This weekend I surprised Billy with dinner at The Man Behind The Curtain as an early birthday present. I booked it months in advance and it took all of my power to keep it a secret… I was so excited and more than anything wanted Billy to share the excitement. But by some miracle I kept my mouth shut and he had no idea what we were doing until we turned up at the door!
Before I get into this post I have to admit that I don’t have many pictures to share. As it was a once in a lifetime kind of meal, I wanted to fully immerse myself in the experience rather than worry about getting the right shot of each of the 14 (yes, 14!!!) courses. Sometimes you have to forget about the gram and enjoy the moment.
Nonetheless, I’m excited share my experience with you through the power of words – without of course going into too much detail and ruining the surprise if you’re planning to visit!
The Man Behind The Curtain is a Michelin Star restaurant in Leeds by chef Michael O’Hare. It operates with a 10 or 14 course (depending on what time of day you visit) ‘permanent collection’ menu with price depending on when you visit – the most popular times are the most expensive. Booking is in advance only – and you really do need to book in advance, it’s taken me forever to actually get a table on a Saturday night – and you have to pay when you book, with no cancellations or rearranging allowed.
You can choose to add a drinks package or prestige drinks package (we went for the latter based on the premise that we probably wouldn’t have the chance to visit again soon), or you can order by the bottle.
As we descended the stairs into the restaurant, the fanciness was immediately apparent. We were given a warm welcome and handed over our coats before being shown to our table. Everything was minimalist and marble with some beautiful furry rugs thrown in… it looked amazing.
We were welcomed to our table with a some palette cleansing tea and a mystery black box which contained our napkins, the food menu and a wine list. After a few minutes a member of staff returned to ask for our drinks choice, and seconds later our first course arrived. Already we were speechless for the level of service!
A note on service whilst I’m on the subject: it was absolutely outstanding. Staff were dressed immaculately, were highly knowledgable about all the food and drink explaining everything to us in detail, and had excellent attention to detail. Every time I went to the toilet (I’ll come on to these later) I returned to a freshly folded napkin and a member of staff waiting to pull my chair out for me. Despite it being a very fancy restaurant (definitely the fanciest I’ve ever been to), the staff made us feel completely at ease and it never felt pretentious.
The Food (And Drink)
Although the service was amazing, the food was of course the main event. And each dish really did feel like an event! As expected, the presentation was completely stunning from the way the food was placed on the plate to the plates themselves. Even the trays that the food was brought out on were gorgeous!
But for me, taste is far more important than presentation – if you’ve ever seen me plate up food you’ll be well aware of this. Every dish tasted exquisite, with so much complexity of flavour. As I don’t want to give too much away, I’ll just tell you about my favourite dishes.
- The snack round. The first three dishes were brought out together, I assume because they were all very small. But despite their small size, the flavour was BIG! I can’t remember the exact descriptions, but we had a charred octopus hot dog, a veal sweetbread slider (my personal favourite) and some sashimi tuna with fisherman’s friend mayo.
- 160 day aged beef tartar with olive powder. The first bite of this actually made us giggle – the taste was so intense that there weren’t any other suitable reactions! You know when you cook roast beef and there’s that sticky stuff at the bottom of the pan that you really shouldn’t eat because that would be naughty? That’s the best way I can describe this dish, with some perfectly tender cubes of beef on top and some extra beef fat poured on that. Possibly the best thing I have ever tasted. EVER. And I don’t even like olives.
- Emancipation cod. This was a very, very posh fish and chips and absolutely delicious. I think it was the textures as much as the flavours that blew me away with this one and I don’t think I can describe it in a way that does it justice – so I just won’t.
Drinks-wise, we had the prestige package because why the hell not? The first drink was a sizeable glass of Krug Grande Cuvee, something which I’d never tried before but certainly have a taste for now!
This was followed by a Vermut Siset (I didn’t think I’d like this from the description especially as it had olives in – ew – but it was really nice and went perfectly with the food), then a fabulous Trimbach Riesling and then the most amazing red called Li Veli Pezzo Morgana which we had several glasses of. The trick was to finish the glass before the food was served to get a top up!
The final drink in the package I didn’t like so Billy drank mine, but as with anything it’s all down to personal taste. It was a Chinese Chateau Changyu Gold Diamond Vidal Ice Wine, basically a Sake.
After we’d finished eating and drinking our way through the menu we were offered another drink for the road. I naively asked how much a glass of the Krug was, but at £41 per glass I passed on that and instead had an extremely tasty Blanc de Noir to finish the evening.
This might seem like a strange thing to write about in a restaurant post, but in this case it absolutely needs it’s own section. The toilets were of course immaculately clean, and they were also lovely and warm (I hate peeing when it’s cold). But the thing that set these toilets apart was this panel:
It goes without saying that I spent far too long in the toilet playing with all of the buttons. My recommendation would 100% be the Sitz Bath on high temperature and then the dry function. The toilet experience was then topped off by a dreamy exfoliating soap that FINALLY cleared up the dry skin on my hands that I’ve been suffering with for weeks, super soft hand towels and the all important hand cream.
Our experience of The Man Behind The Curtain was fantastic, but definitely not something that could be justified very often due to the price tag. From start to finish we were made to feel special, and nothing was unconsidered. The only downside was that, despite 14 courses of food, I wasn’t as full as I’d have liked to have been, and a couple of hours later this happened (Champagne wasn’t needed in hindsight):