Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Man Behind The Curtain - Leeds

The Man Behind The Curtain rose in to my consciousness around a year ago, with amazing pictures of pieces of art on a plate. One by one bloggers have been striking it off their wish list and finally my time came last weekend, as a surprise birthday treat.

As we approached the darkened doors of Flannels a suited man opened the door pronouncing our name with confidence, it becomes clear that this place is all about the experience. 

Many reviewers have shown distaste to this entrance, stating they found it almost seedy to creep around in a darkened deserted store. If I'm going to be honest, in which I always try to be, I found it quite curious and a little bit exciting, like we were a part of some privileged elite who were invited to dance the floorboards after dark. 

We were greeted as we walked out of the lift and told we would be seated in the bar area until our table was ready. I think this was more a prelude stage that everyone goes through rather than them being disorganised and not having our table ready, we were one of the first bookings of the night after all. We were handed a drinks menu to thumb through whilst we sat awkwardly around a tiny metal netted table. Before we could even decide upon a drink we were handed our first bite and insight in to what the night might hold for us.

A tiny fois gras donut that was dipped in white chocolate. 

This was the oddest mix of flavours I have ever put in my mouth. The taste of liver fat mixed with sweet creamy chocolate was a bit too far beyond the sweet and salty combinations I have enjoyed in the past. I ate it nevertheless. At least it looked pretty. 

We ordered a carafe of red wine, the name of which I can't recall now I think it was a Bordeaux, prior to its arrival came our second taster of the night. 

Warm mackerel pâté balls covered in cocoa and coffee, served in a tea cup with coffee beans. The outer part appears crispy but be assured that the coating is very fine and the taste is concentrated in the inner mackerel. Warm and not over powering it went down easily, especially when our wine arrived and we could complement the two. 

We were led in to the main restaurant through the dividers and placed at a table beside a wall (divider). A large canvas loomed over us and it felt almost as if we were dining in an art gallery. As the meal continued (as you will see) it became evident this was a theme of sorts with each dish a separate work of art in its own right. 

Rather quickly and unexpectedly we received our next dish.

From this point I have to add a disclaimer - the dishes that were placed before us were unknown to us beforehand, I had no idea what to expect, in addition to this no menu of our night can be found. I attempted to take notes of each course but unfortunately the list of ingredients and title of each dish was so gross in length I struggled to recall within seconds of being told what was in the dish let alone post meal. So to sum up - sorry I can't provide a full and detailed description of the courses, I've tried my best and I've hazarded a few guesses. 

The dish above, the first served at our table, is a coriander taco topped with leaves and lime. A mouthful each, if that, was a nice texture of crispy and leafy with a sourness to balance the savoury. 

Next came the dish that stands out for most, the one I have probably seen the most pictures of.

Balanced on an elegant metallic tree lies disguised spoons of scallops dotted with grains which the waitress poured a chorizo and mussel oil concoction on to at our table. The paprika from the chorizo really stood out and if felt almost as if I was eating oysters pouring them in to my mouth. I watched D struggle across the table from me to swallow his. 

There was a short wait for the next course and we could smell a faint burning coming from behind me where the food was being prepared, something similar to burnt toast.

Along came the next dish.

 A small pocket containing a sour dough pitta (probably not the correct term) and a trio of dips. The dips consisted of small salmon balls that refreshingly burst as you ate them, rich black pudding sauce and a sauce which tasted a bit like tzatziki without the bits. The black pudding dip was by far my favourite, the burning smell was obviously the charring of the sour dough which came soft and freshly baked (I presume).

We were given the first of our cutlery sets for the next course, brought to us in a branded box with the signature coat hanger graphic.

D's face lit up as the next dish was placed before us.

Little did he know that this was not meat but a tuna belly steak served with a blackberry jus and ravioli. This was served on a much nicer plate than my picture gives justice. D was pleasantly surprised by the meatiness of the dish and the charring around the edge of the belly really spiked some extra flavour in to the dish, although I struggled to grab the taste inside of the ravioli.

