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Great British Menu 2018: South West recap

Great British Menu 2018: South West recap

by Howard Middleton 22 September 2018

How did this year's crop of South West chefs fare in the Great British Menu kitchen? Howard Middleton reveals all.

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As we move on to the South West heats, we’re greeted by a seriously cool trio of chefs. New Zealand-born Jude Kereama runs Kota restaurant in Portleven, Cornwall. He’s back for another go after competing in 2015 and 2016.

Last year’s regional champion, Tom Brown has just opened his own restaurant, Cornerstone in Hackney. He’s completely rocking the hipster chef look with a hint of chunky forearm that’s inked to perfection, the obligatory ginger beard and a subtle artisan dark grey apron that’s bound to feature in Farrow & Ball’s next colour chart.

Denied her place in the judging chamber this week was newcomer Olivia Barry. Having worked under the eagle eye of Angela Hartnett, she’s now chef-patron at Adelina Yard in Bristol.This week’s veteran chef, the formidable but charming Richard Corrigan asked Olivia if she ‘did time with Angela’ like it was a prison sentence. Olivia laughed nervously like he’d got a little too close to the truth.

Olivia presented some truly delicious plates of food, including a full-English-breakfast-style starter that featured homemade black pudding and a meaty main that included ale-braised ox cheeks and creamy smoked mashed potatoes. Sadly none of her dishes were judged to be ‘banquet worthy’ but I’m sure the Bristol crowds are already queuing to sample her winningly seductive plates of luscious comfort food.

Joining Andi, Matthew and Oliver is guest judge Barbara Childs, a matron in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Barbara is a force to be reckoned with.

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Tom’s starter is another one of those teapot broths that we’ve already seen a few times in the competition. However, Richard Corrigan judged this to be quite simply the best dish he’d ever tasted on Great British Menu. Let’s see what the other judges think as Tom plates his Cornish beef tartare flavoured with lime and Cornish seaweed. He adds creamy mushroom ketchup, slices of raw chestnut mushroom, blanched baby leek, pickled shimeji mushrooms, tarragon leaves and deep-fried sea lettuce. A ceramic teapot of his cold, spiced seaweed and beef broth sits alongside, ready to pour. Barbara struggles with the idea of raw meat but Andi says ‘one bite and I absolutely love it’. Matthew purrs that the broth is ‘like velvet’.

For his starter, Jude serves up a savoury take on childhood comfort food, called ‘Ice Cream and Jelly’. Into glass sundae dishes he places a disc of beetroot jelly, adds walnuts, pickled shallots, piped goat’s cheese mousse and a quenelle of horseradish ice cream. With candy and golden beets dressed in honey truffle, grated black truffle, purple beets, beetroot crisps, micro sorrel and wasabi sesame seeds it looks neater than it did earlier in the week. Barbara likes the fact there’s ‘a lot of variety’. It’s not the most convincing endorsement.

Jude’s fish dish, ‘All in Black and White’ is a visually stunning and highly personal tribute to the x-rays that diagnosed his wife’s breast cancer. On beautiful glass plates decorated with an x-ray of a fish he carefully arranges his monochrome components – dots of cauliflower puree, turbot wings cooked sous vide, pan-fried scallops dusted with seaweed powder, a deep-fried charcoal-battered oyster, pickled cauliflower, squid ink mayonnaise and deep-fried capers. On Tuesday, Richard advised Jude to ditch his ‘woolly’ spicy cod fish cake but he decides to keep it in. Matthew thinks the fishcake is ‘slightly furry’. Oliver decides he’s ‘trying too hard’.

A forerunner to the NHS, the Fishermen’s Mission provided healthcare for fishermen. Tom’s homage to the charity comes in the form of his ‘Fish Supper’, which consists of turbot cooked en papillote with garlic and parsley. He emulates the classic newspaper wrapping of fish and chips by serving up on old photos of fishermen. Barbara says it ‘looks err… creative’. Beer-battered deep-fried oysters, pea puree and a buttery tartare hollandaise look like tasty accompaniments. I think it just needs three perfectly fried chunky chips.

Barbara says she feels full after two courses. Matthew tells her she wouldn’t last a week in this job. Barbara has the perfect response, ‘You wouldn’t last a day in mine!’

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The quirkily entitled ‘Duck Fad Diets’ is Jude’s offering for the main course. Taking his inspiration from his mum, who we’re told took food to patients in her local hospital, he presents his Asian-style duck-three-ways in tiffin boxes. His duck ramen includes buckwheat noodles, shredded duck, baby pak choi and soy duck eggs, served with a flask of broth. Jude’s crunchy duck leg wontons sit on a crisp bed of cucumber salad and plum sauce. Succulent slices of his roast duck breast with miso and soy glaze are teamed up with dots of carrot and ginger puree, rainbow carrots pan-fried in miso butter and black honey and a garnish of chopped nori and coriander cress. Undercooked carrot was the only obstacle to Jude being awarded a perfect score on Wednesday. Oliver’s not keen on Jude’s ‘dry wonton’ either.

Though Tom’s main course is called ‘Poor Man’s Goose’, the real star of his dish is roast duck – a brilliantly bronzed bird, burnished by honey and soy sauce, spattered with a speckle of sesame and mustard seeds and garnished with flecks of thyme. The original ‘Poor Man’s Goose’ was a sausage recipe that featured in a 1940s study into dietetics. Hardly an inspiring source but Tom elevates it to something special by making his version with pork shoulder, chicken, minced duck livers and crunchy nuggets of pistachio. He serves the sliced sausage with carrot puree, potato croquettes flavoured with cheese, duck fat and nutmeg and carrots glazed in verjus and lemon thyme. Richard Corrigan judged it to be another perfect dish. The judges collectively go ‘oooh’. Matthew says he has ‘a nice oozy feeling’, Oliver praises the ‘exquisite cooking’ and Barbara thinks she could definitely see this at the banquet.

After hearing Jude’s dessert was called ‘An Apple a Day’, Richard Corrigan pithily called it ‘original’. Perhaps he’d been tipped off (or ‘pipped off’) that this is the third one this season. Anyway, Jude serves his Calvados-coated caramelised apple terrine on a puff pastry base, resting on an almond crumble. Compressed apple cubes, dehydrated apple crisps and a little dome of vanilla parfait are garnished with red-veined sorrel. Barbara says it’s ‘heaven’ and Oliver calls it ‘food of the gods’.

Tom tells us that his ‘Invalid Fruit Tart’ is another ‘tweaked’ recipe from the 1940s Royal Edinburgh Study into dietetics. It’s embarrassingly hard to ignore the fact that Tom still can’t say ‘dietetics’ but who am I to comment. I carry the burden of a short tongue and a northern accent – I even struggle to convincingly enunciate my own name. What Tom does do with ease is pop out a perfectly petite pastry case with a plump plug of poached pear and pristine piped peaks. (Nobody should have to get their tongue round that.) He tops his tart with torched Italian meringue and serves with a scoop of pear and ginger beer sorbet. Oliver doesn’t like it – Barbara does.

At the final judgement, the day belongs to hunky chunky Tom. Barbara says she can’t wait for the banquet. Jude is gracious in defeat, saying he ‘cooked his pants off today’. Some viewers thank goodness it’s pre-watershed TV. Others are not so sure.

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