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Great British Menu 2019: North East recap

Great British Menu 2019: North East recap

by Howard Middleton 29 March 2019

It's the North East's turn to show us what they're made of! Howard Middleton fills us in on how the region's three chefs did in Great British Menu 2019.

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The competition moves on to the North East and, in doing so, manages to pick up a shedload of controversy along the way. Angry Viewer is incensed to discover that this week’s contingent includes chefs from Harrogate and Huddersfield. Angry Viewer argues that these two should be banished to the Yorkshire heats. I’m sorely tempted to point out that actually there is no Yorkshire heat for Great British Menu and that realistically anywhere north east of the Central region is, well, North East. That is until it reaches the Scottish border. And then it’s Scotland. Who said geography is not my strong point?

Anyway, Durham-born Tom Anglesea passes his North East citizenship test with flying colours, despite having then bought a single ticket on the East Coast line to become the head chef at The Laughing Heart in London.

The Great British Menu website tells us that Tom is starting with ‘a special version of a Bellini’, which sounds particularly challenging given that his cocktail-mixing ingredients are potatoes, caviar and crème fraiche. I suspect they mean ‘blini’ but I do a thorough online search in case I’m being even more ignorant than usual. No luck there. Tom presents his dish. It certainly looks more like a blini to me.

Called ‘My Masterplan’ after the Oasis song, it failed to win the approval of this week’s veteran Michael O’Hare. Taking his criticism on board, Tom presents a reworked version of the dish, ditching the smoked crème fraiche in favour of chicken oysters. He places these on a bed of caramelised onions, adds a generous dollop of caviar and a scattering of red butterfly sorrel, propping up his work with delicate discs of pommes Maxim. His pommes soufflés failed to inflate on Wednesday but thankfully play ball for the judges. Another addition of onion broth is intended to help unite the ingredients.

Oliver thinks it’s ‘very pretty’ and Matthew praises its ‘wonderfully rich smell’ but guest judge Pete Waterman grimaces at the ‘exceptionally salty’ flavour and Andi says ‘oh dear’.

Angry Viewer’s offending Yorkshire chefs, Mike Carr and Samira Effa finished the week neck and neck, so Michael O’Hare had the unenviable task of choosing between them. He chose Samira, depriving the judging chamber of a particularly banquet-worthy looking fish course called ‘Champagne Supernova’ (and a main course that had more props than Pinewood Studios).

Samira’s starter takes inspiration from Elton John’s ‘Circle of Life’ presenting a potted biography of the humble tomato. Some are filled with goat’s cheese, others with a Bloody Mary foam. Black olive crumbs imitate soil and deep-fried goat’s cheese beignets complete the circle. Impressively clear tomato consommé is poured from a watering can.

Pete thinks the consommé is ‘superb’ and Oliver describes it as ‘a very pretty dish that shows off the skill of the chef very well’. However, Samira realises she’s forgotten to squirt extra Bloody Mary foam on the side and Matthew bemoans the lack of it.

‘Lost Souls in a Fish Bowl’ is Tom’s heartfelt tribute to those we have loved and lost. Inspired by Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, it’s a beautifully delicate dish, as rich in emotion as it is in umami. Tom arranges little cushions of scallop mousse ravioli amid pan-fried scallops, then adds kelp discs, oyster leaves and a splash of dashi vinegar. Beakers of dashi broth sit alongside.

Matthew judges it to be ‘a dish of great delicacy’ and Andi adds that it’s ‘really light’ but Oliver thinks it ‘a little bit off key’.

For her fish course, Samira presents ‘Tikka Look at Me Now’ – her highest scoring dish of the week. Onto discs of mango she arranges a quenelle of lobster and crabmeat, then dots curry puree and coriander and lime yogurt alongside a crispy rice cracker. Barbecued lobster tail is accompanied by a shallow pan of tikka sauce.

‘The lobster tail is a challenge’ says Matthew and Pete agrees ‘the shell was more tasty than the tail itself’. Oliver is similarly unimpressed – ‘take the sauce away… you have a series of canapés’.

Inspired by the Sting song ‘Fields of Gold’ Tom serves slices of his guinea fowl ballotine on golden pools of sweetcorn and barley miso puree. Garnished with truffle and droplets of mushroom caramel sauce, the dish is accompanied by lavash bread, lavishly spread with liver pâté.

It’s a big hit with the judges. Pete declares ‘I think we just made the Top Ten’ and Matthew calls it ‘the most accomplished dish of the day so far’.

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Samira’s main course incorporates the lasting influence of her late father’s Nigerian cuisine, in tribute to music of black origin and the MOBO awards. ‘Memories of Baba’s Okra’ sees thick slices of spiced rib-eye beef and a meltingly rich ragout of oxtail and okra. Scoops of yam, plantain and black-eyed pea crush, deep-fried okra, plantain crisps and blanched spinach leaves are further flavoured by dots of tomato, pepper and Scotch Bonnet puree and a jug of comforting oxtail and parsley oil sauce.

Andi praises the ‘amazing colours’ and Matthew thinks the gravy is ‘fantastic’ but Pete is ‘totally confused’ by the dish and Oliver asks ‘what’s going on with all these sauces – what are they meant to do?’ Andi insists the flavours are ‘literally dancing around on my palate’ and we’re treated to a shot of her shoes as we imagine her toes curling with pleasure.

Fond memories of a Coldplay concert inspire Samira’s ‘Paradise Whatever the Weather’, which she says is essentially a ‘deconstructed Knickerbocker Glory’. Balls of brightly coloured chocolate and pistachio parfaits are served with raspberries and cherries injected with fruit gel, squirts of crème Chantilly and vanilla tuiles. Her clotted cream parfait is now replaced by chocolate brownies soaked in kirsch.

Somewhat distracted by its pattern of multi-coloured raindrops, Oliver says ‘I love that plate’, then decides ‘the pistachio parfait is the best part’. Pete agrees and just wants three scoops of it.

Translating the story of Billy Elliot into his dessert, Tom creates a charcoal macaron and fills it with a disc of yeast parfait. Red-fleshed apples in caramel sauce add colour and contrast, whilst apple marigold leaves and a clump of candyfloss provide the garnish.

The tutu-wearing elephant in the room is that, aside from the scene where Billy dances to ‘I Love to Boogie’ by T.Rex, this is not a celebration of British pop music. Michael O’Hare said as much on Thursday but the judges seem prepared to overlook this, frankly because it’s so tasty. ‘I was predisposed not to like this… it’s what we want more of in the competition’ says Oliver of the coal-black macaron. Pete decides ‘this is rock and roll’ and, despite her fear of the sound of ‘yeast parfait’, Andi declares it ‘a resounding success’.

And that success translates into a win for Tom. Angry Viewer must surely be a little less angry that the Durham-born chef triumphed in the North East? Sadly, Angry Viewer is rarely satisfied. Did I mention about the viciously irrelevant tweets about Michael O’Hare’s hair? I told you this was a controversial week.

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