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The Pass at South Lodge - restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 16:34 22 June 2015 | UPDATED: 16:00 06 November 2017

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Matt Gillan at The Pass has everything you’d expect from a top flight Michelin-starred London restaurant, with all the friendly, local-centric attitude that we know and love here in Sussex

The Pass at South Lodge, near Horsham The Pass at South Lodge, near Horsham

Sussex is a foodie paradise. We are positively spoilt for choice, whatever our wants, needs, and whims. We have quality in spades, but when those not familiar with our many offerings think of Michelin star dining, I have heard time and again of people heading to London, or indeed even further afield. More fool them I say, for among our smattering of Michelin-garlanded offerings lies the unassuming but positively brilliant Matt Gillan at The Pass, at South Lodge Hotel, Lower Beeding. In their own words, “we do away with the idea of fine-dining and focus on fun dining, giving our guests a journey through food and an insight into the chefs’ passions and personalities, delivered with a relaxed yet informative approach.”

Matt Gillan joined South Lodge in 2006, initially sous chef in the hotel’s Camellia restaurant. He is now firmly ensconced as head chef of The Pass and has four AA rosettes to his name, earing that coveted Michelin star two years ago.

The thinking behind The Pass is an extension of the chef’s table concept – everyone in the 32 cover restaurant can see the kitchen at work, so no Ramsay-style expletives are allowed to escape the chef’s mouths. “It’s not that hard really,” laughs Matt when I ask how the whole team to keep their cool when everyone’s watching – chefs are notoriously fiery characters after all. “Nah, it’s all pretty chilled. We all get on well and we all work hard, so there’s no need for anyone to get too het up.”

Watching your food being prepared is genuinely interesting, and it does give the restaurant a great buzz – there’s always something going on. If communicating in hushed tones over barely-there concept dishes is your thing, this place isn’t. But if locally sourced foods, flavours and textures that you won’t find anywhere else, enjoyed in a formal yet relaxed atmosphere are more your cup of tea, then for goodness’ sake get yourself down there.

Highlights of our meal included beetroot tartare, watercress, and horseradish ice cream. Sounds mad, I know, but I urge you to try it – so light, so full of flavour and so delicious. The pigeon breast with chicken liver parfait and orange was completely amazing and pleasingly local, and the chocolate fondant with earl grey tea and cherries is near indescribable. Chocoholics stop here. Each of the dishes has an expertly matched wine chosen by the in-house sommelier.

If you want Matt all to yourself, Matt Gillan at The Pass is available for groups of up to 32 guests when booked privately, and he’s very happy to talk through your dishes and the inspiration behind them. Thinking of heading to London for some ‘proper’ fine dining? Don’t. Save yourself the time and the hassle and enjoy the exquisite Matt Gillan at The Pass instead. You won’t regret it.

Matt Gillan at The Pass, South Lodge; 01403 892235; www.southlodgehotel.co.uk

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