Having said goodbye to young gun Will Brown on Thursday evening, this left returning finalist Raymond McArdle to face off against newcomer Chris McGowan of Corrigan's Mayfair. Joining the judging chamber was guest judge Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Winston Churchill, who offered her take on whether her grandfather would have approved of the finalists' dishes. (We’re told that Winston’s favourite dishes were Irish stew and ice cream, so any chef producing something akin to either of those dishes would have had an edge.)
The meal kicked off with Raymond’s “Pigeon Post”, a Normandy-inspired dish of pigeon with blackberry sauce and a confit pigeon leg with a message carried in its claw. The dish scored an eight during the week and judges seemed in agreement that the pigeon was stellar. “Every ingredient bursts in your mouth,” said Prue. “Every item has been thought out,” agreed Celia. And Oliver declared the fig flapjack “a lovely little surprise”. There was some question over whether Winston Churchill - a great animal lover - would have approved of the confit leg bit, but all the same, the judges cleaned their plates which seemed a good sign.
Up next was Chris’s “Fly for Victory”, which scored a measly five during the week but which he attempted to step up by replacing mackerel with duck. It didn’t seem to help. The judges liked the beetroot, but that was all that came through. “I don’t like the balance of flavours… it seems cobbled together,” said Oliver. “He hasn’t thought about the brief at all,” said Prue.
So a rough start for Chris but would Raymond continue cranking out the hits with his fish course? Alas, no. Again, inspired by his trip to Normandy, Raymond served John Dory with ham braised in Normandy cider, topped with tapioca dressing and caviar, then finished with a camembert sauce. Alas, the cheesy finish may have been a bit too far (“this was absolutely delicious until I tasted the camembert,” said Oliver). Indeed, all of the judges seemed to think a basic tartare would have been preferable.
This gave Chris a chance to step up, and so he did with his “We Are Captains of Our Soles”: spinach and sea vegetable puree with butter-poached dover sole and croquets of clam and béchamel. “Beautiful, so fresh, so clean… just the food I like to have…and a sense of history which is very nice indeed,” declared Celia. “Smells exactly like the sea… wonderful,” said Prue. Matthew agreed: “Chris has come storming back."