ON Bastille Day ten years ago, chef Mark Byron took over his own prison by storm. Located in a 16th century former jail, Le Caveau restaurant in Skipton was bought by Mark on July 14, 2014.

Now, celebrating his tenth anniversary as chef/owner, he reflects on how lucky he is to have weathered testing times, from the Covid-19 pandemic to the cost-of-living crisis, ensuring that Skipton’s longest running restaurant continues its tradition of serving award-winning French cuisine. When so many restaurants barely survive three years, he is sure the key to Le Caveau’s 60-year success is a potent mixture of loyalty and change.

It had already been a successful restaurant for nearly 50 years when, for his second date with his girlfriend Esther, he booked a table and decided over dinner that he wanted the restaurant. Married now, Mark and Esther’s two children Phoebe and George are already helping out and may be destined to be its future chefs and owners.

Considering the short shelf life of many restaurants, Mark reflects on the reasons for the restaurant’s longevity. He lists four main ingredients. A large part, he says, is ‘ambience’: Whatever the weather, Le Caveau feels like a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the High Street above. It’s cool in summer, cosy in winter, and steeped in history and tradition.

Food quality and reliability are also significant. There’s a reason Mark has won ‘best French restaurant in Yorkshire’ for two years running and the 2023 Skipton Business Award for best food and drink. He would be nothing without the loyalty and consistency of suppliers, he says, many of whom have been supplying the restaurant for the past decade, such as Settle’s Courtyard Dairy, or longer, including Skipton market fishmongers George Wilson and Nikky Jonas.

He would also be lost without the loyalty of his customers, he says, some of whom have been regulars for more than 60 years. Their patronage was particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic, when customers continued supporting him and ensured he stayed afloat.

To keep customers happy and engaged, Mark changes his menu monthly, ensures excellent value for money, and hosts special food and wine events.

This year, he celebrates the July 14th tenth anniversary with a special wine tasting dinner. Not quite the Bastille Day fireworks in France, but lighting up people’s evening just the same.