Tag: 19/20

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]

Per Se, New York City, United States

How much hassle is it to arrange a surprise birthday meal in New York City from London? No matter how much upfront planning I did, it was still nearly impossible. I was going to treat my friend Darcy to a nice meal in NYC at the last weekend of August 2011 since it’s her big birthday. My plan A was to book Le Bernandin, but it’s closed for refurbishment in August; then I booked Picholine and they confirmed the reservation, with me thinking that it’s all sorted. However, about a fortnight before the visit, I got a cryptic e-mail saying that they cancelled my reservation. It’s only when I rang the restaurant that they told me they would be closed for refurbishment also (is that all they do in New York in August?). So in the end I opted for my safety net Per Se, which might be impossible to book (and Darcy would be able to guess) but worth a try.

Then what happened? Hurricane Irene hit New York that last weekend in August and nearly the whole of New York (including Per Se) was shut down. But at least Per Se managed to sort out a table for the weekend after for Sunday lunch, which I happened to be back in Manhattan anyway. Then it’s working out with Darcy’s boyfriend on how to throw the scent off the trail, and so I made up a story of going elsewhere but meet at Columbus Circle.

Luckily when the big day came, everything worked according to plan. Darcy got a birthday greeting from the restaurant as soon as she arrived, and once we settled down at the table, we had the tough task of deciding which menu to go for. In the end, I chose the vegetarian menu (which was unusual, but after a whole week of stuffing my face stupid, I could do with a lighter meal) while the rest of the table chose the carnivore menu.

The amuse-bouche reminded us of Mr Underhill’s in the UK, as they were more sophisticated versions of Gougeres, smoked salmon cones and sweet potato cone.

Per Se - Gougeres Per Se - Salmon Cones and Sweet Potato Cone

(1) “Oysters and Pearls” – Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling white sturgeon caviar

Per Se - Oysters and Pearls

My first course was Sweet Corn “Veloute” with Hass avocado and thyme-scented buttermilk sherbet – Every time I saw sweetcorn soup of some form, I always thought of my most favourite version at Restaurant Sat Bains. Here, the combination of the avocado and sherbet actually worked really well with the sweetcorn. All the various flavours just came to life in the mouth.

Per Se - Sweet Corn Veloute Per Se - Sweet Corn Veloute

(2) Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm with navel orange, cherry belle radishes, mache and black winter truffle puree

Per Se - Hawaiian Hearts of Peach Palm

Torchon of Elevages Perigord moulard duck foie gras, with compressed Garden State peaches, fennel bulb, Marcona almond butter and petite basil

Per Se - Torchon of Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras

Braised fennel bulb with Per Se raisins, sunflower seed puree, nepitella mint and crispy Greek yogurt

Per Se - Braised Fennel Bulb

Sauteed fillet of Atlantic striped bass, with Florida Creek shrimp, sweet peppers, cilantro shoots and saffron aioli

Per Se - Sauteed Fillet of Atlantic Striped Bass

Yukon gold potato “mille-feuille”, broccolini, cherry belle radishes and black winter truffle puree

Per Se - Yukon Gold Potato Mille-Feuille

Butter poached Nova Scotia lobster, glazed turnips, watercress and Oregon huckleberries

Per Se - Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster

Swiss chard leaves “piccata”, with toasted farro “tabouleh”, violet artichokes, Cipollini onion shoots and black olive puree

Per Se - Swiss Chard Leaves Piccata

Thomas farm’s pigeon “pastrami”, rye seed pancake, red wine braised cabbage and “Thousand Island dressing”

Per Se - Thomas Farm's Pigeon Pastrami

Hen egg omelette, Matsutake mushrooms, French leeks, Vldalia onion “soubise” and Mizuna

Per Se - Ham Egg Omelette

Snake River farms’ “Calotte de boeuf”, Squire Hill Farm’s butternut squash, young onions, tarragon puree and Nasturtium caper cream

Per Se - Snake River Farms' Calotte de Boeuf

Mascarpone-enriched cranberry bean “Agnolotti”, cherry tomatoes, haricots verts, parmesan crisp, basil and Armando Manni extra virgin olive oil emulsion

Per Se - Mascarpone-enriched Cranberry Bean Agnolotti

“Hittisau”, buckwheat crepe, seckel pears, broccolini, toasted hazelnuts and balsamic vinegar

Per Se - Hittisau

“Pata Cabra” with charred eggplant puree, cucumbers, citrus blossom and greenmarket peppers

Per Se - Pata Cabra

“Honeyed plums” with plum compote, honeycomb, whipped plums and burnt honey ice-cream. “Peach Lemonade” with toasted oat crumble, lemon soda and Pearson Farm peach sherbet

