This week was the turn of the Central region of Great British Menu, in which contenders Aktar Islam, Great British Chefs' Daniel Clifford and contest newcomer Paul Foster faced off under the discriminating eye of judge Glyn Purnell. On Thursday we said goodbye to Aktar, leaving Daniel and Paul to prepare their four-course menus for judging panel.
Going into the match, things were looking up for Daniel, whose dishes received high praises from Glyn Purnell, including a perfect 10 on his main course. But different judges equal different tastes, leaving the winning menu open to anyone. “Each dish should have us gasping in admiration” said Matthew Fort. Gasp they did, though it wasn’t always with admiration.
Daniel kicked off with his starter of veal tartare, caramelised sweetbread and burnt onion, a dish that scored 9 out of 10 during the heats, but it “lacked that sense of going for gold,” said Matthew Fort. Oliver Peyton too was “expecting something far more rock & roll” and said “It’s a beautiful dish but the imagination is completely lacking”.
Paul didn’t improve matters with his pork neck carpacchio, ribwort plantains and pork scratchings. Paul’s use of wild plantain may be new, but as Matthew Fort said, ribwort plantains are “not often used for very good reasons.”
“You’d be ashamed to put that in front of top athletes – it just isn’t world class,” said Prue. Ouch.
But as Matthew said, “Things can only get better.” And they did – slightly – with Daniel’s fish course of stuffed red mullet, roast artichoke and parmesan puree. Another dish that scored 9 during the heats, and which Prue loved, but Oliver felt it was “clumsy”: “there’s so much going on here it’s a headache.”
The prescription? Paul’s poached ray wing, crispy chicken skin and foraged sea vegetables. “Happiness is here,” said Oliver, “This is in a completely different league…this is the first dish of the competition to me.” And Prue agreed that the dish was “near Olympian food because it’s strange, unusual, looks wonderful and tastes delicious.”