Yorke Arms

A frisson of fear ran through the hearts of the Yorke Arms faithful when Frances Atkins put it on the market in November last year after a 21 year tenure and 15 years of Michelin stardom. The Yorke in anyone else’s hands seemed like the end of an era. She was flirting with the idea of a new venture, before Leeds-based ‘serial entrepreneur’ Jonathan Turner parted with the thick end of £1.5m, and a deal was struck; as a result, he’s taken over the day to day running of the place, and Atkins has remained at the pass with her loyal crew. A ‘major refurbishment’ followed, and the Yorke re-opened at the end of May. But what if it’s had a shocking makeover? We loved it the way it was – all flagged floors, roaring fires, burnished oak antique sideboards and the inimitable, easy charm of the general manager John Tullet, as much a part of the place as the oil paintings on the walls. It was with a keen sense of anticipation that we keeled up on a perfect early summer’s evening to chart the changes and check out the new menu. Has it been Farrow & Balled? Has Turner been to the Country Inn Interior Warehouse and bought mock-leather chairs and yards of mock hops? Review to follow. (Clue; relax.)

… and the Michelin Star Goes To …

Monday saw the launch of the 2018 UK Michelin Guide – streamed live in front of an invited audience. After an interminable build up they finally announced the 16 new stars.

No new stars for Yorkshire, seems their inspectors never get beyond Leicester apart from a star for Moor Hall at Aughton near Ormskirk and Loch Bay on the Isle of Skye. Unusually Michelin announced a third star, (making a total of only five in the UK)  for The Araki, a London sushi restaurant with just nine covers that serves one set menu at £300 per person. Drinks extra!

Happily all the current Yorkshire star holders held on to their badges and remain in the club. Once again congratulations to Skosh and Joro for their Bib Gourmand – recognition by Michelin for a restaurant  (or chef) worth watching.

We wrote way back in 2012 why we believe Michelin to be an outdated and irrelevant award but we understand why it means so much to chefs.  For an interesting article in the London Eater on why Michelin’s matter click here.


Michelin Delivers

Congratulations to Skosh, York and Joro, Sheffield on their Michelin Bib Gourmand announced this morning. So glad we visited and reported some time ago, we’ll never get a table now. Congratulations too to our neighbours the Staith House, North Shields for their Bib Gourmand.

The big one, the Michelin stars, are announced on Monday, 2nd October, live streamed at 11.30am. It’s my guess that York’s Cochon Aveugle will be crossing their fingers. It’s too soon for Horto, though the inspectors appear very keen on the small plates Scandi vibe.

There will be a lot of breath-holding among the current Yorkshire star holders hoping to hold on to their stars, the Star Inn, the Yorke Arms, the Black Swan, the Pipe and Glass, the Man Behind the Curtain and the Box Tree. No pressure guys.


Star Inn the Harbour

It’s Wednesday lunchtime and chef Andrew Pern is sitting in his whites at a table in his own Star Inn at Harome but there’s no food in sight and the cutlery and napkins have been pushed aside to make way for a large ‘mood board’ of magazine cuttings with ideas for his next big venture.

Rockpool of shellfish with oyster ice cream and seaweed velouté

The Star Inn the Harbour is his latest project. A 160 cover fish restaurant to be housed in the former Tourist Information Centre in the heart of Whitby. The plan is to open in May with a dining area, bar, ice cream parlour and outdoor seating. It’s a plum location in the heart of the town right by the harbour. No wonder the local competition are a little jumpy.

A preliminary menu (which he warns is bound to change) majors on fish and seafood (£5-£15 starters/£15-£22 mains). Naturally they’ll be doing fish and chips: ‘We’d be stupid not to,’ he says, but also Dover sole; monkfish ‘scampi’; halibut and lobster thermidor. On ice: oysters, langoustines, lobster, crevettes then maybe deep fried calamari, fish soup and his fabulous posh prawn cocktail served with a Bloody Mary sorbet.

There will be Rockpool, a Star Inn favourite. He dashes to the kitchen: ‘I’ll get them to make you one’. What comes out is a wooden box filled with pebbles and seaweed: ‘a bit of theatre’ he says and in a hand thrown pot (100 newly commissioned from a local potter) come scallops, prawns, oyster and mussels topped with oyster ice cream and in another pot, a seaweed velouté to pour over.

You will thank me for trying it so that I can confirm it’s absolutely terrific.

It’s also the reason why Pern has a Michelin star and why in January, the Star won Best Gastropub in Britain. Me, I’m counting down to May when the Star rises over the harbour and Andrew Pern, (he was born here) comes home.

