Category: West Sussex

Heritage by Matt Gillan, Slaugham (West Sussex), United Kingdom

I have known Chef Matt Gillan since about 2012 when he was at The Pass at South Lodge Hotel in Horsham, and I have always loved his cooking. He then moved to Brighton and did a pop-up and then heading up Pike & Pine / Red Roaster Coffee – a bit further away from me but I still managed to find excuses to go and enjoy his food whenever I could. In 2019, he launched a kickstarter campaign to raise money for his latest venture – Heritage restaurant in Slaugham. I didn’t even have to think twice to support him on this. It was so good to see him smashing the original target of £60,000 in about 10 days, and it went on to raise over £89,000 in the end.

For my 50th birthday, I always had the plan to have a big party with friends, and quite a few of them would fly in from other parts of the world also. I spent ages agonising where to have the party, and it didn’t take me too long to decide to have it at Heritage. Restaurant was booked a few months before the party, but I was just waiting to work out the number of people to invite and decide whether to take over half the restaurant or whole restaurant. However, Covid lockdown hit in March 2020 and my plan was shelved. But I was determined to make the party happen when the pandemic started to ease, and I wanted to keep the promise of having it at Heritage – not just because it’s a relatively new business and I have a lot of respect for Matt to start a business like this, but I know his team would do a fine job and I want it to be a memorable occasion. So, 18 months later, I managed to have the party with a reduced guest list which meant that we would only take up half the restaurant that evening – after all, international air travel was still a mess and most friends who live abroad didn’t feel comfortable to meet up yet.

Instead of writing a review of a “normal” meal, I thought I’d tell you about my birthday party dinner which put Matt and his team into a more pressurised situation (serving 17 people at the same time is not easy, especially you are expecting high quality cooking and not just mass-catering stuff)! The 7-course menu was designed by Matt and all I requested was a dish with bacon jam (which was so amazing when I had it at The Pass many years ago), and soy sauce pannacotta – I left the rest of the choices to him. He must know me well enough and came up with the menu that required no modification at all – basically all the dishes and ingredients that I would quite happily order if I see them on his a la carte menu! A few of my friends had various dietary requirements (from vegan/vegetarian to various allergies) and that must have been a bit of a nightmare – but everyone’s request has been catered for, with slightly different dishes to get round their dietary issues.

We had a whole area outside the dining area to ourselves to enjoy cocktails/bubbly and catch up with each other first, which was really nice as it’s separated from the rest of the restaurant. It’s a good way to catch up with friends that I haven’t seen for ages (thank you Covid!).

To start off, it’s a quartet of snacks.

Then the freshly-baked bread arrived. If you think “hey, it’s only bread, do you really have to put a picture of the bread up?”, then let me tell you – you have to try his bread to understand why I like this place. At many restaurants I would usually limit the amount of bread I eat – partly because I find that most bread just fills up my stomach and then I feel bloated afterwards. But not with the bread here – I always end up finishing it. Sometimes I got asked if I wanted another one, but I am often sensible enough not to accept a second bread roll.

My first special request then arrived – I specifically asked Matt to include a dish with his bacon jam, which is just something out of this world. And he created this pork scratching with bacon jam and roasted apple. How he knows I love pork scratching I have no idea. But this has a light crunchy texture to it, and the sweetness of the ham works well with the apple too.

Jerusalem artichoke is not something I’d cook at home, and I usually find that at restaurants I either love it or hate it, depending on how it’s cooked. This version – I love it! There’s a comforting texture when I bite into it, and the combinations of all the flavours just work so well together.

The fish course is BBQ monkfish, and this dish is just amazing. Being Chinese, I am very picky with how well the fish is cooked, and so there are very few places that I would be happy with the fish (Nathan Outlaw or Tom Brown would be two of the chefs who can cook fish to perfection). However, the flavour of this monkfish dish that Matt has created is impressive – there’s a certain curry flavour which works well with the tomato fondue and the pickled ginger. The squid is cooked perfectly also and there’s no chewiness to it. (And just a side note – I had this dish again 2 months after this party, just before Christmas 2021, and it’s got even better!)

The meat course is breast and leg of duck. Now, again, without me prompting Matt, he has chosen my favourite meat for the main course. The meat is so tender and melts in the mouth. The sauce is not too rich and compliments well with the flavour of the duck.

The first dessert is a special request from me. Many years ago at The Pass Restaurant, one of the dishes that I remembered well was the pannacotta with soy sauce – at that time, it’s almost unheard of any western chefs would use soy sauce in a dessert, and Matt was probably the first chef that I have come across who did just that. So I requested that (and actually I have raved about this for years, that my friend George, who flew all the way in from New York for the birthday party, also hinted that she wanted it too!). Delicious? Hell yes!

The last course was hazelnut parfait with baked apple sorbet and apple tart. I am very picky when it comes to the quality of hazelnut and have actually been dreading this dish as a result. Just don’t ask me why I should even doubt Matt the slightest bit – this is a perfect finish to the spectacular 7-course birthday meal. If anything, I could have had a 2nd helping of this dessert (and a 3rd, and a 4th….)

We were all very well looked after by the front of house team, and the food was amazing. Was it a perfect birthday party? Yes – I think all my friends left with happy stomachs and great big smiles on their faces.


Address: Heritage, The Chequers, Slaugham, West Sussex, RH17 6AQ, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)1444 401102
Website: https://heritage.restaurant/


Opening Hours: Thursday – Saturday: Noon – 1:30pm lunch ; 6:30pm – 8:00pm dinner / Sunday 12:30pm – 1:45pm lunch

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 19/20 [Based on multiple visits in Sept 2019 – Dec 2021]

John Campbell’s Pop Up at The Pass (23 June 2012)

Introduction

Ever since John Campbell and Olly Rouse’s departures from Coworth Park in 2011, I have been wondering what they would do next. It just seemed such a shame that the immense amount of work building up the magic of Coworth Park suddenly evaporated, and it would be hard to re-create something similar elsewhere. They went quiet for quite a while, and so I was pleasantly surprised and excited when I learnt that they would do a 3-day event with Matt Gillan at The Pass at South Lodge Hotel just outside Horsham 21-23 June.

