I ate a Masterchef menu to see if the hype met expectations

Former Masterchef contestant Dylan Owens held a takeover at LOST Wirral
-Credit: (Image: LOST)

LOST Wirral recruited a Masterchef star tasked with delivering an authentic Welsh menu.

Located in Claremont Courtyard, adjacent to Claremont Farm, a former barn that has been transformed into a cosy dining and event venue. To arrive at the entrance, you're tasked with travelling along dirt roads surrounded by high hedges and trees with very little signage. It's ironic that the name of the space is LOST because that's what you may be on your first venture.

I've been to LOST before to sample its Mardi Gras menu - an experience I praised highly. The concept's magic lies in the fact every visit will be different and unique from its predecessor. My April experience was carried on the back of classic New Orleans cuisine whereas this time it was perched entirely on the reputation of a notable chef - former Masterchef star, Dylan Owens.

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Accompanied by his superstar 'commis chef', Aiden Byrne, who is still the youngest person ever to have been awarded a Michelin star, Dylan brought a taste of his Welsh homeland to Wirral. I've always leaned towards foreign foods more than local ones. Give me takoyaki over steak any day. But I was excited to see what an authentic Welsh menu had in store and whether or not a celebrity chef could live up to brand name recognition.

When you arrive you'll know you're in the right place. A spacious courtyard welcomes drivers with a LOST sign perched at the top surrounded by dim lights. The barn swaps farmyard aesthetics for a romantic atmosphere not dissimilar to a luxury location in the countryside. Stepping through the large glass doorway you can see the original features have been kept or reclaimed.

LOST includes a feature stone staircase with a glass floor and a wrap-around mezzanine to create extra seating in the beamed loft area. Candles surround the perimeter on both levels with a number of chandeliers and hanging plants near but not directly bothering the tables. You notice the grandeur as soon as you walk in - Emmerdale's finest restaurant on steroids. It's classy but welcoming which is only accentuated by the smiling staff who welcome you at their post.

Explaining my booking to the host, we were given the option of moving straight to our table or sitting on the deck for a drink - we chose the latter. The venue is quite small but spaced out enough that you're not bumping shoulders with anyone whether you're in a group or booking of two.

The star of tonight's menu was, as expected, Welsh lamb rump, but we'll get to that soon. The first of five courses was a freshly made ale sourdough, Halen mon and laverbread whipped Shirgar butter. Laverbread is seaweed; a traditional Welsh delicacy with a distinctly salty taste while Halen mon is considered some of the best salt you can find.

Despite their description, the result was similar to a black garlic aioli - creamy in texture with a nice kick. The Shirgar butter was closer to a foam and not at all heavy, so pairing them both on a pulled piece of warm sourdough was a no-brainer. Inoffensive and welcoming, a nice introduction to what guests could expect down the line.

Next up was a hefty arrival I wasn't expecting. The menu promised Pant-Ysgawn goat cheese which arrived as a lightly dusted log in quite a generous portion. Super creamy, quite heavy and envelops your entire mouth with even the smallest of bites. Next to it was a big boy delivering the remaining promise of pine nuts, Snowdonian honey, beetroot and celery not dissimilar to a fruit and nut cake.

I'm not sure what I was expecting but it was certainly something lighter. It was quite a task to manage so early on given its weight but more so because it was incredibly dry next to the saliva-draining cheese. I found myself relying on the fresh hydration of the beetroot and radishes to save every mouthful but it was simply too much to finish. It wasn't bad, mind you, more of a hefty hurdle than anything but I guess that's what you'd expect from an authentically Welsh menu.

For the third course, we arrived at a favourite of mine, mackerel. It lay under a bed of horseradish snow, accompanied by a cut of cucumber, a lone cucumber flower, and cucumber purée, with fennel pollen and borage. Compared to the beginning of the menu, this was a night and day delivery. Until now we've had heavy helpings but this was so fresh, flavourful and light it was very welcomed as a shift in gear.

The mackerel was so tender you could barely pick it up without breaking. It's always great to see an inexpensive fish given care regardless of its image. Under the horseradish, which provided an additional flavour boost to an already delightful bite, this was a mouth-watering plate that disappeared as quickly as it arrived.

And then the main event arrived, the pièce de résistance of any Welsh menu, the lamb. As soon as it was set I knew it'd be amazing. A bright pink, thick rump cut sat next to confit potato, sheep yoghurt, onion, lamb fat, leek heart and mint oil. It was to die for. With very little effort my knife glided through the lamb and it was just as flavourful as the images would lead you to believe. Lightly cooked to not disturb the texture and paired great with the veggies. If this is the best of Wales then I want more. No notes.

Finally, the dessert arrived and as much as I strived to finish it I couldn't. I was stuffed. If you have a sweet tooth you'll be in heaven. A fairly big meringue filled with apples and blueberries is your final task. The meringue crumbled nicely and was easy to take thanks to the generous helping of fruits that filled its core. There's a lot to tackle here, especially as a fifth course, but anyone still wanting more won't be disappointed.

My thoughts going into a Welsh menu were that this would be starchy and predominantly meat-heavy. With nothing to compare the experience to I accepted everything at face value. It's heavier than I'd personally go for but everything was faultless in terms of execution and presentation. While I may not choose to have such starchy starters, it was great to get a feel of authentic Welsh ingredients delivered by a reputable chef who knows what he is doing. The mackerel and lamb are another story altogether and I'm salivating thinking about them again as I write this. If you get a chance to dine under a Masterchef you should take it as you won't be disappointed. I certainly wasn't.

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