at.

And, given that the place has only been open four months or so, it must be too early to say whether this really is a starred establishment. Can't help feeling it's a case of sentimentality on the inspectors' parts, for the old Box Tree and for Simon himself.

So, we now have two starred establishments in easy reach--with the Devonshire Arms being the other. But, yet, nothing for Anthony's in Leeds, probably the best new eaterie in the country.

On the Buses

And it's all change at a couple of local eateries. The Priest's House couple are moving thanks to the chef's bad knees. The place and setting are lovely, but I never particularly enjoyed the food--so maybe this should be welcomed. New owners currently run DD2 in Pudsey--any info gratefully plagiarised! And what is definitely welcomed is that Steps is meant to be getting a new chef. Unfortunately, while the food may not be very good, it's the abysmal service that lets it down...

Chips and chips and chips

And, just because we've been writing about food, a word for The Yard. Good, well-presented, posh pub food. Fish and chips with proper chunky chips and mushy peas, oh and fishcakes that were a little dry. Now, I'm a boy, so should be doing a league table of pub eating, but given that Bar T'at has gone downhill quite alarmingly recently, and I haven't eaten at Johnon's for ages..oh, and Escape isn't really a pub, it's not that easy to do... Try The Yard..