Who is The Man Behind the Curtain?


Michael O’Hare, the chef with the tattoos and wild blonde hair, who took York by storm serving potatoes in ash, carrots in plant pots and mint juleps in old tin cans found he was out of a job when the owners (not O’Hare, he was just the chef) of the Blind Swine,  faced with a hefty rent rise, closed in January, leaving the heavy metal chef high and dry.

Well, now we can announce his new, go-it-alone venture.  He’s taking Flannels, the delightfully spare and elegant room, above the natty clothes shop in Leeds’ Vicar Lane. It won’t be called Blind Swine either, but … The Man Behind the Curtain. Trust O’H to come up with an esoteric name with seven syllables, which he explained to Daniel Eggleston from York’s One & Other magazine, is a quote from the Wizard of Oz  ‘Pay no heed to the man behind the curtain’ and is a dig at the cult of the celebrity chef. ‘The Man Behind the Curtain sounds like the most pretentious name in the world, but it’s actually the opposite. Who is the man behind the curtain? Is it me the chef? I work within a team, it’s my team that execute the food/the service.’

And the food? ‘I’m getting tired of eating leaves and green oil off earthenware plates,’ O’H told Squidbeak. ‘I’m dropping all Nordic influences completely and pushing forward to something original. I think it’s about time somebody did something new and exciting.’

The MBC plans to open on 9th May with choices at lunchtime and midweek and a multi-course tasting menu served Wednesday to Saturday evening. We can’t wait, though we fear the location has become a bit of a Bermuda Triangle for restaurateurs.  The original Flannels, Anthony Flinn and Leeds City College have all come and gone but we have faith, and the room never fails to impress, high up in the rafters, cool, calm, white and light with views over the city.

O’Hare is taken with it, too. ‘It’s a place with a sense of occasion,’ he says. So much so he’s establishing a dress code. ‘As in no trainers or tee shirts and men to wear a jacket to dinner. I’d like to bring back some old fashioned values’. Blimey, this from the man who on race days in York banned suits and prom dresses from his establishment and scrawled across the window: ‘County Stand race tags do not add inches to your dick, nor do they guarantee entry into this establishment.’ It’s a bit rich, but you know what he means, so when you book a table at The Man Behind the Curtain, take your cue from the chef himself whom I bumped into at an awards ceremony recently flamboyantly sporting a tailcoat and a silver topped cane.





Marshmallow Magic

If you’ve only ever had those pink and white marshmallows that come in plastic bags from the supermarket then real marshmallows will come as a  revelation. Soft, fluffy little pillows of sweetness and ever so fashionable. We were recently won over by proper marshmallows with our coffee at Blind Swine in York , toasting them on the candle that warmed a fancy coffee percolater..

To be totally on trend then, you have to make your own and to make your own you will need this little book: Marshmallow Magic by Genevieve Taylor. She gives the basic marshmallow recipe and from there you can branch out into malted chocolate, honeycomb, banoffee swirls, Black Forest, and lemon meringue. There is no end, it seems, to the possibilities.

Basic ingredients are egg whites, sugar and gelatine and then you add flavourings: vanilla, lemon, chocolate, rosewater, whatever. But there are a few things you need to know before launching as a marshmallow maestro. ‘A free-standing mixer is pretty much essential,’ writes Genevieve, as the egg whites have to be whisked for a good ten minutes. A jam thermometer is useful and takes all the guesswork out of boiling sugar and, finally, gelatine-free marshmallows suitable for vegetarians are not wholly successful, according to Genevieve. She tried with help from the Vegetarian Society and they managed a veggie version for which she gives the recipe but reckons they are not as light as those made with gelatine and suggests vegetarians would be better off making marshmallow fluff which she includes in the book.

Still, vegetarians excepted, you (and your kids) can have hours of sticky fun creating these pretty little numbers.

Marshmallow Magic by Genevieve Taylor £9.99 Bantam Press

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