A fascinating night at the Box Tree in Ilkley to celebrate 50 years as one of Yorkshire’s most long-standing and famous restaurants. Current chef Simon Gueller, looking trim if a bit drawn with his arm in a sling after a serious collar bone break while cycling, was on good form. So was his wife Rena, also in great shape from weeks of marathon training.
The star of the evening though was Marco Pierre White, Simon’s old mucker from their Box Tree days in the 1970s and now the Box Tree’s ‘ambassador’. He’s a huge hulk of a man, who seemed to take up a great deal of space in the low ceilinged cottage. He was so constantly surrounded by what I took to be adoring fans that I never even got near enough to speak to the great man, but I contented myself with the Bellinis and some terrific nibbles of foie gras rissoles, mackerel marinated in lime, ceviche and truffle, beef daube with bacon on mash (presented on a dessert spoon) and teeny-weeny ‘Magnums’ – a cocktail stick of chocolate ice cream covered in white chocolate. All utterly delicious.
I was the guest of Barbara Govan, Business Development Manager of the Cooking School at Dean Clough in Halifax. A braver woman than me, she managed to grab an audience with ‘The Man’ where in my view, though not in hers, he rather grudgingly signed a few Cooking School aprons she wanted to auction for charity, posed for a photo and expressed no interest in viewing the 1991 film she made for Calendar in her days as a journalist at YTV. ‘Never watches himself on telly’ apparently.
Some of us watched it anyway and besides the fag smoking MPW it featured the staff at the once illustrious and now defunct Pool Court in Pool in Wharfedale. A young and slimline cast included Michael Gill, head waiter Steve Ridalgh (now heading up Brasserie 44 in Leeds) and chef David Watson. Much to Gueller’s dismay, Barbara had to fess up to leaving him on the cutting room floor and explained as gently as possible: ‘That’s show business’. He took it on the chin. Amazingly, 20 years on, Gueller could name every dish shown on the film.
Rather disappointingly there were no speeches to mark the occasion and no-one to remind us of the Box Tree’s always colourful fortunes and mis-fortunes. So for anyone interested or for those who may even fondly remember, click here.
And if you would like to see what we ate in the 60s in what was then deemed the top restaurant in Britain, click here