A Basement of wonder, intrigue and sterile furniture....
"You've got to go to Man Behind The Curtain" said my editor. "It's a Michelin Starred restaurant just outside our office!". "Also it's Michael O’Hare's restaurant!! "
"Who?" I said
"The rock n'roll looking chap from Great British Menu!" My Editor retorted, as if concerned at his restaurant reviewers credibility.
So one Saturday night I obtained a reservation for their newest creation...The Diffusion Line.
Obtaining a reservation here is a hit and miss affair, with Saturday nights being booked 4-6 months in advance but mid-week completely unbooked. The Diffusion line is a new and more casual dining experience, to be treated as a Pre-dinner or post-theatre experience. A 12 course tasting menu with 4 accompanying cocktails. Served on just 4 tables.
Upon arrival I was escorted to a rather fashionable table just inside the restaurant, with a grand view of all the other patrons who had come from far and wide to enjoy the full dining experience. The interior decor of the restaurant is strikingly unique. A memorable hybrid of art gallery, torture room from "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and a skateboard shop. This is one for foodies and food tourists with a thirst for new pictures for their Instagram.
Dishes are well thought out, well produced and generally pleasant. Some are overtly complex, using so many ingredients in a bid to impress that it took my server far too long to recite her script. The more simple dishes were infinitely more enjoyable and were the overall highlights of the first few courses.
The initial cocktail however had a ghastly dusting of kelp/seaweed that made the whole thing reminiscent of a "must be cleaned" aquarium. Served alongside the oyster and mussel broth, I can understand where the dish was going, I just wish the cocktail matched the delicacy of the seafood. The following cocktails were far more orthodox but with intriguing twists and I hasten to add were thoroughly enjoyable.
There were obvious attempts to elevate the cooking and experience as a whole. Novelty pieces (centre picture), where one could consume the entire packaging, were lost on me. These are culinary tricks that Heston Blumenthal was doing 10 years ago and have since become unnecessary and kitsch. The chilli beef and coconut rice (far left) were truly delightful, perfectly cooked and a perfectly balanced and presented dish. One worthy of a high-end restaurant.
Desert was a trio of further novelty, which had to be eaten in a certain order apparently. Two of these were tremendously sour and I still regret eating them. The final donut shaped pastry, was a more conventional flavour arrangement and was a truly nice way to end the taste experience. Obviously all followed by a good quality large armagnac.
The Man Behind The Curtain is an experience, one to say you have been and perhaps point out two or three dishes you actually enjoyed. While mine was the trimmed down "Diffusion Line" experience, it has informed me that I should be in no great rush to obtain a further reservation. This is yet another Michelin Starred restaurant that puts art and the experience above food and flavour. That what is placed before you is art first and food second. I have eaten at many Michelin Starred restaurants and the rising culture is one that puts emphasis back onto taste, quality and consistency.
We no longer wish to be shocked by bizarre flavour combinations, psychedelic kitchenware or endangered ingredients. While Man Behind The Curtain exudes it's own sense of style, I cannot help but feel it is somewhat behind the times and trying to keep up with higher end rivals who are no longer playing that game.