Great British Menu 2015: Wales heat final

Great British Menu 2015: Wales heat final

by Food Urchin 22 August 2015

Food blogger Danny, aka Food Urchin, rounds up the Welsh final, where experienced chef Phil Carmichael and young gun Adam Bannister pulled out all the stops to impress the judges and represent Wales in the finals.

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Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin. When Danny is not busy digging holes to pit-roast lamb or hanging marrows in tights to make rum or foraging for snails in his garden to throw into paella, he is often left in charge of a pair of cheeky twins; with sometimes disastrous results in the kitchen. A former nominee for Best Food Writer at The YBFs Danny has decided that one day, he might just write a book about food.

I don’t know if you noticed this but there was an air of Ealing Studios at the start of last night’s episode. All three judges were sat in a dusty room, complete with blackboard and bakelite and the jolly hockey sticks went way off the chart.

First Prue kicks things off with a shrill “We’ve gort the Welsh in the kitchen today!” Then Oliver chimes in and starts harping on about Phil Carmichael, who used to work for Jason Atherton don’t you know and would have been “Bloomin’ well practising all night.” And finally Matt Fort finishes with the most Cholmondley-esque “That Adam has got a formidable reputation in Wales, so I think this is going to be a ding dong battle!”

I mean what the blaady hell is going on here? Anyone would have thought that Optomen wanted to sell the show orf to BBC America or something. Oh they do? Oh well, carry on then. Nothing to see here.

Small, acute observations aside, it was of course the week of the dragon on Great British Menu and to be honest, the boyos had a bit of an uppy downy time with it all. Experimental chef Stephen Gomes was the one to fall on his sword on Thursday, as his final effort at pud just didn’t quite make the grade. “Your ‘Thank you in box’ looked beautiful,” said Tom Kerridge. “But the textures were like eating soap.” Oh dear.

The final judging heat was billed as a clash of youth vs experience then, with Phil Carmichael calmly padding about the kitchen with the grace of a swan. Whilst Adam Bannister tore around the place, swearing his head off at various kitchen implements. He does like a fight that chef.

Joining the judges this week was Rosemary Bishton. WI member for 40 years, a former home economics teacher and fan of brightly coloured blouses. She reminded me of my Mum actually. Sweet, kind and always blinding me with her sartorial choices.

Phil hit the nail on the head with the first round by saying “We’ve got four different palates to please here”. So, reminding us of the difficult task at hand, he decided to improve upon his starter ‘The Allotment’ by adding some toast. Because everyone loves toast don’t they. You might not like edible soil, gribiche might not tickle your fancy and pickled micro veg could be a tang too far. BUT EVERYONE LOVES TOAST!

Oliver didn’t love the toast. Bugger. But it went down well with everyone else. So, phew.

The judging panel
Phil's 'Allotment' starter

Adam seemed to impress with his porcine starter, aptly named ‘Suckling Pignic’ with a heavy workload of pork loin and black pudding rolls, pig’s head Scotch egg, coated in crackling and a fine pork pie. Goodness he pushed hard to get it done and what does Matt sniffly say? “Needs mustard.”

*Cue sound of frying pan, flying into the sink*

The chef’s fish courses had an equally mixed response. When asked if he was happy, Phil screamed “YES!” at the camera but the judges didn’t like his lightly smoked sea bass with mussels, cockles and laverbread one little bit. Too restaurant-y apparently. Like sheesh, what the hell can you do when a dish is too restaurant-y???

As for Adam, well he had an absolute nightmare with his salmon and cucumber sandwich. In the words of Phil, who sagely observed - “Adam seems to have frozen his cucumber” - it was a hell of predicament to get in. And unfortunately, however hard he tried, and swore, Adam just could not dig himself out of that hole.

Thankfully there was a resurgence of faith for Adam in the mains round, which I attribute to some pep talk from Rosemary when she popped into the kitchen and said “You’ve ballsed things up a bit today haven’t you boys.”

OK, these weren’t her exact words, but that was definitely the sentiment and it worked on Adam who produced a stunning take on a Welsh classic, faggots and peas. Or ‘Jerusa-lamb’ as he called it. As Matt cooed, his thrifty dish had the “Heft of a Welsh front row forward” such was its impact and I have to admit, I rather fancied it too.

Calm, organised and professional Phil (who admitted that in reality, he was terrified) also countered with a delicious display of lamb, featuring rump, glazed neck, crispy breast and lamb consomme. Again, it all looked and sounded so good. So I was rather surprised to hear Oliver pipe up that it had “No excellence.” Rosemary shot him a look at that point that belied her sweet, outward nature and I was hoping that she might punch him on the nose at some point.

But she didn’t.

Phil's 'A Hug for Mum' main course
Adam's Welsh classic, 'Jerusa-lamb'

For the last round, the pastry round (the thorn in the Achilles heal for many a head chef) it looked like some more wobbles were headed our way. When reminded of the dry sponge for his rhubarb and custard tart, Adam let out a peculiar howl. And Phil visibly blanched and shuddered, after staring into the distance and recalling his flaccid, undercooked almond tarts for his ‘Jammin’ at the Fete’.

Phil's, slightly undercooked, 'Jammin' at the Fete'

They both did better this time around though. Not massively better, just marginally better, as all the judges felt that both desserts needed just little bit more development and some work on the execution.

As a result, it came right down to the wire as to who would take the crown as Welsh prince. The winner was a shell shocked Adam, leaving Phil totally suckerpunched. But at the end of the day, it was the faggots what done it for the judges and Phil had the good grace to congratulate his opponent, urging him to get a Welsh dish on the banquet menu.

Just before the credits ran, we were treated to Adam calling his mum and emotionally proclaiming - “I am the champion of Wales Mum!”

And I bet you the tears ran at the other end of that line. Like droplets of proud joy, dancing off a mixture of polyester and cotton; floral, loud and visible from outer space.