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Great British Menu 2018: Scotland recap

Great British Menu 2018: Scotland recap

by Howard Middleton 31 August 2018

It was time for the cream of the Scottish culinary crop to enter the Great British Menu kitchen – Howard Middleton takes a look at what happened and who got through to the final.

More from this series:

In TV parlance, ‘the competition moves north of the border’, though in reality for geographical convenience our fresh-faced trio of Scottish chefs have probably been dragged to a central London location. Bless them for being so accommodating.

Joining Andi, Matthew and Oliver in the judging chamber this week is GP and media personality, Dr Sara Kayat. I think that means ‘I’m a working doctor… but I’m potentially available for Strictly’.

Award-winning chef Lorna McNee kicks things off with a luxurious starter called ‘Celebrating the Best with the Best’. Flaked Scottish crab, apple and caviar are layered over fennel mousse and dashi jelly with a sharp yuzu vinaigrette. The dish is neatly housed in a caviar tin accompanied by seaweed and potato crackers. It looks like the ideal banquet dish but the judges think the layers aren’t defined enough and Andi pithily dismisses it as ‘like a trifle gone wrong’.

Formerly from Corrigan’s of Mayfair, Ross Bryans serves up his starter of a traditional bone broth with pickled turnips and a Scottish oat dumpling called a skirlie. Matthew immediately seizes the baton of bitchiness and calls it ‘the culinary equivalent of a cardigan’.

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It’s sad that the judges didn’t get to sample the achingly pretty starter of the region’s third contender this week, Ben Reade. A charmingly engaging, eloquent and innovative chef, he created little bouquets of pickled vegetable ribbons blooming from a paper-wrapped martini glass of horseradish and goat’s cheese mousse. It had ‘banquet-worthy’ written all over it, but tragically this pickled posy was pipped at the post.

All three chefs this week chose lobster for their fish course. Ross dedicates ‘Lobster Aid’ to his marathon-running cousin who works for the NHS. Expertly cooked lobster sits on anise-scented carrot purée with tapioca and squid ink crisps and dulse seaweed and pink peppercorn sauce. It’s beautiful – an enticing rainbow of food on a simple white plate that looks celebratory without the need for any bells and whistles. Sarah says it’s ‘divine’ and Andi calls it ‘a perfect dish’.

Lorna’s lobster is called ‘Live Well, Live Very Well’. (Well who knows, her lobster may well have been called Brian. And whether he lived well or not, he’s now dead. Best not dwell on that too long.) Poached in smoked butter, it’s dished up with a booze-laden langoustine bisque and flash-fried, tarragon-flecked vegetables. Sadly, Brian the lobster seems to have died in vain as Oliver gets quite cross about the overpowering smoke and calls the dish ‘really clumsy’.

Lorna redeems herself with her main course, ‘Making Us All Feel Better’ – a feast of venison that includes a comforting shepherd’s pie and a venison bon bon that’s spiked with a squirt of tangy brown sauce. Lorna is convinced her roe deer fillet is overcooked but the judges decide it’s all ‘yummy’.

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Celebrating the life of a great Scot, Alexander Fleming, Ross serves the unusually named ‘Oh Deer, It’s Time for Your Penicillin’. Laboratory jugs of roasted yeast sauce accompany a crisp pastry-encased pink venison Wellington and though this is by no means a mouldy old doe, it fails to recuperate Andi, who says ‘I’m not excited – I’m not thinking wee-hee’.

Lorna tries to restore Andi’s ‘wee-hee’ with her dessert; a personal ‘thank you’ to the NHS staff who treat her rare blood condition. This week’s expert chef judge Phil Howard awarded Lorna a perfect ten for her layered square of chocolate Genoese, feuilletine, vanilla and tonka bean caramel custard and more of her signature yuzu. There’s something slightly unnerving about the warm ruddy sauce that courses, cracks and finally bubbles through the tempered chocolate crust but it does have a Transylvanian ‘vow’ factor. Sarah seems somewhat unmoved by the sanguine sweet, claiming it’s ‘a bit samey’.

Impressively presented in a vintage-looking doctor’s case, ‘Helps the Medicine Go Down’ is Ross’s dessert. Phil thought that the platter of chocolate brownies, caramelised bananas, salted caramel, heather honey ice cream and Scottish tablet (a type of cracked toffee) was too sweet. The panel unfortunately agrees.

In an attempt to give the picky panel some perspective, Sarah admits she’s been treated today to the best food she’s ever tasted. Despite a perfect score right across the board for his cracking lobster, which Andi calls ‘the dish of the day’, Ross is knocked out of the competition. Looking emotionally drained, Lorna is told to just go away and celebrate. Fizzing with her prospects of getting a dish to the banquet, Champagne-sipping Lorna tells Ross ‘I’m going to go all the way for you’. Ross gulps on his glass and says ‘thank you’.

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