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Great British Menu 2017: South West recap

Great British Menu 2017: South West recap

by Kate Doran 12 May 2017

Kate Doran keeps us up-to-date with what happened during the second heat of this year's Great British Menu.

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How many times should a chef enter Great British Menu before admitting defeat? Dominic Chapman of The Beehive in Berkshire returned for the third time this year, determined to fight for a place in the final and a chance to represent the South West at the Wimbledon banquet. We Brits love an underdog, but flanked by the less experienced – albeit extremely confident – Tom Brown and desperately nervous Andy Clatworthy, veteran Dominic didn’t quite fit the bill. Once Andy had been dismissed from the competition on Thursday following repeated failure to meet the brief and the subsequent sub par scores, the competition looked as close as it’s ever been as Dom and Tom went neck and neck to impress the panel of judges.

Tom kicked things off with Cowl Bysk, a reinvention of a classic fisherman’s stew involving lobster, heritage tomatoes and a tomato tea. As chef at the Michelin-starred fish restaurant Outlaw’s at The Capital, it wasn’t surprising that Tom looked to the sea for his starter, but the judges were uniformly underwhelmed by the quality of produce on the plate. Dom’s courgette flower stuffed with ricotta, goat’s cheese and truffle – It’s a Summer Bonanza – fared little better, impressing only with its pretty appearance. A bonanza it was not. Not the best start to proceedings.


Fishing the Cobb, Dom’s fish dish of scallops, turbot and sea vegetables, scored him a nine during the week from veteran chef Michael O’Hare, beating Tom Brown on arguably what should have been his strongest round. But what Michael found simply delicious – if a little lacking in creativity – on Tuesday, the judges singlehandedly dismissed as neither celebratory or summery, going as far as to say that Dom had seriously disappointed.

Just as it felt like the South West might be losing sight of even a chance at the banquet, Tom saved the day with his Soused Breal & Scrumpy, an elegant little tin of mackerel pâté with homemade soda bread. Despite looking a little ‘like a mackerel crème brulée’, the dish screamed summer to the judges and seemed to hit the brief bang on.

From there on in it was a game of two halves, with the judges in raptures over subsequent dishes. Dom’s Fire Up the Barbecue made up for any lack of refinement or process with big, fresh flavours through lamb shoulder, kebab and chop plus a selection of four different salads. Presentation in a miniature silver barbecue arguably summed up the silliness that often accompanies such a serious competition, but Matthew, Andi and Oliver lapped it up as the perfect representation of summer. By contrast, Tom’s ‘not a hotpot’ Porthilly Under Roast wouldn’t have looked out of place on a cold winter’s day. But, as guest judge Marion Regan argued, our typical British summer often calls for something a little warmer and more comforting than salad. Although Tom’s baby gem dressed with oyster mayonnaise and oyster leaf in an oyster shell also hit the spot.


And so to dessert. This week featured even more strawberries than you’d expect in your average Wimbledon-inspired cooking competition, with guest judge Marion Regan, whose family have supplied the Championships for the last twenty-five years. With thirty tonnes produced over a two-week period each year, this is a lady who knows an Elsanta from a Jubilee.

Presentation was fairly understated from both chefs for this course, perhaps in reaction to Andy Clatworthy’s clumsy tennis court-shaped cake, which failed to impress during the week. Having had two disastrous desserts in previous years, Dominic played it fairly safe with a boozy everlasting syllabub and some lip-smacking sugar-dusted doughnuts (‘two each!’ exclaimed Oliver. How decadent). Continuing the Cornish theme, Tom served up Sevi and Leti, an ice cream sandwich of strawberries and cream with a clotted cream parfait, brandy snaps, strawberry sauce and a sparkling wine jelly on the side. These children’s party staples elevated to Michelin-starred status scored him three tens from the judges, and the accolade of ‘dish of the day’. It did look pretty damn good.

Great British Menu is often touted as a showcase for the country’s freshest young cooking talent, and despite valiant attempts to impress, Dominic lost out again to newcomer Tom Brown. He closed the show by saying he’d live to fight another day, but will we see him return for a fourth attempt in 2018? Only time will tell.

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