I mentioned in the last post that I’d done a day-trip to Leeds, and that I would write more about it. So, here we are.
One of the Michelin-starred restaurants I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Michael O’Hare‘s “The Man Behind The Curtain” in Leeds. It’s always been booked solid, but when I looked on a whim a couple of months ago, I discovered that there was a table for four free for a late lunch on Saturday. I called the other friend who was interested in the same place , and I booked it.
That’s where the first shock came in. The entire price of the meal was paid at the time of booking, including the wine – and the service charge! Now to me, that’s taking the piss. The only other Michelin-starred place I’ve seen with that attitude is The Fat Duck, and even there it’s “only” the food that is paid for ahead of time, not the wine and tip. Every other place I’ve been has taken a credit card number, and said “if you don’t show up, you’ll pay the full price”, which is fine with me. Paying up front for it all seems very dodgy.
Anyway, I did that, and last Saturday was the day.
I’d hired a car for doing it as a day-trip, as I was also driving the others there and back, and it makes life fun.
“The Man Behind The Curtain” is… highly individual. First things first, it’s on the top floor of a department store – definitely not somewhere you’d just wander into! As it turns out, it now *was* on the top floor – our meal was the last lunch served in the top floor, and they were moving to the basement after the dinner service.
It’s a strange space, seemingly more of a gallery than a restaurant. The walls were graffitied and arty, with chicken-wire clouds above some tables. I’ve never been anywhere else like it – but that also shows in the food. Again it’s very arty – some of the food is quite spectacular, as is the crockery it arrives in. In particular, “Emancipation”, which is cod in squid-ink, basically black food on a black “droplet” plate…
That was just one of the ten ‘courses’. And they were all brilliant.
Honestly, I kind of wanted to not like it, to be unimpressed by the entire place. I feel really strongly about the whole ‘pay upfront’ thing, and think it gives a really bad impression of the restaurant. But the food, the atmosphere, and the service of the place all combined to leave me still impressed.
It was a really good day, and decent drives there and back (two hours door-to-door each way) helped as well.