Despite this week’s Great British Menu being the penultimate round before the finals, the energy has not let up. Three highly skilled and competitive chefs, Stephen Terry of the Hardwick Arms in Abergavenny, James Sommerin of the Crown at Whitebrook in Monmouthshire and Richard Davies of the Manorhouse in Wiltshire whilst mostly genial, were quite happy to stick the knife into their combatants when they were off camera. And James Sommerin was a little too sure of himself throughout, earning him no fans in this household at least – the use of liquid nitrogen in cooking seems to transform attitudes into winning ones, without the substance to back it up.
Angela Hartnett, this week’s judge was rather like Judge Dredd – ‘tough but fair’, and whilst her scoring was generally on the low side, it was only a hare’s breath separating the chefs at the end – in fact it was a mere half point that saw Richard Davies back off to Wiltshire with his molecularly gastronomic tail between his legs.
But this is a beer matching blog, not a TV review so let’s get to it. The winner in the end was Stephen Terry to the visible dismay of James Sommerin who has not yet succeeded in getting a dish to the final meal. What he lacked in radical new techniques he made up for in inventiveness around the olympic theme.
His starter was entitled The Opening Ceremony. A rather dainty salad served with squab pigeon, chicken livers, onion risotto cubes and asparagus. The pigeon and livers make this sound somewhat heavier than the presentation actually was, so this salad needs a beer with backbone but one that leaves only slight footprints. St Peter’s do a lovely fruit beer with grapefruit that should marry well with this dish.
The fish course perhaps pushed the Olympic theme a little too far: 5 coloured rings with nine different fishes or seafoods; including caviar & lobster; cucumber jelly with mackerel tartare and a baked lemon jelly with cold and hot smoked salmon. Consequently it’s a tricky match as there’s a whole load going on. But I’m going for a wheat beer which in this instance needs to be clean and not too overwhelming. Erdinger weissbier is the one for me, whilst not my favourite, it has a more gently clove character which should stand it in good stead here.
Main now, and rabbits beware for this was The Bunny Pentathlon. Peter was shot, skinned, boned and dealt with savagely but it must be said deliciously. There was bunny burger, pressed bunny loin – fivefold ways as you can gather from the name. And this is pale ale territory which means a lot of choice, and I will err for a well balanced version but not an English one – in fact, Cooper’s Sparkling from Adelaide would be my choice (one of my favourite beers this one, so always a pleasure to marry it well to some good food).
And finally pud here it was three traditional puddings dusted down and scrubbed up to a new sheen. Gold, Silver or Bronze? was the name for an interpretation of Chocolate mousse, lemon meringue pie and strawberry trifle – and again, this tapas approach makes matching troublesome. But where there is chocolate there has to be beer and in this case a classic – Westmalle Dubbel has the flavour punch with delivered with elegance.
No Welsh beers here I’ve just realised, but given that both the judge and winner are actually English please forgive me this indiscretion.
© David Preston, Beer Tinted Spectacles 2012