As we descend the staircase down into the restaurant, all the colours seem to seep from the world, and we enter The Man Behind The Curtain's monochrome ebony and ivory universe.
We check our coats and are shown to seats in the restaurant atrium where we will start off with some aperitif drinks. The Man Behind The Curtain restaurant in Leeds is a black-tiled space with white leather couches, chrome finishings and a floor-to-ceiling mirror.
Our tipples arrive, and we spend an enjoyable bit of time chatting, and anticipating the meal to come.
Midway through our drinks, the first dish arrives, an amuse-bouche that is a tasty bit of spiced tuna with fisherman's friend - it is delicious and sets the tone for what is to come.
A little while later we are led deeper into the room, to be seated at a similarly achromatic black and white marble table.
Here and there in the restaurant there are a few touches of whimsy, such as the 'hey dude' hands as table centre pieces, or the skateboard wall decorations, but for the most part there is very little to distract.
Michael O'Hare - the chef at Man Behind The Curtain restaurant - has created a gallery space where every hue and tint has been scrupulously erased, the better to focus on the only stars of this show: his culinary masterpieces.
Even the waiters are dressed sombrely, all in black. Though thankfully this is offset by their cheerful dispositions, all of them uniformly committed to their cause, with that well-known northern hospitality enthusiastically on display.
The first of the edible creations arrives - a Dali-esque langoustine dish, perched precariously on the requisite (non-edible) black telephone. It is delicious.
It is also a sign of what is to follow. As the subsequent courses of The Man Behind The Curtain's menu alternate before us - sweetbreads, a crushed ice ensemble that defies explanation, amazing squab pigeon, that 'Great British Menu' fish dish - they resemble not so much courses in a menu, as a slideshow of artistic ingenuity! Each of the individual plates are vivid, captivating pieces of contemporary art. And tasty ones at that.
Every few dishes a little piece of theatre takes place, as each of us has our plate delivered by our own waiter, all of them wafting down in front of us in perfect unison, like a chorus line at the ballet. This whole meal at this restaurant has the feeling of a precisely honed choreographic production, which is entertaining to be a part of.
By the time the desserts arrive, we are mesmerised. And here, at last, some colour has been allowed in. Below a sculpted white and pink chocolate leaf is buried pina colada sorbet and a maroon jelly sweet. And to conclude our meal we are presented with an enormous platter of vividly coloured macaroons - something Yayoi Kusama might have thought up if it weren't so symmetrical.
All in all, Michael O'Hare's 1 Michelin Star restaurant is a visual feast, where we appreciate the fare with our eyes as much as our taste buds. It is also a lot of fun!
Where so many starred restaurants can be staid, stuffy affairs, heavy with self-importance, The Man Behind The Curtain is one that is modern and carefree, aesthetically engaging, and strikingly unique.
Some further Information:
- The Man Behind The Curtain is the only Michelin star restaurant in Leeds
- Cost: The lunch price varies between £55-100, and dinner price between £75-140, depending on the tasting menu chosen and also the specific date (prices are more expensive for more sought after times)
- Reservation: Bookings open 4-5 months in advance, and the best sittings go fast. Reservations are prepaid, including a 10% service charge, and bookings are non-refundable
- The restaurant is closed Mondays, and most Sundays. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays
(accurate as at Nov-2019)