Add into the mix some of the other fantastic independent restaurants in the region and you just know as a Yorkshire food blogger that you’re not going to be struggling to find a good meal!
If you haven’t been lucky enough to visit the Box Tree, it is a rather beautiful looking restaurant from the outside. Clearly, as the name suggests, the garden is largely fashioned around an array of box trees that have been beautifully shaped. On top of this, it looks like you are entering someone’s home from times past, especially if you stroll to the restaurant from the main town centre of Ilkley.
First impressions can be deceptive. I have seen a fair few restaurants dress themselves up on the outside only to reveal a less pretty side when you sit down to eat. The Box Tree doesn’t do this; it delivers.
The bar area is beautiful and the staff are immediately attentive. I would also add that, without making any fuss and certainly without being rude, last night they made Charlotte feel very welcome and cared for after realising she’s pregnant.
After sitting down and ordering our soft drinks, we were brought a delightful canapé selection. Sometimes these are mere nibbles that you largely ignore and focus instead on the menu. However, at the Box Tree, I would suggest putting down your menu and concentrating on the canapés! The little goats cheese creation was creamy and delightful with a lovely seasoning, the red pepper and apple cracker was a great change in texture and, finally, the macaroon was simply sublime.
The pink peppercorn macaroon was wonderful in flavour but when combined with the chive and cream cheese filling it was one of the best macaroons I have ever eaten. It also somehow managed to retain a hint of sweetness.
Sadly, all good experiences come to an end, and we knew we had to move away from the memories of the canapes and into the lovely dining area! We were sat next to a lovely, roaring open fire that really showed the character of the restaurant and certainly added to the dining experience.
Shortly after sitting down, we were brought our amuse bouche, which was caramelised onion foam with a Gruyere cheese straw. I know a lot of people are dismissive of foam as it can be used just to try and impress diners with technique but offers little to no flavour. This foam was simply amazing. Soft, silky and sweet, it was a real joy to eat and was complemented by the lovely texture change that the cheese straw offered.
I will have a very slight whinge in that we were also offered bread and butter. For Charlotte, this is something she always looks forward to, but this time the portions seemed a little bit less generous than during our last visit. Clearly, the fact that we wished there had been more shows how good the bread was, so no complaints on flavour from me, and perhaps we just should have stuck our necks out and asked for more – I’m sure the lovely waitress wouldn’t have refused!
Moving on from that slight quibble, we then got to enjoy our fantastic starters. I had gone for mackerel two ways, which offered a tartare that was smooth, well seasoned and represented a classic complement to the grilled mackerel and lemon sauce on the plate. All in all, it was a simple but beautiful dish that focused on flavour above all else.
Charlotte ordered the parsley risotto dish, which came with beautiful black truffle shavings and some lovely garlic crisps that added another layer of texture to an already complex dish. I will also say that the staff were kind enough to do the dish without the the veal sweetbreads that Charlotte doesn’t like.
For our mains, we both went for big flavour dishes. My venison was rich and packed a punch with its excellent accompaniments of parsnip cream, potatoes, and Cumberland sauce. These little extras really lifted the dish and differentiated it from any attempt at home cooking with ingredients like venison.
Charlotte went for the halibut dish, which came with a magnificent truffled white bean side dish. The fish was of course cooked perfectly and was melt in your mouth (I was lucky enough to have a try!) and the garlic sauce wrapped delicately in a potato croquette was possibly one of the nicest things she has ever eaten. All in all, both mains were utterly divine and really continued to show why the Box Tree is up there with the best places to eat in the UK.
It was a struggle, but we did manage to make room for pudding! Charlotte was expertly assisted by the waiter, who guided her through a cheese board selection that would make any cheese foodie jealous.
He even convinced her to try a goats cheese that she ended up loving! Of course, the quality of the Red Leicester, a semi soft french cheese, and pecorino with truffle running through it was another sign of how the little details make this restaurant so special.
I went for a dish that may be the best pudding I have ever eaten in a UK restaurant. It was a simply magnificent souffle that showed the best of Yorkshire on a dish. It made the most of some fantastic local rhubarb, and was balanced by the sweetness of the ice cream. I also liked the divine little touch of making the souffle a crumble at the same time, the crumbly texture on top of the souffle providing an amazing contrast in texture while allowing the smoothness and fantastic taste of the pudding shine through.
To finish, we ended back in the bar with a lovely cup of tea each and our pick of the chocolate box. The chocolate box at the Box Tree is probably under lock and key as I have no idea how the staff avoid a nibble of the amazing salted caramel truffles or the fantastic chocolate almonds.
As we strolled out to the car park to drive back to Leeds we reflected on what had been a truly magnificent dinner at a restaurant that ticks all the right boxes.
Categories: Restaurant reviews