Great British Menu 2020: South West heat recap

Great British Menu 2020: South West heat recap

by Howard Middleton 15 May 2021

The final regional heat of this year's Great British Menu competition sees the South West's best battle it out. Howard Middleton lets us know what went on.

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Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

Howard is a food writer and presenter from Sheffield, who first caught the public’s attention on series four of The Great British Bake Off, going on to win their affection with his quirky style and love of unusual ingredients.

Rounding off the heats with chefs from the South West, it’s been a dramatic week in the GBM kitchen; full of surprises, knife-edge decisions and shocks… not least of which being the unexpectedly funky eyewear choice of a certain veteran chef.

Newcomers Nat Tallents from The Box in Plymouth and Elly Wentworth from The Angel in Dartmouth tied after the first two courses and, incredibly, also tied on the usual deciding factor – the canapé, requiring veteran Angela Hartnett to make a tricky choice, sending Nat home. Then Angela faced another dilemma as a restaurant crisis forced her home too, leaving Richard Corrigan to step-in in inimitably ebullient style (complete with bright green reading glasses).

Elly clung on to complete her menu and, despite a winning pre-dessert and full marks for her pudding, she missed out on her chance in the judging chamber by just one point. Elly bore her defeat with grace, having already endured Andi’s shadiest comment of the series, which came in the form of a critique of her main course. ‘You really might want to rethink your relationship with the water bath,’ she warned.

So, competing for a record fourth time, Jude Kereama from Porthleven’s Kota and Kota Kai is up against another fresh face to the competition, Nick Beardshaw from Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London.

Joining judges Oliver, Rachel and Matthew is inventor Colin Furze, who, deciding to leave his ‘mad cap’ in the shed, brings along a toast-a-pult instead. After failing to catch the soaring slice, Matthew picks himself up off the floor to regain his composure for canapés.

Jude’s canapé combines cauliflower, scallop, apple and caviar, whilst Nick’s is a rarebit-style tartlet of Montgomery’s Cheddar. ‘Absolutely delicious’ says Oliver of Jude’s and Colin agrees ‘that’s a win for me’. Rachel adds ‘we’re looking for excitement and innovation… and I’m not that excited by a little cheese tartlet’. Well, in the excitement stakes, I suppose it never expected to be following a toast-a-pult.

Inspired by a Cornish company researching the healing powers of food, Jude starts with a dish quite literally revolving around tomatoes. He serves flasks of centrifuged tomato consommé with pipettes of basil and spring onion oil to accompany his salad of Cornish crab, cherry tomatoes, crispy shallots and avocado puree. Rachel judges it to be ‘a fantastic way to start a meal’ but Matthew curiously questions if the dish really needs tomatoes. Everyone else ignores him and he’s forced to conclude, ‘if only all medicine could taste like this, what a much better world this would be’.

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Nick’s starter honours the work of botanist, Ida Mary Roper, as he recreates one of her studies in edible form. Onto a lovage tuile stem with fried basil leaves, he wraps pickled rose petals around goat’s cheese parfait, adding cubes of chamomile jelly and dots of violet mustard. A paper-thin, petal-pressed cracker is bound as a page in his accompanying book. It looks beautiful but Rachel is less impressed by its ‘almost medicinal’ taste. Oliver agrees, adding ‘I think the chef is trying too hard here’.

With its inventive system of ropes and pulleys to honour the ‘Porthleven Lifeline’, Jude invites diners to winch a little bucket of furikake seasoning across his seafood hotpot. Heeding Angela’s advice, Jude decides to remove one of the elements to give the dish ‘more room’, disclosing to Andi that he’s ‘taken out the cockles’. Who knew the little mollusc had such invasive qualities? Cockle-less, the judges tuck in to mussels, lobster tail, cod, scallops, shimeji mushrooms and Mylor prawns, bathing freely in a lobster broth. Oliver says it’s ‘a fantastic showcase for Cornish fish’ and Matthew waxes lyrical that ‘each element sings to itself’. The cockles are doubtless miffed to miss out on a potential recording contract.

Serving turbot fillet in spliced bottles of sparkling wine sauce, Nick’s fish dish celebrates Christopher Merrett’s early account of a fermentation process, six years before that of the more famous Dom Perignon. On a bed of leek and sea truffle, Nick tops his turbot with Exmoor caviar and kombu kale and stoppers the bottle with a crab croquette. Caviar is a first for Colin, which he likens to ‘meat blackberries’ and though the croquette pops everyone’s cork, the turbot is less of a hit. Rachel, who’s been crying out for more seasoning for much of the competition, finally finds a dish that’s too salty for her. ‘It felt like the fish was still swimming in the sea’, she complains.

Channelling Concorde and its luxury dining menu, Nick serves chunky chips with a contrail of ox cheek flying through them. I’m admittedly smitten by the sight of these chips, which are only meant to play second fiddle to a Tournedos Rossini of melt-in-the-mouth beef, Lyonnaise onions, cep duxelles and duck liver parfait. ‘The burger – whatever you want to call it – is fantastic’ says Colin, but Matthew too has fallen for the chip. ‘This is a great invention’, he concludes.

Jude’s main course is a fine dining take on a Cornish pasty – deconstructing its elements to a plate of shallot puree and turnip fondant, topped with tender beef short rib, beef croquette, wilted spring onion and a pastry disc. Thick slabs of tomahawk steak are stacked on a sharing board, along with jugs of beef jus. Rachel praises the richly spiced rib but says she’s struggling with the Cornish pasty connection. Matthew agrees that it’s lost its connection to the brief. ‘What is the point of all this, except to give us a jolly good feed?’

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Hoping to revive any jaded palates with their refreshing pre-desserts, Nick and Jude serve an apple, cucumber and gin and tonic granita and a rocket-shaped lolly of rum and sherbet. Sadly, the chefs don’t succeed. Rachel finds the lolly’s flavour ‘not very agreeable’ and Colin says the granita has ‘a right weird taste’.

In honour of Caroline Herschel, the world’s first female professional astronomer, Nick creates a Baked Alaskan comet of chocolate brownie, coffee ice cream and malt meringue, which he plates on a tail of morello cherry and lemon thyme purees. Oliver decides it’s his star dish of the day. Colin is still coming to terms with the unfamiliar concept of Baked Alaska… and coffee ice cream… and generally, most things on his plate.

Exploring Cornwall’s communications history, Jude’s dessert, ‘From Poldhu to Goonhilly’ also nods to the county’s classic cream tea. A sphere of strawberry parfait is encased in white chocolate and served with matcha sponge, deep frozen yogurt and more strawberries. Oliver thinks it’s ‘way too sweet’ and Matthew bemoans the lack of a scone.

However, despite being the front runner all week, Nick finally loses out to tenacious Jude. Which only goes to prove that although perseverance often wins the day, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to also drop a cockle.