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Great British Menu 2017: Scotland recap

Great British Menu 2017: Scotland recap

by Kate Doran 03 June 2017

Kate Doran keeps us in the loop with what happened in the Great British Menu kitchen last week, where three of Scotland’s finest were put to the test.


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Five weeks into the competition, Great British Menu headed north of the border. Returning chefs Michael Bremner and Ally McGrath both arrived full guns blazing, having bulldozed newcomer Angela Malik out the way in the weekly heats (not helped, perhaps, by her lumpy scallop ice cream). Neither chef made it to the banquet in 2016, despite Michael scoring full marks across the board for his showstopping fish dish, and it certainly felt like there were points to be proven. But would the chefs’ flavours match their ambition? Could their cooking match Wimbledon champion Andy Murray’s Scottish success?

Having failed to make the judges’ chamber last year, Ally admitted he hadn’t practiced his dishes enough. In this instance of his starter, Halcyon Days, practice did indeed make perfect with the judges praising the colours, balance and even the summery feel. Previous contestants have been marked down for using beetroot with its autumnal connotations, so it’s testament to the lightness of Ally’s dish that it retained the essence of summer. Even his homemade ricotta – a disaster in the weekly cook off – was praised by Andy.

Michael also opted for a vegetarian starter, in fact his Summer Cup Ceviche with Wimble-Gin-22 went a step further, being raw and vegan. The judges thought it skilled, if lacking in the wow factor necessary for the banquet, but criticized his homemade gin. Infusing alcohol with grass from the Wimbledon tennis courts seemed like a lovely idea, but in reality the tasters found it bitter and a bit difficult.

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Messing About in the River was Ally’s ode to family summer memories, an intricate plate of smoked sea trout, trout dill sponge, charred cucumber, sea fennel, salmon roe and meringue pebbles. A loosely set green tomato jelly was supposed to make the whole thing look like a rockpool, but despite guest judge Nathan Outlaw praising this dish for its ‘wow factor’ the judges thought it was sludgy and odd. Traditions of White, in contrast, was true to Michael’s champion fish credentials, and despite Andy taking against the plate on which he presented it, the dish was praised for the magnificent potato tuile and perfectly cooked turbot.

It’s interesting to see how the chefs progress throughout the week and if the guest chef has any impact on their cooking. Often the contestants ignore the veteran’s advice, sticking to exactly the same dishes for the judging chamber, but Michael took Nathan’s criticism to heart after scoring a lowly six with The Grass is Greener. Tweaking the presentation, choice of vegetables and cooking method, Michael turned his ox tongue dish with rye infused potatoes and veal jus ravioli into ‘a big ace’. ‘Good looking’, ‘top draw’ and ‘sexy’ were also uttered by our esteemed panel of judges.

Sadly the veteran chef isn’t always an indication of how the judges will vote on the night and despite scoring a nine from Nathan, Ally’s main course, Cooking on Coals, was dismissed as ‘mediocre’. Judges liked the theatre of the squid ink and soy potatoes, blackened to look like coals, but criticized the choice of chicken as not being fit for a banquet.

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Nathan Outlaw’s judgement was also called into question at dessert. Michael’s Bananas About Murray, inspired by the number of bananas eaten for energy at Wimbledon each year and the star’s apparent hatred of them, scored him the only ten of the week, whilst the judges found this dish brown and beige and unimpressive. The maple rum bananas with yoghurt sponge, sorbet, crisp and pecan tuile sounded delicious, but perhaps didn’t quite fit the brief of summer.

Ally fared little better with If… Summer Ever Comes to Scotland, a loose interpretation of a Scottish hedgerow which was perhaps a little too simple and lacking in skill. According to guest judge Gary Parsons, executive chef at Wimbledon and responsible for overseeing over 9,000 meals per day during the championships, Ally also inadvertently replicated a fruit shake made for the players, complete with wheatgrass in the form of a sorbet.

Despite the disappointment of his dessert, Michael ended on a high with the judges sending him straight through to the final. His raw vegan starter may not make it to the banquet, but there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing an offal-ly good main.

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