Great British Menu 2014 blog by Danny Kingston: the South West heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th April 2014

This is the third in our series of weekly blogs by food blogger Danny Kingston aka @FoodUrchin looking back on each heat of Great British Menu 2014. 

By all accounts, there was a bit of an uproar regarding the chefs selected to represent the south west on Great British Menu last week; insofar that none of the chefs were really based there. Sure, young whippersnapper and rising star Josh Eggleton and his restaurant The Pony and Trap might be situated on the gateway to that mystic land but Emily Watkins ploughs her trade in Oxfordshire.

And Dom Chapman? His pub, The Royal Oak, is slap bang in the middle of

Great British Menu 2014
Great British Menu 2014

Maidenhead! (Sort of) That Dominic is a Somerset boy born and bred was of little importance though and apparently the protest party heading over the Tamar to picket outside the BBC was looking to be at least 10 strong at one point.

Thankfully, it was reported that the rag tag bunch soon turned back when they realised that they didn’t have enough cider and baccy, or petrol for that matter, for the journey. But it does go to show just how fiercely tribal this nation can be at times. Considering that the Great British Menu is celebrating the anniversary of the end of a terrible war, I wonder if the BBC knew how close they were to starting another one.

>>> Read more about Josh Eggleton here

Anyway, these were the guys and gal picked to ‘reprazent’ and when they were introduced, we had all the name clanging and heralding, as per usual. Yes, Dom used to work for Heston Blumenthal didn’t you know. However, given that Dom was picked out as the experienced heavyweight amongst the three, it didn’t stop him from visibly blanching when mentor Sat Bains walked through the door. Emily looked pretty petrified too, a look that was to stay with her throughout the week. Only Josh seemed to maintain some composure, looking cool as a cucumber and occasionally stoned.

Great British Menu 2014
Sat Bains

The starting round kicked off with the same blend of nostalgia and déjà vu, as themes based on rations and good old fashioned SPAM reared its ugly head again, in both Emily’s and Josh’s dishes. Whereas Dom launched off into the wartime spirit of ‘waste not, want not’ with his Mock Turtle Soup containing various offal including calves brains. After hearing everyone explain their concepts, Mr Bains was clearly impressed.

>>> Related: Dominic Chapman, Royal Oak Paley Street

But then like a fiend, uttered “Well my starter got three 10’s from the judges, so no pressure” and waltzed off out the room on his heels. Despite some clear health and safety issues with Josh’s idea to present luncheon meat in a deadly sharp, open tin can, he did well. As did Dom, with his savoury fakery and creamy textures. Emily however missed the spot, perhaps because she was letting her nerves get to her. Emily did regain some confidence in the second fish round and it was heartening to see her tell Sat to bugger off in no uncertain terms when she was plating up her theatrical ‘Fight them on beaches’. Great British Menu 2014

There was no way she was going to let his mugging get in the way of her grilling delicate scallops to be served up with smoked cockles and seaweed. Josh and Dom however, were not so forthright and both their dishes suffered from gimmickry and confusion. Josh’s edible beach and boats carved from Brill fell flat in Sat’s opinion and Dom’s story behind his crimped cod and oyster sauce floundered all over the plaice (sorry).

As such, Emily scored high and was back in the race. For the mains round, there was a fair amount of banter going on between the boys regarding their dumplings. Or doughboys, as Josh’s Nan likes to call them. Even Mr Bains got in with the laughter and wisecracks, which was fun and entertaining to watch and the BBC would do well to edit more of this behaviour in for the rest of the series.

Things have been fairly dry so far. Great British Menu 2014All three plates in my opinion looked very strong and impressive regarding presentation. Dom’s ox cheek was fantastically tender, Josh’s saddle of rabbit with salt baked carrots sang harmoniously from the plate and Emily’s recreation of an allotment garden hit the brief perfectly in my opinion.

But ol’ Sat found some schoolgirl errors and dissed Dom for not communicating a story, again. Josh on the other hand got an admirable 9 for his efforts. Decision time lay with the puddings and again Emily and Josh came up with familiar ideas of recreating a street party for the guests. In fact the pair had been matching dishes all week. Josh upped the ante though by creating 5 separate desserts for his table; namely Victoria sponge, scones, strawberries and cream, rice pudding and a lardy toasted jam sandwich.

Emily shot him one hell of a look when she found out. Dom on the other hand stood alone again, once more with his Victory Trifle. In his opinion it was a Great British Menu 2014100% dessert and if you know Dom, he does nothing but 100% (he says 100% A LOT by the way).  His main problem was deciding to make a quintessentially British dessert with Italian shop bought ingredients and that is what ultimately cost him when Sat had to decide who would go through the judging round.

If only Dom had made his biscuits by hand, he would have got through. 100% Helping Matt, Prue and Oliver to decide who should go through the final banquet round was none other than Ken Sturdy; another twinkly, sparkly chap who really warmed the cockles of my heart. Getting these old boys and girls onto the panel for this series has been inspired and they’ve been doing a great job of stealing everyone’s thunder.

Ken Sturdy Great British Menu 2014Going forward with their dishes, it was pretty neck and neck between the two competing chefs. Emily swam ahead with her starter and fish dish, with Mr Fort swooning over combination of sweet and meat in her ‘Fight them on the beaches’. But Josh’s main - ‘Normandy Rabbit’ - brought the biggest smiles to the table, they all literally fell over themselves when gobbling it up. Ken loved the use of the sand bag too, as it brought back memories of Normandy.  

So when it came to announcing the winner it was very tough one to call. If Emily’s downbeat face was anything to go by, Josh had it in the bag. But the panel thought otherwise, she was through and blimey, wasn’t it nice to see her beam at last and light up the screen. Believe in yourself Emily, believe!!!      

>>> More on Great British Menu here

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2014 here

Danny Kingston (Food Urchin)Danny is a food adventurer, enthusiastic allotmenteer, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurian blog, Food Urchin. He also writes for Great British Chefs and past credits also include writing for Delicious Magazine online and MSN Food and he is an absolute sucker for East End pie and mash (with loads of liquor and vinegar).

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th April 2014

Great British Menu 2014 blog by Danny Kingston: the South West heat