There have been many good – and indeed great – reviews of ‘The Man Behind The Curtain’, the Leeds restaurant from Noma-experienced Michael O’Hare, but it really was so good that I felt it was an injustice not to add mine!
The whole night was an unusual journey of discovery quite unlike the usual meal out. From the moment you are admitted to the closed clothes shop on Vicar Lane and escorted past the rails of designer items to the lift (shades of excited spookiness in closed shops after dark) you feel as though you are part of a theatrical experience. As you step out of the lift to the long, graffiti-decorated restaurant and are greeted by serving staff in shiny golden heels or silver boots, the experience just gets better and better.
Tables are very well-spaced and good city views out of the windows over the rooftops of Leeds and back onto the developing Eastgate Quarter add to the enjoyment. Nothing is ordinary or usual during the 12-course tasting menu, which is good value, certainly by national standards, even if it may draw the odd splutter from some of the natives. Priced at £65 it is a treat, as is the available wine pairing which is both generous and unusual in its choices.
The food is the crazy mix we have come to expect from top chefs. You assume a white doughnut will be sweet, then find there’s a yummy savoury centre; the crusted black offering looking like it’s been spewn from a volcano turns out to be melt-in-the-mouth pork jowl. What makes it so great here is that not only is the setting exciting, the food innovative and clever, but it’s served in a novel way too…and of course, is all delicious.
The cutlery arrives for two courses in a box for you to distribute and the starters – scallop, cold and beautifully scented, and a broth of chorizo and grains – came on a silver branched structure that delights the eye and adds to the fun. Then another box of different cutlery and course after course of top quality, gorgeous and original combinations.
Incidentally if the meat/fish combinations are not for you they offer ‘different diet’ alternatives as they do if you’ve visited before and want to try something different (although the menu changes regularly). This flexible approach is typical of the modern, unfussy nature of the restaurant.
Staff are extremely informative about the menu and attentive without hovering; the toilets have pink and orange neon coloured toilet paper and the music is fabulously eclectic and adds to the experience, rather than simply being an irritating background buzz. You don’t get Jimi Hendrix at too many restaurants of this undoubted calibre.
In a world where things are increasingly “vanilla”, homogenised and safe, The Man Behind The Curtain is multi-coloured and singing! Go – it’s so much more than a brilliant meal out!