TEN MINUTES WITH MATT GILLAN

If you are an avid foodie like me you will have definitely heard about Matt Gillan’s latest project “Heritage” – a new pub / restaurant that he has started a crowdfunding campaign for. The pub in question is currently a derelict building in Slaugham, that was formerly “The Chequers Inn”. In Matt’s words, his plans are to “create a destination restaurant with the main focus on people and the comprehensive offer rather than just food.” ( To see more/ get involved click here)

 

Matt is a highly renowned chef here in the South East, some of his most acclaimed jobs being at “Restaurant Gordon Ramsay”, “The Vineyard Hotel, Berkshire” and most famously a 10 year stint at the exclusive “South Lodge Hotel” and in the latter part of his term at “The Pass” where he earned the restaurant 4 AA Rosettes and a Michelin Star. As if that isn’t enough to pique your interest, he also represented London/South East twice on Great British Menu, making it through to the banquet and raising the profile of eating goat in the process!

 

So in case you wanted to catch up on the quick lowdown, we grabbed a moment with Matt to go over some of the questions you may have been dying to ask…

Matt Gillan for 365 Magazine

We are so excited to hear about your new start-up ‘Heritage’! Is this something that has always been on the cards for you?

I have always wanted my own restaurant, and it was always going to be called Heritage. With a name like that, there is a certain property and offer that would suit. So it’s not something I’ve rushed, and to be honest, it’s so specific I didn’t think it would be possible

Do you think the South East is missing a pub with a high-end dining experience incorporated into it?

I think there are some great pubs in the southeast doing some great food. I guess it depends on what the expectation is of high end. A certain food offer suits an environment. The pub scene has certainly changed over the last 10 years and will continue to evolve from a food point of view because so many are becoming available. But there is a fine line between offering a high-end offer and becoming stuffy and off-putting.

 

You started a ‘Kickstarter’ campaign for the project to help you along with the refurbishment costs, but have you been surprised by how quickly you achieved your (first) target?

I was absolutely blown away by the support from everyone that has got behind this project. The initial target of £60k was reached in 6 days!! I had put a target length of 30 days. I didn’t realise just how rooted into the social hub the Chequers was. Not just with the direct locals but all over Sussex. People want to see it back open and they are quite excited that I’m looking to do that. What is even more amazing is that it kept going. The Kickstarter finished on March 10th and the final total was £89,007. Such amazing support.

There have been many rewards involved in the fundraising journey so far, including a signed book by yourself, can you tell us more?

Writing a cookbook has always been something on the list to do one day when I have enough recipes and stories. I’ve been asked many times over the years when I’ll be releasing a book. I always reply with ‘in 10 years’. Mainly because I felt there was a chapter missing and I still had some more learning and developing to do. With the launch of the Kickstarter, I was approached by a publisher. We had a chat and it felt like the right time to start compiling my story. It won’t be a full “warts and all” account, but it will feature key points in my career that have led to this moment and recipes and dishes that have evolved with me over the years. Heritage will obviously feature heavily, with the whole story and refurbishment captured in time.

 

What can diners and visitors expect from Heritage when it launches?

The Chequers used to be a well-loved pub with a great fish offering. Since it’s closure it has lost its’ personality, which kind of suits me as it means I can start again with it. The place has to be more than the food on offer, as it’s a bit out of the way, so our focus is on hospitality. Making sure anyone that comes through the door is well looked after. Although it technically is a pub, the food won’t be a pub offering. I want it to be much more than that. For me, the food and experience have to be amazing and make people want to travel to experience what we do. There will be an a la carte menu, tasting menu and an amazingly priced lunch menu. We will be keeping a bar area and making sure that it is still accessible to all but I want to soften the pub feel a little bit. We will have a snack menu available in the bar. We also have 5 bedrooms which will all be part of creating this ‘dining retreat’. We will also have private dining room, breakfast room and steam punk lounge area. What I want to create is an experience in the countryside regardless of the reason you’re coming to us and create a bit of interest once you’re inside

Matt Gillan for 365 Magazine

If all goes to plan, when are you expecting to be able to open ‘Heritage’?

I am using June as my default opening month, as it’s a starting point. I’m hoping it doesn’t slip too much more than this because I really want to be open for the summer and for people to experience that amazing garden. I do believe June is possible, but the latest July.

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