Possibly the most bonkers part of last night at The Man Behind The Curtain was not the edible clear plastic or gold nuggets, nor was it O'Hare's take on fish and chips, or the odd looking dish that looked like a big, about-to-burst boil. It was when the Ozzie bird on the table next to me took off her shoe and stuck it in my face!
And it wasn’t just any old shoe, it was a bespoke, hand-made kitten heel she had decoupaged using newspaper and magazine cuttings of anything to do with Michael O’Hare.
The crazy cow had not only travelled halfway across the globe to dine here not once, but twice in her short trip to Leeds from Perth, she’d actually made a pair of shoes in O’Hare’s honour and was passing them around the bloody restaurant! In her defence it was little me that stirred up the attention once I’d clocked them – but those shoes needed to be acknowledge by everyone in the room!
Six months of eagerly waiting for my turn to experience the widely acclaimed The Man Behind the Curtain came to an end last night when the hubby and I walked through the racks of designer threads in Flannels, a posh clothes shop, before making our way up to the top floor of the four story Leeds city centre building via a rather dull and very average lift.
There is probably some artistic, abstract rationale behind the very basic lift and the very public-looking bathrooms. I expect in a Tracey Emin-inspired way both are intentionally designed to look like something you’d find in a multi-story car park.
We stepped out of the lift into a modern whitewashed, concrete-floored airy space not too dissimilar to a floor of a multi-story car park, a freshly painted car park that is. The space is minimalist too-cool-for-school with well-spaced tables and chairs, clever lighting and oozes sophistication. The white walls are splattered with bold colours and illegible typeset; much more artist’s studio than fine-dining restaurant, and the attractive waiting staff are dressed from head to toe in black and float back and forth across the moody space like models on a catwalk.
There’s a bit of a weird vibe going down and the place does lack a bit of atmosphere, or at least it did, until Sheila’s shoe came out, that certainly shot a bolt of much-needed energy into the place!
Seriously though, The Man Behind the Curtain’s atmosphere isn’t electric or energetic, and nor is it suppose to be – the moodiness, weirdness and sophistication of the surroundings cleverly reflect the moodiness, weirdness and sophistication of the every other element of this totally unique culinary experience from the dramatic plates on which the food is served and the knives and folks replaced after each course from the little black box, right through to the surprise dishes themselves. It’s takes a little while for it all to fit into place though – but eventually we ‘got it’.
We kicked off with a bottle of Billecart Salmon Rose served perfectly in vintage Babycham glasses. Compared with other Michelin-starred restaurants that seem to think a star or two is free rein to mark up their bubbles by 1000%, the wine and champagne list is very reasonably priced. Diners can opt for a wine pairing, however, due to the rate at which I knock back a glass we decided to not to bother in fear or having empty glasses. We opted for a bottle of red and white of our choice instead.
The Man Behind the Curtain’s menu is a tasting menu only. Or as O’Hare describes it, Carte Blanche – meaning ‘To allow full creative freedom’ and ‘To showcase what we feel is right for now’. You are eating what he decided to put in front of you. He has full creative freedom and you need a very open mind.
Every single dish was presented like an exquisite piece of modern art. Each of the ten little theatrical courses explodes with strong flavours and unusual textures with style and substance. The staff were super-friendly and relaxed and talked us through each of the dishes and our glasses were topped up regularly.
That name? Apparently it’s a line from The Wizard Of Oz, as in “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. Unfortunately for us, O’Hare wasn’t even in the building last night which was a huge disappointed to the owner of that shoe. Still, she’s heading back there on Tuesday for lunch so maybe she’ll be ushered behind that curtain and get to show O’Hare the shoes then.
This is dining on another level. Story-telling through the food. An experiential, mind-blowing culinary encounter that truly deserves its place in my #YorkshireBucketList.
PS. If you do have a big appetite you might need a kebab after though.
It’s impossible to get a table anytime soon so jump onto the website now and get your table reserved for 2018!
Food photo courtesy of James Sheridan @