The Man Behind The Curtain

Gold Award
££££
International

The Man Behind The Curtain
The Man Behind The Curtain
The Man Behind The Curtain
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SquareMeal Review of The Man Behind The Curtain

Gold Award

“Obscure food in a fashionable environment” is one reader’s snapshot of The Man Behind the Curtain. Taking its name from a quote in The Wizard of Oz, this cool white space atop Flannels clothes store promises views over the city’s rooftops and a menu that throws down lots of boundary-smashing gauntlets: thrills and challenges abound as maverick chef Michael O’Hare conjures up a riot of cutting-edge dishes – although the whole experience sometimes feels like performance art rather than a meal.

At lunchtime, you can graze from a ‘rapide’ menu, but the real action takes place in the evening, when it’s all about ‘the permanent collection’ – a tasting extravaganza involving 10 to 14 ‘sequences’ (aka courses) running from Wagyu beef with olive juice to a dessert that combines cardamom and lemongrass soup with chilli sorbet. In between, expect the unexpected as the chef conjures up tomato tartare with beetroot and macadamia nuts, ackee and salt fish with tripe dumplings, artichoke and brioche Rossini or bowls of birds’ nest and kimchi ramen. To drink, off-piste wines and wacky cocktails are the stars – in short, this place is a genuine one-off.

The Man Behind the Curtain was awarded a coveted Michelin star in 2015, and subsequently three AA Rosettes, so you’re near guaranteed a good meal here. Because of the scarcity of similarly-awarded restaurants in Leeds it does get booked up ahead of time, so it’s always worth securing your spot if you’re thinking about visiting.

If after dining at this city centre restaurant you want to take a little piece of your experience with you, it’s good news. Michael O’Hare has created a shop of various goods for fans of his brand to buy. You might be surprised to know that you can purchase a slogan skateboard for £50, or even house-branded gin by Slingsby.

About The Man Behind The Curtain

As restaurant names go, The Man Behind The Curtain is among one of the most avant-garde. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect anything less from chef Michael O'Hare though, who has built his career on playing with the expectations and perceptions of diners who walk through the door.

In case you were wondering, the restaurant takes its name from classic film The Wizard of Oz, although you won’t find any corny tributes to the yellow brick road here. Instead, the dining room is a stylishly appointed space that is flooded with natural light thanks to large windows. Exposed wooden beams and concrete flooring add to the industrial-chic vibe, while graffiti splashed across the walls adds a much-welcomed burst of colour. There is also the benefit of sweeping views across the city’s rooftops, thanks to the restaurant’s position above clothing store Flannels.

Some parts of the menu at The Man Behind The Curtain change with the seasons, but the main draw here is the Permanent Collection – a 10-14 course tasting menu that deals in curious and sometimes challenging dishes. Examples of plates you might be served up include halibut with chorizo and pickled onion, a pairing of foie gras and raspberry, and oysters topped with a strawberry kimchi.

Desserts are equally as arresting (think milk chocolate with violet and honey), while the extensive wine list is made up of bottles from lesser known regions and styles. There are a few house cocktails too, that are as Instagram-friendly as they are tasty.

True fans are also invited to shop at O’Hare’s dedicated shop, which features a handful of products he has created himself. You could get your hands on a Man Behind The Curtain branded skateboard, or a candle designed by the chef himself. There’s even a collaboration between the restaurant and Slingsby Gin (presented in a sleek monochromatic bottle) which you can bring home with you.

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - Over £80
Cuisines
International
Ambience
Cool, Fine dining, Quirky, Themed
Other Awards
One Michelin star
Food Occasions
Dinner, Lunch
Alfresco And Views
Great views, Rooftop
Special Features
Vegetarian options
People
Dates, Special occasions
Food Hygiene Rating
Meet the team
The Man Behind The Curtain

Michael O'Hare

Chef Patron

Michael O’Hare burst onto The North’s culinary scene in 2014 with The Man Behind The Curtain, a self-consciously trendy Leeds restaurant that takes its name from a Wizard of Oz quote and serves up artful (and tiny) plates of food with Spanish and Asian influences - the last thing you’d expect from a chef that trained under John Burton-Race. A Michelin star and a barnstorming performance on Great British Menu followed, but things haven’t been plain sailing for the Middlesborough-born chef since then. His Rabbit in the Moon restaurant in Manchester closed after less than two years and an ambitious hotel restaurant project failed to get off the ground entirely.