I knew very early on that I would not be able to make it to the first 2 days as I would be away from the UK for business, so that left me with no choice but to just shoot for Saturday 23 June. Not a bad thing anyway, as I did not have to worry about getting stuck on M25 during evening rush hours just to get to Horsham. I was pleased to go to South Lodge again also, having not been there for over 10 years (last time I stayed at South Lodge was a team-building event at my ex-employer in Horsham – at that time The Pass was not even there, and the hotel was a lot smaller).

There was a masterclass run by John Campbell mid-afternoon, and so I made sure I got to the hotel before then. Even with meticulous planning, M25 as usual worked its magic against me and I was nearly late – fortunately I built in some extra travelling time and that meant I arrived at South Lodge with about half an hour to spare.

Afternoon Masterclass with John Campbell

I took a front row seat at the afternoon masterclass, listening to John sharing his passion on cooking supplemented by his scientific knowledge and understanding in food chemistry, from cooking the different cuts of beef to the use of agar in delivering the flavours in food, as well as making fizzy grapes (imagine sparkling wine in solid fruit state). A lot of good tips and hints for cooking for friends at home – it’s not a matter of making something ultra-complicated a la Heston Blumenthal style, but to understand how all the different ingredients contribute to each dish based on flavours and ultimately timing is the crucial factor for all cooking. The “back to basics” cooking is almost music to my ears. I was already looking forward to dinner by this stage.

 

Pop Up at The Pass

To serve with the aperitif, we were offered some very delicious Jabugo ham – the flavour just burst in the mouth and I had to really control myself not to eat too much of it so that it would spoil my appetite for the evening. The ham came from black Iberian pigs that have been fed on a pure acorn diet for 2 years. We also had a taster of the new olive oil which went from tree to bottle within 2 hours. It was one of the fruitiest olive oils I’ve ever tasted.

 

 

The first dish was Eel served with beetroot, corn, radish and maple. The more sour/acidic taste of radish was balanced by the sweetness of the corn and maple. Even with the sharpness of the beetroot, the dish had a clean fresh flavour. It almost reminded me of the magic of the dishes at Coworth Park.

The second course was Pollack. The fish was beautifully cooked, and I loved the contrast of the crunchy cashew nuts accompanying this dish.  The turnip and cucumber provided an interesting contrasting flavour, and accented with a bit of miso. However, none of the flavours dominated the dish. I could easily have had a second plate of this.

The pigeon dish was next – it was by far the most tender piece of pigeon I’ve ever had, and the flavour was wonderful. The plate was peppered with tiny chocolate flakes. What I thought was supposedly cherries on the plate turned out to be tomatoes – the sweetness was wonderful. The polenta was there to just soak up any remaining bits of the flavour from the plate.

The next course was buffalo cheek which was cooked so well that it literally melted in the mouth. The meat on its own was moist and has a mild flavour, but the dish was transformed when eating the meat together with lemon curd, wasabi meringue, artichoke, pearl barley and basil sauce – suddenly all the flavours came to life in the mouth.

The “cheese” course was Barkam blue cheese with truffle, mint, onion and potato. There are only very few cheeses that I like, and blue cheese is not one of them. Still, the combination of the ingredients is an interesting concept especially with the potato right in front of me. The dish was a twist to onion and cheese crisp (again, not something I’d have usually), and the after-taste certainly reminded me of that. I finished it though it’s not something I’d like to have again, but that’s purely based on personal taste rather than something fundamentally wrong with the dish.

I could not decide whether the sixth course was meant to be a palate cleanser or a proper dessert. Either way, the vibrant red colour on the dish was stunning – it was watermelon batons with moscatel vinegar strawberries, lime and clotted cream. The taste was simply refreshing in the mouth, and it’s a shame that it was not a hot summer evening as I could just see myself sitting outside eating this dish again and again.

The final course was elderflower with peach melba, green tea sponge, baby daikon leaves, raspberry, vanilla and a few broken pieces of langue de chat. The bitterness of the green tea was balanced by the sweetness of the peach; while the langue de chat biscuits added a bit of crunch to the otherwise soft texture of the dish. This dessert was also so light that I could have easily eaten a second plate of it without any problems.

To finish off the dinner, it was the usual plate of petit fours, though we were never told what they were?!

After Thoughts

At the end of the meal, I did not feel that I’ve over-eaten – it was just a very pleasant sensation, feeling that I’ve eaten a light meal, and I don’t feel lethargic. It’s a shame that I was at the tail end of a bad cold; otherwise the enjoyment of the meal would be even greater. It would be difficult to choose one single favourite dish as each of them was good in its own right; the use of simple ingredients to create a symphony of flavours is the way to go – as John has said several times that chefs are custodians of nature’s larder and not magicians, and they should not change what nature has given us.

The best part of the meal for me was actually to speak to John Campbell and hear from him about his vision of cooking and the journey of re-discovering his passion and drive. Bizarrely enough, while I work in a completely different industry, my view in what I do is also “going back to basics” as many people are just too immersed in doing “fancy things” and losing sight in the bigger picture. So I can totally relate to what John is thinking and can share his excitement. If this meal is a preview of what is to come later on this year when he opens his new restaurant venture, it could easily be the most exciting restaurant opening in 2012, and I’m already looking forward to that!