The Box Tree Ilkley review: I tried the Michelin Guide restaurant near Leeds that's pushing for a star

There was Dame Shirley Bassey and Charles Aznavou, standing in the same spot that I had just dined in.
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As we said our goodbyes, the Box Tree’s general manager proudly brought out a treasured scrapbook to show us - flicking to a picture of the pair performing a duet in front of the fireplace in the converted sandstone cottage.

The Ilkley restaurant was around a decade old back then, and soon to become one of the first two-Michelin star restaurants in the UK.

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Still considered ‘iconic’ by Michelin, it has just welcomed a new head chef into its kitchen, which it has ripped out and replaced for him.

Australian-born Brayden Davies moved to England six years ago and has learnt his trade at some of the country’s top restaurants, including Northcote Manor, Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall and the two-star Raby Hunt.

Brayden Davies is the new head chef at The Box Tree in Ilkley (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)Brayden Davies is the new head chef at The Box Tree in Ilkley (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)
Brayden Davies is the new head chef at The Box Tree in Ilkley (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)

He’s now pursuing his long-held dream of gaining his own Michelin star at the Box Tree. And following the full kitchen refurbishment, I was lucky enough to get to visit on the opening night.

The restaurant could easily be mistaken for someone’s home, and as we pushed open the large front door we were struck by the warmth of the lounge, full of antique treasures picked up through the restaurant’s 60-year history.

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Head sommelier Didier da Costa, who has been at the Box Tree since 2009, is happy to talk through the extensive, AA-recommended wine list - I went for a glass of the rich and full-flavoured NV Champagne Garden, while my guest opted for the soft and fruity 2021 Coroa D’ouro Branco.

We were seated in a gorgeous corner spot by a grand fireplace and soaked up the cottage’s old-world charm while we perused the dishes to come.

The restaurant combines modern cooking with old-world charm (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)The restaurant combines modern cooking with old-world charm (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)
The restaurant combines modern cooking with old-world charm (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)

While most of the changes were behind the kitchen door, the table décor has been refreshed and tablecloths reintroduced for the first time since the pandemic - the bathrooms have also been updated.

Brayden has bought subtle Australian influences into his gourmand tasting menu. Vegemite butter is served with the sourdough bread course and the centrepiece was the ‘shrimp on the barbie’ - BBQ langoustine, avocado, Kent mango and Australian finger lime, served with a finger lime rind and Sansho pepper bisque.

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It’s effortlessly combined with the classical cooking and contemporary twists that the Box Tree has become famous for - from the ‘English breakfast’ snack with potato, hen’s egg and Yorkshire black pudding, to the perfectly-cooked guinea fowl with Jerusalem artichoke, ethical foie-gras and wild garlic shoots.

Clockwise from top left: The ravioli, BBQ langoustine, banana soufflé and Yorkshire ricotta and rhubarb (Photo by National World)Clockwise from top left: The ravioli, BBQ langoustine, banana soufflé and Yorkshire ricotta and rhubarb (Photo by National World)
Clockwise from top left: The ravioli, BBQ langoustine, banana soufflé and Yorkshire ricotta and rhubarb (Photo by National World)

I’m still thinking about the final course, a melt-in-your mouth banana soufflé served with a tonka bean and birch sap ice cream.

The vegetarian menu went down a treat - the langoustine swapped for BBQ white asparagus and the guinea fowl for Jerusalem artichoke and lashings of black truffle - and a pescatarian menu is also available.

If there were any first-day teething issues the team made sure no one was aware - everything was running like clockwork and the service was as exemplary as you'd expect for £110 per head.

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For that price, it’s got to be a special experience. And the Box Tree is special indeed.

Factfile

Address: 35-37 Church Street, Ilkley, LS29 9DR

Telephone: 01943 608484

Opening hours: Mon-Tue, closed; Weds-Thurs, 6pm-7.30pm; Fri-Sat, noon-1.30pm, 6pm-8pm; Sun, 12-2.30pm.

Scores

Food: 9/10

Service: 10/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Value: 8/10