Fine Dining in West Sussex: Matt Gillan from Heritage

Whilst we’re in lockdown limbo, stuck between waiting for restaurants and pubs to open fully or being hostages to the changeable British weather and sitting outside in half a dozen layers, the option to dine well at home is still very appealing. Luckily for us, there are some incredibly talented chefs creating delicious “finish at home” food, but one, Matt Gillan from Heritage, stands out.

Matt’s pedigree in fine dining, including running The Pass at South Lodge, holding a Michelin star and two AA rosettes means he knows a thing or two about putting a meal together at his stunning restaurant, Heritage in Slaugham, West Sussex, which opened in August 2019 to great acclaim but due to Covid has of course been closed on and off the past year.

Heritage, Sussex

To have the restaurant back open will be amazing, it feels like we haven’t got going at all – we’d been going for just five months before closing,” he explains, “I’ve had the restaurant for two years and it’s only been open for 10 months.”

However, with the intention for pubs and restaurants to be open mid-May, Matt has plumped for the beginning of June to reawaken Heritage – partly so the team can be ready and “partly so we can all enjoy the May bank holiday before we get started again”.

Bookings are now open at Heritage, and with many slots being rapidly snapped up as people excitedly plan for a summer full of seeing friends and family Matt’s keeping his fingers crossed for a busy summer, with no more lockdowns.

Despite being forced to temporarily close his business, Matt and the Heritage team turned their attentions to creating the ultimate high end “finish at home” delivery box, with as little finishing as possible required.

Parlour, Sussex

Welcome to the Parlour 

Named Parlour, the food is not Heritage food repackaged, it has its own personality – and website – with the meals meticulously planned so they’re delivered prepped, packed and almost ready to go, so we can enjoy mouth-watering menus at home.

We didn’t want to do a Heritage at home – the workload would have been enormous, and the finish would not be the same at home, we’d have been starting on the back foot,” Matt explains, “the dishes we create in the Parlour boxes are more of a bistro standard. In theory, you could do it at home, but the buying of all the ingredients would put you off, so we do all that and you just have to heat it up.”

You’d have to be an exceptional home cook to create the standard of food his team deliver to your door. It’s definitely not just the ingredients that we’re missing at home. It’s the team and the chef know-how as well as the seasonal ingredients.

He explains, “It’s been a learning curve, we’ve done a lot of very different boxes, with different things in them. We prep everything, so when you get it, all you need to do is reheat it. We’ve been trying to make it so that people don’t have to do much at all. We could have stripped it right back so there was a lot more to do, but everyone’s understanding of the instructions is different and would mean very different results.”

Sussex restuarant

The team, with Matt, have done a lot of work on making sure what you get at home is what they created in the kitchen, mainly due to the nature of the service offered.

Matt says, “It would be different if we just did collections but we do nationwide delivery, so everything has to be able to cope with being delivered via a courier. We’ve put a lot of thought into how it travels, how it’s packaged, how the courier will affect it etc.  It’s been a massive learning curve with so many factors to think of.”

With bookings for Heritage flying in and many of us anticipating meals out, will Parlour be continuing for much longer?

We are going to continue with Parlour for as long as it’s working. We’ve put a lot of work into it – the identity, the packaging. With brands like “Hello Fresh” and “Mindful Chef”, there’s clearly a market for it, so we’ll carry on for now.

Sussex chef

Pick a box 

Currently, there are four Parlour boxes to choose from, the Classic Parlour box which changes weekly, the Electric Parlour box which changes roughly every three weeks, a BBQ box and a picnic box.  Most of the time, if I’m cooking something it’s a case of “chuck it all in a pan and call it a stir-fry”, but I was pretty certain Matt’s style wasn’t quite the same (my stir-fry is more likely to taste like a Michelin tyre, rather than win the coveted star).

I’m inspired by anything,” he replies when I ask where he gets his ideas from, “seasonality is often the starting point, a blank canvas. It could be something as simple as an onion, or discovering wild garlic. Anything which sparks an idea.”

Anything? I press the chef who you might recognise from shows such as Great British Menu, and he laughs. “Anything. Once, for example, I was looking on Instagram, just scrolling through and I saw a hoody with an acid smiling face on it, with a spattered design and then in my head I was suddenly thinking “lemon meringue pie spattered with different flavours, like blueberry”. Art inspires me, I could be looking at anything like Dali, anything, and I’m inspired.”

Hoodies. Dali paintings. Acid lemon meringue pie.

Frankly, if it means I don’t have to cook – whether it’s via Parlour or Heritage – count me in.

To choose your own Parlour box, or book a table at Heritage, go to www.parlour.restaurant and/or www.heritage.restaurant.

Contributed by Lisa Brace 

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