SquareMeal Review of The Man Behind The Curtain
“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.