Location for The Man Behind The Curtain

68-78 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7JH

0113 2432376

Website

Opening Times

Lunch
Mon Closed
Tue Closed
Wed Closed
Thu 12:30-14:00
Fri 12:30-14:00
Sat 12:30-14:00
Sun Closed
Dinner
Mon Closed
Tue 18:30-20:30
Wed 18:30-20:30
Thu 18:30-20:30
Fri 18:30-20:30
Sat 18:30-20:30
Sun Closed

Reviews of The Man Behind The Curtain

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1 Review 
Food/Drink
Service
Atmosphere
Value

Paul A

Style over substance
14 May 2016  
Yet another chef we felt drawn to visit on the basis of our impression of his TV persona and cuisine. Previously we had been mightily disappointed with the sole Michelin star restaurant in Leeds, now long defunct, and relied on an Italian place for our annual trek here. Clearly, going by the fact that to be sure of getting a table you have to book some five months in advance, Michael O’Hare seemed to be doing something right, however, he was not in the kitchen on the evening we dined here, so perhaps he was too busy being interviewed by the national press and criticising his paying customers for not conforming to his idea of fun people. A chef who believes he can dictate how his customers should enjoy themselves in his restaurant might well end up with only a few locals once the novelty of his fame has worn off. He might also consider that, firstly, one man’s fun could be someone else’s hell, and in the cavernous top floor ex-clothes shop premises the over-loud music could easily put some customers off their food, and, secondly, that you wouldn’t want to take photos of empty plates and photos are part of the “fun” for a lot of people. Some of the staff appeared not to quite understand what they were doing or how to engage with diners who were trying to get as much enjoyment as possible from the experience by asking pertinent questions and there was no obvious restaurant manager to guide them and the pouring of wine from an exaggerated height is just 70s flash. To an extent this was fantasy food, aimed at breaking the boundaries between visual expectation and taste surprise and satisfaction, and the “snacks” with which the meal commenced were examples of this. The raw Denia prawn cooked on the plate by having the barbecued brain poured on it was exceptional, the smoky octopus soaked in lemon and garnished with a paprika emulsion was tender and delicious, and the XO veal sweetbread served in a steamed bun was super. From then on we found ourselves mostly less than impressed. Tender beef in potato paper with a sauce made of rendered down fat and with olive bits added was fine, the sea-urchin sauce with parmesan noodles that became crunchy after contact with sauce was good, the Iberico lardo dish with quail’s egg and a crisp identified by the waitress as “siracko”, which turned out to be Txangurro, was neutral at best. The helping of the signature “fish and chips” seemed to be less generous than expected on the plate and it disappointed with the excess saltiness of the black cod and lack of any pseudo-deep-fried element. We liked the anchovy and the ash in the pork dish but the latter was tasteless and not what we could recognise as the Iberico version. An experiment in matching tastes and possibly purporting to be a palate cleanser combining caraway seeds and lavender and chocolate on over-salty pork rind simply did not work, but the potato custard dessert with very rich chocolate, very good violet ice cream and sweet beetroot vinegar did. The explosion of passion fruit in white chocolate was another throwback and didn’t appeal, and our coffee was not accompanied by petits fours. In the end, although we did enjoy much of the food, a restaurant where the dishes that remain in the memory are the starters is not providing a complete experience, and once the fine dining meets performance art element wore off and the paucity of wow-factor dishes hit home it became a question of how much style and how much substance?
Food & Drink
Service
Atmosphere
Value

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