The Man Behind The Curtain, Leeds: Review

Recap: A victorious Great British Menu ‘journey’ (ugh). Leeds’s first Michelin star in over 10 years. Cool shoes.

“Very Original”, drone the Michelin lot in their assessment of The Man Behind The Curtain, and despite sounding like a bad food blog, they’re bang on; this place is very that.

But there’s something of a straitlaced tone in there, I reckon, which is something TMBTC “Very Isn’t”.

To be honest, I’d been reluctant to get booked in here. Entertaining as I’d found the Great British Menu, I’d had recurring niggles about style-over-stomach; that the crucial ‘tastes ace’ part of a meal might be overshadowed by the playful presentation and leftfield combinations.  

Which, really, is a trying-to-sound-cool way of saying they’d been booked up for ages and I couldn’t get a table.

Fast forward to me running a finger around a bowl that had, until recently, housed a perfect dish of (in essence) cod, squid ink and chips – strikingly presented, with booming hits of salt and vinegar – and the above concern makes me sound a bit of a div.

To try and recount each twist and turn I encountered in the couple of hours spent stuffing my face would be to do the kitchen a disservice. Taking notes has the tendency to make one look like a penis and, besides, there was the important business of getting bladdered on some expertly matched wines to be getting on with, which plays merry hell with the brain’s capacity to absorb information.

What I can say, to adopt the Michelin parlance, is that what I got down the gullet was Very Clever, Very Entertaining and, ultimately, Very Satisfying.

There was plenty more about this meaty, saline-rich hunk of octopus – hand massaged, naturally – than just being presented on a handsomely ornate down-in-one spoon…


…and this langoustine tartare in mussel consomme, parsley oil and lavender tasted as spritzy and spritely as it sounds.


A dish of juicy crab, soft lardo, crisp wonton and sriracha-spiked wafer shifted the flavour gears from crisp and clean to deep and rich. Ace, across-the-spectrum textures and tastes that complimented rather than drowned each other out.


The smart smack of a potent XO sauce oomphed-up a couple of gnarly sweetbread nuggets…



…and there’s more good-sauce action to be had in a heady ‘un of garlic, Jackson Pollocked betwixt unusual cuts of toothy-textured Iberian pork and tangy anchovies.


If I’d have gone down the penis route of taking notes, I’d have said summat about ‘a pleasing mouthfeel’ here.

But back to that cod.

Blogs, this one included, can talk a load of arse at times. ‘Perfect’ and ‘great’ get knocked about with far too much abandon. In this instance, to me, however, those descriptors are bob-on.

I mean, it’s a belter to look at – black everything until you whack open the fish and unveil its translucent bright whiteness – but the crisp and crunch of the chips, the just-yielding fish and the deep something-ness of the sauce take it to another level. I don’t know how it’s done, I don’t massively care, but I wanted another one as soon as I’d clocked it.

Naturally I forgot to take a photo. Have a gander ‘ere.

There was disconcerting talk of potato when pudding arrived, but – panic not – it’d merely been deployed in an aerated custardy-thing prior to being poured over some silver-sprayed tempered chocolate. Of course.

If all sake could be like the plum sake that went alongside, I’d like sake much more.


It’s a big room, this, but there’s a clank and clatter of folk having a reet do of it that you’re more likely to find in a smaller ‘neighbourhood’ joint than you might expect in high-end land.

Background choons from the likes of Jimi Hendrix will have that effect, but it’s probably more to do with a slick but relaxed front of house team that has none of that fussiness some might automatically presume comes with Posh Food.

Very Original indeed. Very Very Nice, too.

Dindins is 70 quid, lunch be £42. Both are carte blanche/get-wot-yer-given.

The Man Behind The Curtain website

Let’s be bezzies on twitter.



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