World Class Obsession

If you’ve ever tried to get a table at Michael O’Hare’s Man Behind the Curtain, you will know it’s booked up forever. If you are quick, and prepared to travel out of the county, you might sample his food at a table at the Michelin starred Northcote, near Blackburn.


Man_Behind_CurtainObsession began as a week of events to fill the restaurant in the quiet months, now it is what Nigel Haworth calls ‘a monster event’ where 23 world-class chefs cook for a night over 17 nights and each year the line-up gets more amazing.


For Obsession 17 there’s O’Hare, Michael Wignal from Gidleigh Park, James Close and John Williams, recently Michelin-starred at the Raby Hunt and Ritz respectively. There’s a woman’s chef night with  Claire Clark, Anna Hansen, Isaac McHale from the Clove Club and Atul Kochhar from Benares.


But that’s not all, like us, you may not know leading chefs from Italy, Japan, Australia, Slovenia and China and the USA, but they are some of the world’s best coming to Blackburn to cook. I know it’s crazy.


It is a stunning line-up and pricey of course: £130 per person for champagne and canapés followed by five courses – add wine on top of that.

Obsession runs for 17 days from 20 January to 5th February. The hotline opens 8am on 1st November 033 999 7762.



Food Awards 2017

Man_Behind_CurtainIt’s the awards time of year, so here’s a quick round up:

The 2017 Waitrose Good Food Guide came out in September with new entries for Ox Club and Tharavadu in Leeds, White Rabbit in Todmorden and the Crathorne Arms south of Middlesbrough. One of our favourites,  the Swine that Dines is credited in a list of ‘Best New Openings’ with our congratulations to Ian Myers who is named as ‘a chef to watch’.


Last week the UK Michelin Guide was published with no surprises for Yorkshire, just a sigh of relief I suspect for the six Yorkshire restaurants that retained their stars. They are: the Star at Harome, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill; the Black Swan at Oldstead; the Box Tree, Ilkley; the Pipe & Glass at South Dalton and the Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds.


Among our near neighbours: Raby Hunt at Darlington has been awarded a second star, a stunning accolade and one of only 20 in the UK. Single stars are retained by House of Tides, Newcastle; Fischer’s of Baslow and Northcote at Langho.


Michelin’s ‘affordable dining’ award, the Bib Gourmand goes to Prashad in Drighlington, Chadwicks of Maltby and Le Langhe in York.


Yorkshire got a look-in at the Great British Pub Awards with

Best Beer Pub: the Sheffield Tap. Best Student Pub: the Doctor’s Orders, Sheffield. Best Cider Pub: Foley’s Tap House, Leeds and across the border Best Food Pub for the Freemason’s at Wiswell near Clitheroe.

Top chefs invade the Devonshire Arms

If you want to sample dishes prepared by the best Yorkshire chefs then you need to book a place at the Devonshire Arms (Bolton Abbey) Food and Wine Week which begins on Monday.

Mandy and I were invited last year for a cook-off lunch between the Dev’s chef Adam Smith and the Box Tree’s Lawrence Yates and it was terrific.


Adam Smith, head chef of the Devonshire Arms

This year it kicks off with a dinner cooked by what is arguably Yorkshire’s top five chefs: Adam Smith (Devonshire Arms), Andrew Pern (Star at Harome), James Mackenzie (Pipe & Glass), Tim Bilton (Spiced Pear) and Stephanie Moon (Rudding Park).

On Tuesday it will be a War of the Roses lunch pitching Nigel Haworth from Northcote Manor in Lancashire, (who has his own food festival coming up) against Adam Smith.

If you’ve never been to the famous L’Enclume in Cartmel, Thursday is a chance to sample some of head chef Mark Birchall’s remarkable food.

The food and wine week closes on Sunday 7th December with an evening of wines from Joe Fattorini of Bibendum Wines and a tasting menu prepared by Adam Smith. Prices range from £30 to £95.

For more information go to www.thedevonshirearms.co.uk

To book: events@devonshirehotels.co.uk or T: 01756 718155


Michelin out today

PernThe UK Michelin Guide is out today and the big news for Yorkshire is the Star at Harome winning back its star. We’ve always rated them and we’re glad to see them back in the Michelin club.  Congratulations to Andrew Pern and his team.

All the rest of the Michelin starred restaurants in Yorkshire have retained their gongs, that’s the Pipe and Glass, South Dalton, the Box Tree in Ilkley, the Black Swan at Oldstead, the Old Vicarage, Sheffield, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill.

As well as stars, Michelin also award Bib Gourmands for a decent meal under £30 and this year have given one to our long time favourite, Le Langhe in York.

