Wood v Food: Titanic Ulster fry challenge at east Belfast's Newton Cafe
The scoreline is now looking slightly one-sided, so this week Wood v Food went back to its roots by taking on a mammoth version of our national dish — the Ulster fry.
With my form in the series now at a point that would shame Aston Villa, I headed to my next culinary showdown with all the hope of a Christian with a pulled hamstring going out to face the lions.
This week’s venue was the Newton Café on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast, home to a cooked breakfast which has already earned legend status in its short existence.
The Goliath XXL is a notoriously unconquerable 34-piece collection of Ulster fry staples the like of which has never been, and probably should never be, assembled.
Take the ingredients of your average weekend fry-up treat and start multiplying; not just the bacon and sausages — everything.
Add to that a large serving of chips plus mushrooms, beans, tomato, hash browns and two lorry tyre-sized slices of black pudding and you’re there.
The architect behind this £15 supertanker of cholesterol is the Newton’s owner David Gough.
David created the Goliath about four years ago as a way of drumming up publicity for the restaurant, but he now admits the Biblical breakfast titan has become a celebrity in its own right.
One bizarre example of the Goliath’s notoriety, David recalled, was the day a bus-load of Chinese tourists arrived at the café, all wanting to have a crack at the renowned Ulster fry having read about it online.
He duly obliged, but none of his Far Eastern visitors came anywhere near to finishing everything in front of them. “It was such a waste,” David lamented.
However, the ladies and gents from the People’s Republic need not feel quite so ashamed at the size of their leftovers, as the Goliath has seen off all but five of the roughly 700 diners that have so far attempted it.
More people have walked on the Moon. What was I thinking?
The dish’s namesake was felled with a slingshot, whereas I was only armed with a slight feeling of midday peckishness.
Having ordered what I expected to be my last meal in April, I checked that all my affairs were in order and picked my spot in the pocket-sized eatery.
A couple were all that was left of the lunchtime rush and, when asked to predict the outcome, said they would happily put the house on the Goliath.
Despite having a culinary cast larger than an all-food version of a Broadway musical, David had the behemoth ready in not much more than 10 minutes.
It arrived on a rectangular steel platter so large it must have been snuck out the back door of the nearby Harland and Wolff shipyard.
David placed it on the two-seater table and I had to move my chair back to get all of it in my field of vision.
All joking aside, I have never seen so much food served up to one person in my 25 years on the planet.
The Goliath had the upper hand straight away because I had absolutely no idea where to start.
On the left flank was the bread — massed ranks of toast, pancakes, soda and potato bread. On the right, a mound of chips combined with what must have been a full tin’s worth of baked beans.
Thinking back to the first round of Wood v Food, I knew I could at least put away a respectable amount of meat in fairly short order, having managed 34 ounces of steak in 30 minutes.
I resolved to attack at dead centre and charged at the bacon, sausages and eggs with all the confidence of the Light Brigade galloping towards the Russian guns.
After cutting up the sausages to let them cool I made for the bacon.
Despite the lack of room on the sizeable sheet of stainless steel doubling as a plate, I was able to trim the fat off each piece without throwing chips all over the place.
I care not a jot if you call me a wimp or a fusspot, but there is not a prize or glory great enough that could convince me that eating fat is anything but disgusting.
Fat aside, the rashers were good thick slices of back bacon and went perfectly with the fried eggs.
I quickly made my way through the first two pieces of bacon and most of the eggs and decided to try and kill two birds with one fatty stone by pressing a couple of chips on to the end of each subsequent forkful.
All this achieved was to convince me that the Goliath’s slag heap of fries was likely to be the main obstacle to sweeping all before me.
The bacon and eggs were an easy starter, the rashers were not as salty as I had feared and before long I was on to the pork sausages.
Smuggling further chips in with each segment proved a poor tactic as the bangers put up more of a fight than the bacon.
By this stage I had consumed my monthly quota of fried meat in around 15 minutes and I had to move on to something different to break up the flavour log-jam in my mouth.
I stabbed away at the chips and beans combined with the odd piece of the two crumbly hash browns in a bid to get them out of the way.
However, with each bite the lumps of hash brown exploded like greasy depth charges coating everything on the way down with a layer of cold vegetable oil.
I was now growing weary of the heavy fried food flavour and desperately needed something to cut through it.
Opting for the sweet soft bread of the pancakes, they immediately revealed themselves to be false friends, hiding a surprising amount of fat beneath their gentle brown surface.
The toast was the only option left, fortunately served without butter, and it proved a successful but filling palette cleanser.
After polishing off the five slices I resembled a pregnant seahorse and had to discretely open my belt by a notch.
I tried a piece of soda followed by potato bread, but now anything with even the slightest hint of grease produced a deep and profound shudder.
A stabbing pain had begun to shoot up and down the left hand side of my chest and even the by-now cold chips proved too much of a task.
I spotted the black pudding languishing at the far right hand corner of the plate and convinced myself I would make one last gallant stand against the Goliath by finishing the pitch-black discs.
But it was not to be. The metallic tang of the pudding sent a flash of nerve to my stomach which threatened to cause an embarrassing mess if attempted a second time.
I threw in my napkin and wept to myself at the thought of the several coats of fat I had just painted on to my organs — for nothing. Goliath had thrashed David.