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.