If you want to study the full list go to Elizabeth Auerbach’s brilliant site for all things Michelin www.elizabethonfood.com/

Congratulations to all star holders and to all the other fabulous Yorkshire restaurants and chefs who didn’t get a star. To be honest, we don’t care, we know that all the places on Squidbeak are worth a detour.

Michelin 2014 out today

The new Michelin Guide to Britain and Ireland 2014 is out today with fifteen new stars across the UK and Ireland though none for Yorkshire. Five chefs have held on to their stars: the Box Tree in Ilkley, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill; The Black Swan at Oldstead; the Pipe and Glass at South Dalton and the Old Vicarage, Sheffield. It’s no surprise that a change of chef (stars are awarded to the chef not the restaurant) at the Burlington Restaurant, Bolton Abbey means they have lost their star. No pressure then on their new young chef Adam Smith to earn it back for next year.

Kaushy Patel of Prashad

Kaushy Patel of Prashad

Bib Gourmand’s (meaning good food at moderate prices) have been awarded to El Gato Negro in Ripponden and Prashad in Drighlington, two of our favourites. Well done both. The only other Yorkshire Bib is Vennell’s at Masham.  Le Langhe in York which we consider serves some of the best Italian food in the UK, they’ve been stripped of their Bib.


And what of the rest?  Followers of Michelin should log onto www.elizabethonfood.com who is a dedicated reviewer of Michelin starred restaurants across Europe and has the full breakdown.

The headlines though are that Heston’s Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental and the Greenhouse in Mayfair have both won a second star. L’Atelier Joel Robuchon has gone down from two stars to one. Gordon Ramsey, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, The Fat Duck and the Waterside Inn at Bray have retained their three stars.

It’s noteworthy that of the 142 stars across the UK and Ireland, very few reach the north of England. The exceptions being the five in Yorkshire, L’Enclume in Cartmel (two stars) and a new star for the Samling in Ambleside and for the rest of the north:

Fischer’s of Baslow

Fraiche, Birkenhead

Northcote, Blackburn

Chester Grosvenor, Chester

Raby Hunt, Darlington

Holbeck Ghyll, Windermere


Of the 143 Bib Gourmand’s awarded, there are just 11 north of Nottingham. They are:

El Gato Negro, Ripponden

Prashad, Drighlington

Twelve, Blackpool

Waggon, Bury

Bay Horse, Hurworth on Tees

Bistro 21, Durham

Chequers, Gedney Dyke, Lincolnshire

Vennell’s Masham

Broad Chare, Newcastle

David Kennedy’s River Café, North Shields

Hearth of the Ram, Ramsbottom

We’d suggest they get a few more inspectors on the East Coast Mainline and sample a few more. On the other hand we prefer the Good Food Guide.









Box Tree Restaurant Timeline

Rena Gueller celebrating the Box Tree's 50th birthday with a special cake

This year the Box Tree celebrates its 50th birthday. Today it is in the safe hands of Simon and Rena Gueller, but times have not always been so calm.

Do you remember the Box Tree – its fortunes and misfortunes? Here is our edited timeline. Let us know your memories of the food, the wine, the prices and the characters.

Leave us a comment.

1962  Malcolm Reid and Colin Long, open their camp jewel box of a restaurant, the Box Tree Cottage, in  Ilkley creating one of the country’s top restaurants at a time when there is nothing much to be said for eating out in Britain.

1971 Shirley Bassey opens the dining room extension

1979 A young Leeds lad called Marco Pierre White passes through the kitchens before departing for London and fame and fortune.

In the years that follow, the Box Tree wins two Michelin stars and Egon Ronay’s Best Restaurant in Britain award.
Prices are legendary and with wine, stratospheric

1986 Reid and Long retire selling the place with its antiques and object d’arts for £1 million.

1992 The Box Tree crashes with debts of £50,000 following a falling off of food standards. Bought out of receivership by the dynamic and eccentric Greek-born businesswoman Madame Avis, who immediately signs up MPW. The relationship is predictably short-lived. After three months he stomps back to London as she threatens to sue him for fire damage to the kitchen ceiling.

2004 Chefs come and go under Madame Avis until  Simon and Rena Gueller take over and run it without interference. Simon’s experience and reputation from running his own places – Millers in Harrogate, Rascasse and York Place in Leeds ensure it’s a success. Gueller seems to have found his spiritual home and within 9 months he is awarded a Michelin star restoring the reputation of the Box Tree once more.

21 March, 2011 Box Tree celebrate their 50th Birthday

Happy Birthday Box Tree

Squidbeak Blog

© Copyright SquidBeak 2012 Contact usDisclaimerPrivacy PolicyMaraid Design