Home to some of the country's most beautiful countryside (and most forthright and friendly people), Yorkshire has so much to shout about. But for all its many charms, few would immediately think of it as a centre of culinary experimentation. But Leeds is where Michael O'Hare - dubbed the north's answer to Heston - has opened his new restaurant, The Man Behind The Curtain.
An inventive chef who previously worked at The Blind Swine in York - a restaurant famous for dishes like potatoes buried in ash and carrot plant pots - O’Hare's new restaurant takes it name from the pathetic figurehead of the Wizard of Oz. That alone, in a world of prosaic restaurant names, was reason enough to pay it a visit. We made the trip to Leeds recently, in pursuit of gastronomic adventure.
The first thing to strike you when you walk into O'Hare's restaurant is the decor. It is simple, elegant, but markedly unfussy. There are no grand chandeliers, no great eye-catching colours, nothing loud or demonstrative. The menu too is - at least in terms of its length - a stripped back affair, broken down into lunch with three or five courses, and the Degustation, the restaurant's multi-course tasting menu. But if everything else is artfully minimalist, the food is certainly not.
Featuring options like langoustine with lavender, black cod with potato, shallots and dashi and the mysterious Secretos d'Iberica cut of jamon Iberico, the food is an inspired and delicious blend of familiar ingredients given thrilling and exciting twists. O'Hare's creativity is given free rein, and the results are astonishingly good.
Just don't, whatever you do, try to photograph your meal for your Instagram account. Phones at the table are a big no-no at The Man Behind The Curtain. And when a Yorkshireman (or Yorkshire-woman) tells you something, you can consider yourself told. We kept our phone firmly pocketed for the duration.
After a seemingly never-ending procession of fantastic dishes came and went from our table, we shuffled out, utterly satisfied, into Leeds itself. Our route home took us via some of the most typically bucolic Yorkshire scenery, and past countless traditional, unchanging pubs.
Driving that route, it's understandable why Yorkshire may forever be meat-and-two-veg country in the minds of many. But as The Man Behind The Curtain proves, there's much more to discover if you look for it. In the parlance of the locals: You'd be daft as a brush to miss out.