Brave couples take on the Barge's latest Valentine food challenge
TWENTY meatballs, 1.5kg of pasta and two pints of tomato sauce. It is, of course, the latest food challenge at The Barge. But this time, reporter James Dunn won’t have to go it alone. He took on the Couples V Food challenge with his girlfriend, Alexandra Bloy.
This would have been my fifth Man vs Food challenge – had that been what it was.
I was coming in off a glorious victory against North East Lincolnshire Councillor Mick Burnett with a super spicy curry challenge at the Spice of Life. However, this, in honour of St Valentine's Day, was a Couples vs Food challenge, and looking at my partner, I was already at a severe disadvantage. At five foot one (and a half, as she always adds) and eight stone, Alexandra is far from an eating machine. In fact, I think I have probably competed against people that would have cooked and eaten her, given the chance. Also, I'm hardly an imposing figure myself, so we relished the lack of expectation – everyone loves an underdog.
Nick Taylor, chef at the Barge, was grinning like Frankenstein as he brought out his monstrous creation, placing the giant mound of spaghetti and meatballs on the table in front of us. "It's not a challenge if people can finish it," he said, smugly. It was an incorrect interpretation of the word "challenge", in my opinion, so being the pathetically pedantic idiot I am, I was determined to prove him wrong. And Bloy had her game face on.
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As we ploughed through the pasta like Lady and the Tramp on steroids, people's pitiful looks turned to cries of admiration and encouragement as other couples threw down their forks, vanquished. They shouted "go on good sir", "they must have hollow legs", and "where do they put it – they're a right couple of rakes". And after half an hour, most of the work was done, although the hardest job was yet to come.
The couple beside us were intimidated by our efforts and Dave Greenhalgh, 27, of Alexandra Road, Grimsby, left the table, saying "I'm going to go home now and slip into a meat coma". Although his girlfriend, Emily Love, 20, was satisfied with his efforts, adding: "It's the most romantic meal we've ever had."
Before long, there were only two. It was Dunn and Bloy, weighing in at 21 stone in total vs Rob Clarke and Simon Walton, braving potential prejudice to put the "man" back into Couples vs Food.
Rob, 23, of Weelsby Road, said the political gay marriage debate had helped them find the courage to make such a public statement. Simon, 22, of Beverley Crescent, Grimsby, who has already won one of the Barge's Man vs Food challenges, simply said "it's something romantic I thought we could enjoy together". However, neither of them would pose for a Lady and the Tramp-style photo, lips about to meet over the last strand of spaghetti. I had my doubts about them being a couple!
After an hour and five minutes, to everyone's amazement, Bloy and I took our last mouthful of spaghetti together, united at this moment of triumph. We soaked up the atmosphere – a mixture of shock and awe. However, Simon and Rob, who had started half an hour after us, still had 30 minutes to beat our time.
Watching them literally eat away at our lead was agonising and all looked lost, until former winner Simon started to look a little green with just ten minutes and five meatballs to go. Suddenly, he stood up and...well, I'm afraid there isn't a nice way to write what he did but it obviously cleared some space. It looked like the horse had fallen at the final hurdle and the underdogs were to leave with the £100 prize money and a weekend away in Leeds. His partner abandoned him and he sat, alone and bemused. But then, from nowhere, he got a second wind and in a few moments, polished off the final few mouthfulls, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
However, we eventually shook hands and went our separate ways. We agreed that the real loser was chef Nick, who added: "I honestly did not expect that – you've really shocked me."