We've been eating out a lot recently. And have now taken in the delights of three of the town's five curry places in the last ten days or so. Definitely at the bottom of the bunch is India--the restaurant. Everything about the place feels wrong--the service is slack even with seemingly hundreds of people on parade, the food is bland, the decor is irritating in the extreme (the whole room colour changes made me feel fairly woozy), and their arrogance over their illegal illuminated sign is, well, par for the course. Moving on up is the Balti Chef, which has got rid of its bunny boiler waiter who was very very keen on the laydeez, and spruced up its act. The food's okay, nothing sepcial (and the standard menu descriptions always amuse me). No more shark, but trying to get back to being a good, local, curry house. I think it would be even better if they didn't keep cramming me next to the toilets. Hey, water sports and curry...what a good mix. Actually, the toilet thing happened in India as well--the smell of urinal cake permeating the entire place. So we're left with Jaipor Spice. The decor might be left over from the seventies, but the food is great (a little potato based on occasions), staff are helpful, the toilets are a long way away. Two more to go before the spicy food overdose (follow up to 'Supersize me'?) takes hold.
Well, Saturday night and the previous opinions of the Box Tree were proved to be well-founded. The food is somewhere between good and very good, but the service is struggling. Rena as maitresse 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 wine 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. Loked interesting, but not a patch on Rasay'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. 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.
Keep getting rumours about quality of food declining in Ilkley. Went to Tubby's a week or so ago, and that is back to its best, the most relaxed but efficient staff, excellent food, good company, bistro cooking and experience as its meant to be. UNtil the Box Tree works its full offering out, Tubby's is holding top spot. Below it, though, there are some problems. The Cow and Calf has gone way down hill in food and service, there keep being bad reports back from Escape (cold food, etc), and even Bar T'at has hit the buffers. Have they been replaced? Haven't eaten at The Yard yet strangely. Must try it, and the Greek place (though the sight of their chef in Martins was ot that appetising). More reports to come...
What? What? Look, its a new pun innit? Went to the revamped Box Tree for the first time on Sunday. First impressions are very good. The place has been cleaned up completely, the old stench of rotting mould has been taken away and most of the mad old bird's things have also gone (though I got the impression from some of the things being said that she was still interfering somewhat). There's even nice new box hedges growing above the windows. The layout is basically the same, with a private dining room being opened upstairs. Simon Gueller as chef has developed some of his old classics, and Rena, his wife, is doing a very good job as maitresse d'. THis was only the second Sunday they were open, and there must have been 25 or so covers in, which is pretty good. Sunday comes out at £25 per head for a three course, which is good value. Normal evenings is a bit more expensive, and features a greater range). Okay, so starters---langoustine risotto, scallops, or pumpkin soup. We went for one of each, and all gorgeous they were. Mains--my guests had the roast beouf, I stuck to the wild salmon. THeir meat was good, juicy, lots of it, but they'd not been asked how they liked it, which is a black mark. We also had to hassle for horseradish, which was a bit irritating. The salmon was very nice, but there just wasn't enough of it. Why oh why do chefs assume because one eats fish (or vegetarian options), one doesn't want tot eat much. Nicked a Yorkshire pudding, and still needed a sarnie when I went home. And, finally, the puddings--raspberry soufflee, gingerbread cannelloni (actually ice cream in a brandy snap) and very dark chocolate tart. The latter was a classic chocolate black hole, the former was adjudged excellent, tangy and sweet, the middle one wasn't that gingerbready. Overall, the food was good, but the service (always the let down in Ilkley restaurants aside from Tubby's which is rather more relaxed anyway) needed work. They're attempting silver service and this wasn't quite there--no offer of a second round of glasses of wine, parties placed too close together, the no horseradish problem. Little things, but they take away from the experience. The braying woman behind didn't help either... Attempting something at a move above what the best in Ilkley are currently doing (Tubby's and Farsyde), and I'm sure they'll get there. I'm going to leave them unranked till I've had the evening experience.
SOrry if I've already used that pun...It looks like the Box Tree is now back open, website here . We'll be trogging along sometime very soon, and will report back. Got to be better than Steps anyway...(ducks and covers from the brickbats coming from the directon of Martinez)
See that the old Michael's tea shop has been done up and is about to re-launch...as Caffe something or other--just what Ilkley needs, another light lunch place. The bill of fare sounds exciting... coffee's teas light food. Now, do you think the sign writer noticed and thought, "if I don't say anything, someone will point it out and I'll make more money coming back to paint the corrections...' Or do you think none of them had three starred As at A Level?
...a lady on a mobile phone standing outside our newest restaurant. "I'm outside The Grove" "No, THE Grove" "No, THE Grove." We moved on, but presumably, the next line was... "Oh sod it, I'll meet you outside Tubby's"
I think 'uhhr' is becoming the most commonly used word on this site. I did like Frazer's note on the name of Ilkley's newst bar. One can imagine the scene... "Emergency. Which service?" "Fire...and quick" "Fire service...where are you?" "We're at The Grove on The Grove in Ilkley" "You're on The Grove? Whereabouts" "At The Grove..." "Yes sir, I got that, but where on The Grove?" "The Grove..." "Look, I need to know where you are." "But I'm telling you, The Grove" "Sir, you're really not helping yourself." [end conversation] A little birdy tells me £400,000 has been spent on the refit, and there will be somewhere like seven chefs employed. Now I'm studying finance, but working out the break-even on that one (or the level of necessary prices) is beyond my measly powers of concentration.
of the creativity of the people taking over 'Greco's. What have they decided to call their new 'champagne and vodka' bar? Well it's on The Grove so, yes, 'The Grove' is it's highly original name. Bet they had to pay the branding agents lots for coming up with that. But please open soon, there was a 'Greco's' denizen in The Yard on Saturday night who made us physically recoil she was so unpleasant looking--they're easy to spot, the crap Chanel sunglasses inside, the leathery vulture-like skin, the prada handbag displayed on the bar. GO AWAY!
Note that the front page story in the Gazette refers to The Box Tree as a 'michelin starred restaurant'. It, of course, isn't...it deservedly lost its star last year.