Matt Gillan's Great British Menu dinner at The Pass

Matt Gillan's Great British Menu dinner at The Pass

by Mecca Ibrahim 10 November 2015

Great British Menu winner Matt Gillan serves up a fantastic menu, including his goat recipe at The Pass at South Lodge Hotel.

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Mecca worked as head of social media at Great British Chefs and joined at its launch in July 2011.

Mecca worked as head of social media at Great British Chefs and joined at its launch in July 2011. Prior to that, she spent the last eighteen years at some of the biggest and most innovative internet businesses out there (Yahoo, JustGiving, E-How, and Joost). She was winning awards for her blog when most people didn't know what a blog was. She also ran the multi-award winning London Underground Tube Diary which launched in 2003.

For a winter treat, I would heartily recommend a trip to Horsham in Sussex to sample Matt Gillan’s Great British Menu dinner at The Pass. The restaurant at South Lodge Hotel has taken the recent trend for Chef’s Tables further than most – Great British Menu gives you a hint at what goes into the making of stunning food and at The Pass, with its open plan layout, you are placed right at the heart of the kitchen.

CCTV monitors offer a live feed for those with their back to the action and the intimate restaurant, with only thirty covers, means you also get to chat to Matt Gillan and his team of chefs who personally serve your food. They are on hand to explain the inspiration behind every technique and ingredient, and it’s truly a fascinating experience.

Don’t expect shouting, barking or temper tantrums though. It’s a well-oiled, comfortable and relaxing ride as Matt’s style of kitchen management is ‘firm but nurturing’. It is more of a two-way conversation about how meals are to be prepared. Matt said ‘I’m just an inquisitive person and I like to know how things work. This is the reason why I don’t have to scream and shout at my chefs, because I’ll explain why it’s gone wrong, how we can correct it and then we won’t have the same problem. For me knowledge is power and so if everyone is knowledgeable, if you are teaching them in that way, you’ve got a really strong team.’

This was clear throughout our night at The Pass. Everyone from the chefs through to the front of house staff and sommeliers were highly knowledgeable and excited about serving Matt’s menu.

Although not officially part of the Great British Menu meal, we were treated to some ‘snacks’ to start off the night. Michelin-starred snacks go way beyond pork scratchings or Scotch eggs, but I liked that Matt’s dishes had a clear nod to traditional bar snacks, yet took them to another level. Cured mackerel with cucumber, pork croquettes with a sublime blob of apple sauce, and a feather-light Parmesan tapioca served on potato foam set the tone for what was to come.

Matt’s brilliant dual mini loaves – combining white and wholemeal – mean you don’t have to choose between the breads. Served with a creamy disc of butter it was hard to hold back, but fortunately as I knew what lay ahead, I stopped myself at just half a loaf – but only just.

Pork croquettes with apple sauce
Dual loaves of white and wholemeal bread

After such impressive nibbles, we were now set to experience Matt’s Great British Menu dishes. I wondered if we would get all the props with our meals including garden gnomes, mini watering cans, and grass. Thankfully we were spared what might make interesting/talkable TV, so the food was able to do the talking for itself. Every course in Matt’s original menu for the Women’s Institute focussed on one particular ingredient as the star. With all of his cooking he likes to feature something unusual in each dish, something that excites him and that’s often a new ingredient that he or a lot of people haven’t necessarily tried before.

Matt’s superbly oniony starter – ‘Sowing and Growing’ – looked a pure delight. With onion purée, malt onions, grelot onions, crispy shallot rings, onion jelly, roasted apple purée and turnips, all served on a bed of soil made with cocoa nibs, black onion seeds, malted brown bread, onion powder, salt and malt extract. The dish was enlivened by a garnish of vibrant viola flowers and Mizuna cress. Despite all of those onions, you weren’t left with an oniony aftertaste after finishing the dish – a credit to Matt’s skill as a chef with a true command of ingredients.

Next was the fish course – ‘Jamming and Canning’ – with sardine as the hero ingredient. This beautiful plate included sardine tartare with Sevruga caviar and lime, and sardine toast with Dijon mustard; imagine a delicate fishy spring roll and you’re there. Langoustine and a crispy chicken wing provided a wonderful contrast to the sardines, and a little jug of sauce made with langoustine stock and rhubarb compote perfectly offset the saltiness of the fish.

Sowing and Growing
Jamming and Canning

Now it was time for the dish we were all waiting for, Matt’s ‘Teaching and Preaching’ which scored a unanimous ten out of ten across the board in Great British Menu finals week, taking it straight into the banquet – a first in the history of the show.

Matt’s dish was inspired by his mother, who hailed from St. Helena and regularly cooked goat at home, and Matt was keen to showcase a meat that isn’t as popular here in the UK. A touching short story, penned by Matt and illustrated by Jo Parry, explained how the rise in goat’s milk products had led to the decline in UK goat meat, as the male Billies were mainly used for breeding, or slaughtered and discarded. It was a perfect example of the Women’s Institute’s ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy.

Matt is one of chefs in the UK who are on a mission to champion the under-used and under-appreciated goat. Working with goat farmers such as Cabrito, they give male goats the best possible upbringing, nurturing them and bottle feeding to produce meat that can clearly be the hero of the meal.

Showcasing every cut of the goat, Matt’s dish of twelve intricate elements included spiced slow-cooked goat shoulder, goat jelly, goat cheese, baked goat leg, goat loin, goat fat dumplings, goat saddle with goat kidney and a truly amazing goat ragu topped with creamy mashed potato (no goat). The latter, a ‘Herder’s pie’, may have looked like an afterthought sat on the edge of the plate, but it was simply stunning. It made traditional Shepherd’s pie look like a very poor relation in comparison.

Teaching and Preaching
The story of goat meat

Finally we set our sights on dessert. Another course which Matt scored highly for in Great British Menu. His ‘Back to Black (and Yellow)’ featured four different types of honey, including wild forest, Manuka and wild flower, and all of the elements were made into hexagonal honeycomb shapes. The honey cake had a beautiful Manuka glaze, topped with a crumb made with oatcakes, sugar, honey and bee pollen.

Further hexagons contained honeycomb panna cotta, honey yogurt and fennel sorbet; all drizzled with a warming mead and lemon gel divided by crisp pieces of honey tuille. It was another wonderfully presented dish and again echoed a Women’s Institute philosophy of saving the bees.

Our meal closed with some delightfully crafted petit fours and an impressive tea menu. Although a wonderful wine flight matched Matt’s menu very well, he’d also thoughtfully created a ‘Juice flight’ to match each course.

Matt excelled himself in Great British Menu this year and in celebration, he’ll be sharing every amazing course at 'Matt Gillan at The Pass' from now until early 2016. You can choose to have the full menu for lunch at £57.50 or for dinner at £75. If you don’t fancy the full menu, you can also sample his winning main dish, ‘Teaching and Preaching’, as part of the normal á la carte options.

Back to Black (and Yellow)