It was slowly starting to fill in the art gallery restaurant by this point and with it a bit more atmosphere. I can't remember exactly the music that was playing but I do remember it being a fairly eclectic and a varied mix that often left us raising an eyebrow.

Further disappointment followed for D when arrived another fish course.

The hake was wrapped in savoy cabbage, dotted with mussel bits and scattered with beetroot pickled onions. For me the biggest flavour on this dish was the mussel bits, which were predominantly salty. The hake is a blander fish wrapped in a bland cabbage with (only) ever so slightly sweet onions. It wasn't my favourite dish.

By this point D and I had started assessing the waitresses, there was one who preferred not to speak and made us uncomfortable, there was the one who was struggling to walk in the large gold heels they were required to wear and then there was the pleasant one who brought us more wine.

We were brought more cutlery in a box and told that the next dish was a sharer canvas.

It certainly looked like a canvas, with some abstract painted protruding. The black ball shaped food being pigs cheeks were coated in duck fat emulsion which helped the oyster cinders bind to it; served with an oyster sauce. The cheeks, oddly, became more and more enjoyable as we ate them, I found the duck fat emulsion a bit too overpowering in some mouthfuls and it was difficult to soak up the sauce from the canvas.

Here is a picture of the second set of cutlery.

I didn't take a picture of the final set of cutlery, a picture couldn't do them justice. They were a two toned metal which were heavier and more substantial than those above. I'd probably need a small loan to buy some.

The next dish provided food I had never tried before.

Sweetbread, with radishes soaked in pomegranate or perhaps it was a pomegranate jus. Having never tried sweetbread I found them to be rather greasy in taste, and I'm not sure I'd be inclineded to try them again. The radishes were good.

The final savoury course of the meal arrived next.

Sirloin steak about the size of a two bourbon biscuits sandwiched together, served rare-ish, slightly chilled (purposeful? I'm unsure) served with pak choi and some weird black spongy concept... both of us missed the name of it. The steak was nice but I prefer my steak a little warmer and the spongy object was weird but amiable too.

With the savoury dishes well and truly exhausted we were on to the first of our sweets.

Pretty right? There were so many flavours within this dish I really struggled to take it all in as they were indexed out to us. A hazardous guess of what this dish was made up of is butternut squash puree, praline, walnut ice cream and a berry reduction. It felt odd to have butternut squash in a dessert having previously only had it in savoury dishes, soup, roasted etc. It was definitely a palate cleanser for our next dish.

This dish was again a sharer plate on fairly normal crockery.

There was a chocolate cone containing a walnut ice cream/mousse which was later cracked once the dish had been explained to us and a potato foam poured over the top then topped with salt and vinegar puffed rice. The purple shards you can see were lavender wafers (again probably not the correct term). I really enjoyed this course, the different textures and layers of flavours really played with my senses. Clearly I have a sweet tooth.

Sadly but by no means least came our last course.

A tiny little cupcake that was simply a mouthful in size. We were told to eat it in one, case and all. The passion fruit centre burst through the praline and meringue topping creating a pleasant havoc in my mouth. I could have eaten at least five more.

You're paying a premium to dine here. You're paying for an experience.

You're not just paying for the food.

I guess that's what fine dining is. The whole experience.

The waitresses wait on you hand and foot whilst wearing ridiculous shoes half of them can't walk in. The chef presents his favourite dish at your table. The dark shady scenes. The looming art work. The artistic crockery. The many differing sets of cutlery matched to the food in weight and material.

That £65 per head plus drinks you're paying for is the whole sha-bang. 

Michael O'Hare is fast making a name for himself, he has recently abandoned his efforts in York (The Blind Swine) and has bee lined for Leeds, which is also fast making a name for itself in the UK food scene. Wise choice Mr O'Hare. 

Oh and the bit about no photos, or them not being appropriate in his restaurant, is tosh everyone was taking photos, some daring with the flash even. Photos are what brought me to the restaurant... 

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Gillian said...

Good to read your review - I am going in 2 weeks - I can't wait!

Claire Patterson said...

I hope you enjoy it!