If you’ve become curious about eating goat following Matt Gillan’s appearance on the Great British Menu then you’ll be please to hear that all of his dishes from the show are now available at The Pass.
Matt explained that every course in his menu used a single ingredient as a theme. So his Sowing and Growing starter features onions in the guise of puree, whole bulbs and lightly battered rings. Sardines (although not in their canned incarnation) are the focus of the Jamming and Canning fish course and include a pan fried fillet, a crunchy spring like roll and rather moreish tartare. The addition of some poached lobster and crispy chicken wing are a lovely touch but the not too sweet rhubarb jam really pulls it all together. A hexagonal ‘comb’ of honey infused desserts draws Matt’s menu to a close with a honey sponge, panacotta, parfait and yoghurt topped with fragile almost transparent honey wafters.
But judging from the conversations I had with my fellow journalists over lunch and the response to my Instagram pictures of the meal, it is the goat people are most intrigued by. Matt said this was the easiest dish for him to develop for the competition. His mother cooked goat meat for him as a child although it is quite hard to source in England. He said he found this puzzling given that the UK has a large dairy industry. Matt subsequently discovered that around 40,000 billy goat kids are destroyed each year. In the spirit of the Women’s Institute’s philosophy of waste not, want not he decided to use goat as the central element in his main course. And so his Teaching and Preaching course was born which scored a unanimous 10 out of 10 across the board in the finals of the Great British Menu (the teaching aspect is a nod to the Institute’s Denmam College).
“I never set out to start a campaign for eating goat,” explains Matt. “It just sort of snowballed.”
Matt’s goat fuelled main includes a ridiculously tender steamed shoulder which falls apart at the slightest nudge of the fork; a stuffed roll of leg; a juicy piece of fillet and a mini herders pie with a creamy mash topping (comfort food at it’s pinnacle). There is also a light scattering of crumbled dehydrated goat’s cheese (fortunately the dehydrator at The Pass was working fine unlike the one at the Drapers Hall on the eve of the banquet); a dumpling and some roasted pineapple. Although Matt claims that the latter was a tongue in cheek addition it beautifully compliments the other elements on the plate. Like all of his previous courses it is impeccably presented but rather theatrically arrives in a Herder Box complete with a Brothers Grimm style story book (wonderfully illustrated by Jo Parry) detailing the plight of the nation’s billy goats.
I have tried goat before and wasn’t particularly enamoured with it. The goat I had previously eaten had a definite farmyard tang about it somewhat reminiscent of manure. Matt explained that the meat I had eaten was probably taken from an older animal. Goat like sheep has a less intense flavour when the animal is slaughtered young (think lamb vs mutton). Matt has been sourcing goat kid meat from James Whetlor of Cabrito in Devon for the past six years. James realised that culling billy goat kids shortly after birth made no sense ecologically, economically or gastronomically. He now supplies many London restaurants besides The Pass. Texture wise, goat kid meat it is very similar to lamb but unlike it’s gambolling playmate it has much lower fat content. In fact it contains less fat than skilled chicken.
The Pass is a Michelin starred restaurant so you can expect to pay top end prices. Matt’s Great British Menu costs £57.50 but does include an additional pre-starter. Is it worth it? For impeccable flavours, presentation and service, yes it absolutely is. 2015 may well be the Chinese year of the goat but I suspect (rather sadly) it will be sometime before we are all eating this meat regularly. Although if anything is going to convert you to eating goat this menu will.