REVIEW | Mr Nobody, Leeds
And the answer is this; you must experience the Mr Nobody experience, and only then will you truly understand the reasoning behind the name. More importantly, the philosophy and morality behind what I can honestly say, is the most bizarre culinary experience I have ever had the pleasure of, well, experiencing.
Mr Nobody has recently opened its doors on Lower Briggate in the centre of Leeds. A ground level cocktail bar with a very average shop-front and a quirky outdoor space. Another Leeds bar serving decent cocktails; with a lot less pretense than the likes of Angelicas and The Alchemist and a funky 1960’s inspired interior with lots of organically shaped MDF cladding and seating. It’s all a bit ‘cool man’ and the great big tables and benches make it a perfect place for big groups.
If you are booked in downstairs for a go at the tasting menu and what is described as a ‘more formal’ experience (and you absolutely must book), make sure you go with an open mind.
Mr Nobody turns every expectation of dining out somewhere that serves ‘a tasting menu’ on its head. Don’t expect crisp white table clothes, there isn’t a flurry of waiters, food is served on a mishmash of crockery and, if your idea of a faultless formal dining experience rests upon a vibrant, energetic atmosphere, ambient lighting and people watching, you’ll be disappointed. And initially I was exactly that, as these are the characteristics that I have come to expect from a restaurant that describes itself as ‘formal’ and serves us a tasting menu. But, as that metaphorical phase so eloquently points out – NEVER judge a book by its cover.
As you make your way down the dark and rather tatty staircase into the basement of Mr Nobody you’ll be forgiven for thinking you are venturing into some kind of small underground rave.
The place has an industrial feel to it – made up of bare brick walls, concrete floors, another MDF bar, and rather cheap Formica tables. There are around 40 covers, and each table is made up with nothing more than a side plate with a knife and folk laid across it. No napkins, no wine glasses and certainly no small vases featuring a single curled up carnation.
My favourite design element is not an expensive drop crystal chandelier, nor is it perfectly polished solid oak floors or pricey pieces of art – the highlight is a feature-wall made up of fake grass, featuring the word DELICIOUS made out of hand decorated, uneven letters from Hobby Craft, decorated with bits of tissue paper and sequins!
We are shown to our table right next to a stainless steel worktop facing a wall at which a couple of young looking chaps; one in shorts with Crocs on his feet and wearing a dodgy looking stripy, slightly grubby apron, is doing something with a small morsel of food on a tin plate and a blow torch.
My friend Jo and I take our seats, look around the room at the obvious lack of guests (just us and another couple), look across the table at each and other, and simultaneously whisper; WHAT THE F**K…..?
Before we can say “RUUUUUNNNNN” – a well-spoken chap is by our side taking our wine order. We told him how we liked it and left it to him to select something appropriate – after all, we had no idea what was to follow on the food front – in for a penny, in for a pound. We were going nowhere for a while.
Pretty quickly course #1 of TEN appeared in front of us; this time served to us by one of the chaps from the steel worktop next to us. We were talked through the rather odd looking ‘snack’ as it was described, before he scurried back to his little station.
With a glass of (very delicious) Californian Red (and I don’t do New World reds as a rule), Jo and I started to relax, and as the restaurant was empty and we were sat so close to the man by the steel worktop, the interrogation process started, and it wasn’t long before we discovered that the man by the steel worktop (not to be confused with The Man Behind the Curtain) was in fact Head Chef – John Farrar. AKA – Mr Nobody.
I asked John if he was stationed right there for all to see so people could quiz him on his venture. The why’s and how’s and philosophy behind his food and restaurant concept.
With a slightly awkward stance, his response was “No – it’s so I can see people smiling” – and it quickly became apparent that although he enjoys talking his guests through the menu and ingredients – that’s of course part of the experience – he isn’t interested in personal glory.
He doesn’t give a stuff about having the most exclusive restaurant in town. For him this venture is about one thing and one thing only – the food. Which in itself is ironic, because Mr Nobody could in-fact become the most exclusive restaurant in town.
Certainly from an experiential, breaking-the-mould, honest, innovative, going-against-the-grain perspective. In fact I’m not even sure I feel comfortable calling this place a restaurant, I almost feel like I’m doing the place an injustice.
I’m not going to walk you through every ingredient in all 10 of the courses – there’s no point, because the menu here changes daily. Look in the fridges in the kitchen – they are empty. There is zero waste. You eat what Farrar himself chooses to put in front of you on the day, based on first and foremost, freshness of ingredient – whether you like it or not. Ethical, responsible, sustainable. That said, if you like food, you like the freshest of ingredients, bold flavours and experimenting with them, you’ll love every single dish you are served by Farrar.
WHAT WE ATE:
1.Roots of baby leek with 48 month-old Parmesan and summer truffle, 2.Vacuum-packed water melon with Negroni (Gin, Campari and sweet Vamouth), 3.Baked potato with smoked cods roe, 4.Line caught mackerel (caught on Yorkshire’s east coast) almond curry, 5.Scallop mousse and Brittany garnish (pickled celery, mushrooms and bacon), 6.Roast artichoke with roast skate wing, mushrooms and cream, 7.Jimmy Butler’s pork belly with Pineapple and fresh blood black pudding, 8.Whole strawberry with star anise sugar, 9) Nostalgia chocolate Crème fraîche and chocolate cracco, 10.Roast coconut custard, chocolate moussseline and coconut-milk mousse with basil (image missing due to technical failure).
Farrar is not about Michelin Stars – never in a million years would he be even remotely considered for anything near such an accolade that is synonymous with opulence, tradition, old-school cooking techniques, perfectly precise plated-up edible art involving excessive waste and too much man power – but nor does he want to. He wants to be Mr Nobody. He wants his food to do the talking – nothing else to distract you other than what is put in front of you. And that is why Mr Nobody is a genius concept.
As Farrar so wonderfully put as we got up to leave “come to my house again for dinner guys.”
Visit Mr Nobody’s website to book a table and find out more.
With thanks to Mr Nobody for inviting me to test out their tasting menu.
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