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
Opening Hours: Thursday – Saturday: Noon – 1:30pm lunch ; 6:30pm – 8:00pm dinner / Sunday 12:30pm – 1:45pm lunch
Total: 19/20 [Based on multiple visits in Sept 2019 – Dec 2021]