Food News

Great British Menu: North West week recap

So, North West week presented us with a very fired up Mark Ellis, who was back for a second bite at the Great British Menu, Eve Townson, a chef who cooks from the heart, and exciting chef Matthew Worswick, who has previously held a Michelin Star.

With the ever hard to please Sat Bains the judge for the week, the chefs knew that it was going to take some magical cooking to get Sat to give them a top score.

Despite this, Sat showed a high degree of leniency in terms of Eve’s timekeeping – something that I think most other judges wouldn’t have accepted. To put this in perspective, Eve was about 10 minutes late with her main dish (although I would have eaten this wonderful looking dish in a heartbeat!) and yet still scored a 7, which doesn’t seem to fit in with the super strict judging that this high level cooking competition deserves.

With Matt leading from the front, hitting the high of a 10 for his main course (before a fall back down to earth with a very humble and not so awesome apple crumble dessert), it was left to Eve and Mark to battle it out for that second spot. While Mark offered some exciting cooking, he just couldn’t quite get everything working together, with his fish course scoring a three after he managed to miss two elements. As well as this, it seems that the pressure Mark put on himself to do better than his previous effort in the competition didn’t seem to help him. All in all, I think that Mark can count himself a little unlucky that Sat was so generous with his scoring for Eve, who went through to cook for the judges with Matt.

The heat final: A breakdown


Winnie’s Chicken

A rustic dish that didn’t work during the week after some rough, grainy ketchup ruined the textures. This was a tribute to celebrated poultry farmer Winnie Swarbrick. It went down a treat with the judges, who found it to be wonderfully cooked and they really praised the story and the improved version of the ketchup.

Twinset And Peals

A wonderful seafood melody mixed with sea vegetables. She presented halibut with potato scales on the top as the main idea and lemon pearls gave the dish some acidity. The judges didn’t enjoy the pearls and found the dish to be lacking in flavour. They also questioned how well it hit the WI brief.

A Quintessential English Countryside

10 minutes late in the week, Eve used pasty encased shepherds pie (though still with a potato topping) and heritage purple carrots before braised lamb chump was placed as the star of the dish. On the side of the dish was a lamb jus, but for me the dish seemed a real meat and two veg dish with a pie thrown on the side. All in all, it was just seen as a ‘nice’ dish.

Lancashire Bobbin

Celebrating the Lancashire textiles industry and showing skill with tempering chocolate, the bobbins themselves looked alright but seemed very, very hard to create. It all went wrong at the last minute, with everything failing except the sorbet and the bobbin itself. The judges were not happy with the wait for the dishes and this surely showed that the dessert was just not right for the banquet. With two elements down, this was a sad end to the competition for Eve, who had done very well otherwise.


Game Old Birds

A homage to the calender girls using partridge, although the name wasn’t taken in the playful way it was intended by the judges! The dish was made smaller for the heat final but the cooking of the dish let it down. The judges said it was a restaurant dish lacking surprise.

Grandma’s Pick Of The Day

A lobster dish that was in honour of Matt’s WI member granny, a keen gardener. Unlike Sat, the judges found the dish to be well balanced and the lobster was seen as being well cooked and seasoned with the word ‘perfect’ used an awful lot!

Shall I be Mother?

This got a 10 from Sat after the dish was cooked to perfection. Using a prime cut of lamb with a hot pot on the side, the lamb (encasing some gorgeous stuffing) was plated up with a lovely vegetable sharing platter (that gets added marks from me for having roasted garlic in it). He then used his granny’s teapot to contain his pigs’ trotter gravy using a wonderful presentation plate. All in all, the cooking here was perfection and hit the WI cooking standards but some dissent from the judges suggested it might ‘just’ be a Sunday lunch dish…

Grandma’s Humble Apple Crumble

Using his grandma’s original apple crumble recipe, he tweaked the dish to go back to basics for the judges, aside from the cider brandy ice cream. Plated in some incredible cermaic apples, this dish looks wonderful but the dish itself just didn’t work. While the re-invention with the dish was a wise move after an average dish in the heats, this was no winner.


Eve did very well, until the dessert. Of course the fact that this went so very, very wrong shows that her timekeeping needs to improve if she (and we hope she does) comes back to the Great British Menu next year. On the flip side, Matt showed (like he did in his interview with us here) that he is a chef who is going places. He could well have a dish in the final if he can just lift his vegetables on his main to something a little more special!

Dishes for the banquet?

The judges loved Matt’s fish dish, whereas I don’t think that when you compare this to Michael O’Hare’s dish it has the ‘wow’ factor to make it all the way. I think that with a little bit of refining, his Shall I Be Mother dish has the potential to be a big winner with chefs and judges alike, so it could sneak in as a great WI honouring main course at the banquet.

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