There are a lot of excellent restaurants in Skipton and the surrounding areas and if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that as part of my job as a writer for the local magazine Aspire, I eat at and review local restaurants quite frequently, a fabulous perk of the job for a foodie like me. On this occasion though, it was date night, not work and I asked my partner Ian where he’d like to dine and Le Caveau, a small French restaurant in the centre of Skipton, was his choice. I’d tried to book a table there on several occasions in the run-up to Christmas, to no avail due to its popularity and reputation and I think it was around February when we first managed to get a table. Not only was the food outstanding, but the front of house staff and chef were incredibly friendly, chatty and informative and it was lovely to witness this as a paying customer and not as the journalist from the magazine there to write a review. We vowed to return and did just that at the weekend.
Le Caveau sits below street level on Skipton High Street and is a small, cosy restaurant with a fascinating history. It started life in the 16th century as a prison for Craven District’s felons and sheep rustlers, (Skipton means sheep-town- we’re very proud of our sheep here!) The low vaulted ceilings, beams and exposed stonework give it an abundance of authentic character and the whole restaurant has a fabulous ambience.
(The team very kindly reset the tables at the end of the night so I could photograph the restaurant without disturbing other guests. They showed us some slides of bygone times at Le Caveau and sat, chatted and had a drink with us at the end of service).
The Chef, Mark Byron
Chef Mark Byron and his wife Esther took over Le Caveau in 2014. Mark is passionate about local food and putting his own twist of French classics. He shoots and fishes to provide for the restaurant and knows the provenance of everything on the menu. If Mark hasn’t caught the fish himself, it is bought from George Wilson, a mainstay and renowned seller at Skipton Market. The meat is sourced from local farms.
We sat in the cosy bar area on arrival to peruse the menus and were given canapes to accompany our wine, (there is an extensive wine and spirits menu and we chose a Picoul de Pinet from the Langeudoc region of France).
Le Caveau is among several local restaurants taking part in the Ramus Lobster Festival, (17th June-15th July 2017), with special menus celebrating Yorkshire lobster. It was lovely to hear that this lobster had been caught in Scarborough, where Ian and I visited very recently. I’d like to think our lobster had been in one of the baskets from the piles I photographed when there. (Read about our trip here).
As always, we ordered different things so we could share. Ian ordered from the special lobster menu, his choice of starter being salad of spiced chicken, dressed leaves and poached egg. It was divine- the egg utterly perfect and obviously very fresh and the chicken beautifully tender.
I chose ginger and chilli marinated trout with heirloom tomato and onion salad and salsa verde. It was a symphony of flavours; the slight saltiness of the trout and the contrasting sharpness of the onions was delightful.
And now onto the star of the show, Whole East Coast Lobster Thermidor (minimum weight 1lb), served with crushed potatoes and seasoned vegetables. It was beautifully dressed and incredibly fresh tasting. It was a nice chunky lobster with plenty of meat for us both to savour. The accompanying potatoes and veg were simply perfect.
I often choose fish for both courses and this time was no exception. The swordfish on the specials board sounded too good to resist and I’m very glad I didn’t. Cajun spiced and chargrilled with roquette pesto and Yellisons goat curd, it was the perfect balance of flavours and textures and colours- a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds.
Onto dessert and Ian chose chocolate bread and butter pudding with creme anglaise which proved to be an absolute treat for the tastebuds. Light with a hint of spice and bursting with plump succulent fruit, this was a winner on every count.
Certainly not overshadowed though, was my choice of ground rice, almond and raspberry cake with raspberry ripple ice-cream. It was mouth-wateringly delicious;the sponge with the unmistakable flavour imparted by the almonds was light and sweet and the ice-cream was, I think, the best I’ve ever tasted.
A Brilliant Evening From Start to Finish
The whole evening from start to finish was absolutely brilliant. The food is outstanding and Mark and Jamie Gemmell who looks after front of house, (photographed below), are as much of an asset as the menus, such is the warm welcome they extend and the friendly humour they impart. This, along with the beautiful building so steeped in history and character makes it a very special dining experience indeed.
This is a hidden gem and one which I want to shout about ans we’re already planning our next visit. If you live locally or are planning to visit Skipton or its surrounding villages, I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend Le Caveau, a gorgeous French restaurant with a Yorkshire twist.
Love Lizzy x
86 High Street
Sequin shift dress, Mint Velvet, past season