This week was the turn of the Northern Ireland region of Great British Menu, in which contenders Chris Bell, Chris Fearon and Niall McKenna faced off under the discriminating eye of judge Richard Corrigan. Throughout the week, Chris Bell was in his element, leaving the real drama between Chris Fearon and Niall, neither of whom seemed to be hitting the right marks with Richard. But someone had to go, and on Thursday we said goodbye to Niall, leaving the two Chrisses to prepare their four-course menus for judging panel Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort.
Chris Fearon had a lot to prove in the finals, as during the heats he seemed perpetually struck by nerves. For all of his clever presentations, he made silly mistakes that compromised the food. But tonight he was on his game.
To start, his “Clay Pigeon Shoot” not only made the judges laugh, it also made them mmm and aah between mouthfuls of pigeon and pastilla, which had a “lovely squidgy meaty centre” according to Matthew. And when Prue questioned its remarkableness, both Matthew and Oliver agreed she was being a “killjoy”. “This is perfect for the Olympic banquet,” said Oliver, “Happiness.”
Chris Bell also struck a win with his starter. His rabbit, black pudding and rhubarb salad with ‘tea and dumplings’ left the judges aghast with delight.
“Often dishes this complicated don't go well together,” said Oliver, “but this is really really nice.”
Going into the fish course, Chris Fearon continued his Olympic-themed displays with “Skate Rings”. But unlike his starter, this dish did not live up to the presentation. “This is visually a stunner,” said Oliver, “but the delivery is a colossal problem.”
Chris Bell didn’t do much better with his red wine poached turbot and bourguignon of snails. “It’s horrible …tastes disgusting,” said Prue. “This pushes the boundaries of decency rather than gastronomy,” said Matthew.
Chris Bell’s main course of corn-fed Lissara duck, Bakewell garnish, cocoa and basil didn’t help his case. All of the judges agreed it was too sweet, and his bakewell tart left much to be desired. “He’s obviously not a pastry chef,” said Prue.