Per Se - Honeyed PlumsPer Se - Peach Lemonade

Ice-cream sandwich, and Thomas Keller Oreo ice-cream biscuit

Per Se - Ice-Cream Sandwich Per Se - TKO Ice-cream Per Se - TKO Ice-cream

“S’Mores” – Tcho chocolate torte, vanilla marshmallow, candied Virginia peanuts and caramel ice-cream

Per Se - S'Mores

“Raspberries in black and green” – Macerated raspberries, black sesame, raspberry gateux and matcha-scented ice-cream

Per Se - Raspberries in Black and Green

Variety of truffles, macaroons

Per Se - Mignardises Per Se - Mignardises

Address: 10 Columbus Circle # 6-REST, New York, NY 10019-1219, United States
Telephone: +1 (212) 823-9335
Website: www.perseny.com

Opening Hours:  Mon-Thu 5:30pm-10pm; Fri-Sun 11:30am-1:30pm, 5:30pm-10pm

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 19/20 [Based on visit in September 2011]

Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham, United Kingdom

My UK geography must be worse than I thought – for some reason I thought it’d be a perfect idea to stop over in Nottingham en route from Scotland back to London, as I thought that’s just over the half-way point. It’s only when I figured out the mileage from Scotland to Nottingham that I realised that I might as well drive all the way back to London. Still, it’s “north of Watford” and I thought it’d be a good idea to have a nice meal at Sat Bains and also stock up on the meat at one of my favourite butchers in the UK (JT Beedham in Nottingham). Just by pure coincidence, my friend Val has just moved to Nottingham from Sussex, and it was a perfect opportunity to meet up with her after not seeing each other for years.

The amuse-bouche was Sweetcorn Chowder with Pop-Corn – this was a variation of the same dish from my first visit to Sat Bains. I loved the intensity of the sweetcorn flavour, and the contrast of the crunchy pop-corn worked well with this dish.

Sweetcorn Chowder with Pop-corn

(1) Although I’ve had the famous “Ham, Pea and Egg” a few times now, since Val has never had it, it was only fair for her to try it; and it would be torturous to just watch her eating it, so we all had one each. Although there were a few modifications to the dish, it was still impressive – simple ingredients all come to life in a magical way really.

Ham, Pea and Egg

(2) Pressed Pigs Head with Smoked Haddock and Pickled Vegetables – a rather vibrant colourful dish that looked so much like a piece of modern art that it seemed a shame to eat it. I was half expecting this dish to be heavy on flavour but to my surprise was rather light and refreshing.

Pressed Pigs Head with Smoked Haddock and Pickled Vegetables

(3) Salcombe Bay Crab with Sea Vegetables, Peanuts and Lemon – this was served with a very intensely-flavoured crab bisque. It’s a truly outstanding dish: the rich bold flavour of the bisque was balanced with the sweetness of the peanut brittle; and the contrasting texture of the crab meat and peanut brittle also worked surprisingly well.

Salcombe Bay Crab with Sea Vegetables, Peanuts and Lemon

(4) Oxtail with Pearl Barley and Smoked Bone Marrow – I was not so keen on the presentation of this dish, though it tasted wonderful.

Oxtail with Pearl Barley and Smoked Bone Marrow

(5) Ripley Estate Mallard Duck “Waldorf Flavours” with Stilton and Chicory – I’m not a fan of Stilton cheese but it seemed to work well with the duck, which was cooked beautifully.

Ripley Estate Mallard Duck "Waldorf Flavours" with Stilton and Chicory

(6) “The Crossover” – Buttermilk curd with rocket and tarragon granita. The green colour resembled Japanese matcha, but the curd with the granita worked so well together. I could quite happily eat another bowl of this.

The Crossover

(7) Chocolate with Yoghurt and Cumin Caramel – I was most curious about the cumin caramel and it’s probably one of those things that I’d either like it or hate it. Fortunately it’s something I really liked.

Chocolate with Yoghurt and Cumin Caramel

(8) The Bramley – the caramelised apple with apple sorbet, cider granita and custard worked so well together that I wouldn’t even mind eating this for breakfast and still feel healthy and good about it.

The Bramley

Restaurant Sat Bains continues to deliver exceptional food, and with this high quality I was not surprised to see that in October 2011 it finally gained the long-awaited second Michelin star that it deserved. Now I just need to plan my next visit to Nottingham in 2012.

Address: Lenton Lane, Nottingham, NG7 2SA, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44(0)115 986 6566
Website: www.restaurantsatbains.com
Opening Hours: Lunch: Tuesday to Saturday 12:15 onwards (Chef Table only) ; Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday: 19:00-21:00

Food: 9/10
Ambience: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Total: 19/20 [Based on visit in November 2011]