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Great British Menu 2017: The banquet recap

Great British Menu 2017: The banquet recap

by Kate Doran 01 July 2017

As this year’s Great British Menu draws to a close, Kate Doran takes a look at how the winners fared as they prepared their dishes at the banquet.

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Fourteen degrees centrigrade. A light drizzle. All hands on deck to bring tables and chairs inside. All the hallmarks of our great British summer and a fitting start to this year’s Great British Menu banquet.

After weeks of battling it out, four chefs from Central, the North East, Scotland and South East woke up early and headed down to the iconic All England Tennis Club to show their colours cooking a four course banquet to celebrate 140 years of Wimbledon. Suited and booted on arrival, after a sneaky peak at Centre Court, the chefs swapped their ties for tennis whites and headed out onto the grass. A particularly resonant moment for Central chef Pip Lacey, who might have been a professional tennis player had it not been for a back injury early in her career.

Showing her true love for the sport, Pip kickstarted proceedings with

Whatever the Weather, a dishserved in individual molded tennis balls. Despite a few tense minutes at the pass when plates of prepared vegetables couldn’t be located, this elegant starter with watering cans of tomato water and green and purple ravioli couldn’t have been more perfect for Wimbledon. Tennis-themed presentation? Check. Wimbledon colours? Check. Tim Henman happy? Job done.

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Amongst one of very few to cook at the banquet two years in a row, returning chef Tommy Banks was on fish once again after wowing the judges with his piscatorial take on the Championships’ favourite pud. Turbot with Strawberries & Cream was a clever twist on the classic, pairing perfectly cooked turbot with a green strawberry relish and chive cream sauce. We saw Tommy visit the Yorkshire farmer supplying twenty kilograms of green strawberries for the banquet – something he’d never been asked for before, but who knows, maybe now they’ve been on TV, green strawberries will become a trend?

Grinning from ear to ear every step of the way was main course winner Michael Bremner. The talented Scottish chef couldn’t seem to believe his luck having got his main course to the banquet, and despite a few false starts with some fiddly ravioli, he turned out plate after plate of beautiful, great tasting food. The Grass is Greener consisted of dark and sticky ox tongue topped with a jus-filled ravioli, brought to life with bursts of summery colour from little pickled vegetables. Oliver described it as ‘the best ox tongue you will ever eat’ and it’s cheering to see such an underused cut in the mainstream.

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The biggest surprise was dessert which saw South East champion Selin Kiazim rise from all-out disaster to game, set and match. Having failed to impress with her original offering, Selin completely reinvented her dish, wowing all involved with a plate of peaches, raspberry and rosewater. Poached peach and raspberries set in jelly sat atop a Turkish panna cotta, accompanied by peach and rosewater sorbet and a rosewater shard. Honouring Venus Rosewater Champions had just the right amount of wobble and after so many interpretations of the pineapple that sits on top of the men’s trophy throughout the series, it was heartening to see a celebration of the women’s plate. The accompanying bottle of bellini also set the tone for the end of this celebratory event.

Throughout Friday’s episode, the directors tried to keep things tense with the chefs commenting on how stretched they were, the occasional bleep, wondering if ingredients would be ready in time or sorbets be sent out without melting. But what was clear from the start is how professional these chefs are, how talented, and how when push came to shove they would smash it out of the park. Which they did.

Congratulations to all involved. The standing ovation at the end of the banquet says it all. Now pass the Prosecco, strawberries and cream – it’s time to watch some tennis.

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