‘The chef lobs sugar about as if celebrating the end of rationing’: Heritage, West Sussex, restaurant review

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Heritage restaurant
Will our critic's review be as sweet as his meal? Credit: Nick Townsend

I think it was the font that first perturbed me. The sign outside the restaurant that heralds Heritage – which was well lit on the dark night I visited, like a grand old pub sign surrounded by swirling, decorative, gold-painted metal – has a font that you might call Penny Farthing. The lower extents of the letters hang – or indeed drip – down like an amateur paint job. The same design spills across the pages of the menu as it announces its tasting options. No à la carte here, you must opt for a full or exploding monty; there’s a choice of five, seven or nine courses.

The action takes place in a room at the back of this pebble-dash-covered former pub in deepest West Sussex; Slaugham to be precise. It’s an extension to the original building, with a pyramidic ceiling of tongue-and-groove, and grey wallpaper scrawled with thin trees that look like so many ghostly veins. I expect it’s quite pleasant during the day, when the wall of glass that makes up one whole side of the room looks out on to a pretty garden perhaps. But at night it’s like a huge black mirror.

Gladly, I sat with my back to it. I always flinch if I catch a glimpse of myself eating in a restaurant. I’m sorry for others who dine with me and have to tolerate it. Then again, who ever wishes to see themselves eating? The Queen sensibly never munches in public, so she’s never pictured mid-chew and no one is ever offended if she refuses to sample their jam. That one bite of a bacon sandwich for the camera ruined the political prospects of Ed Miliband. And does the selfie generation take a snap with their mouth full? Quite the opposite: cheeks pinched, camera positioned a foot above the face.

We plunged into the five-course option, the service as cheery, professional and tidy as you could wish. The beginnings had promise: we sipped a small soup amuse bouche, a velouté of leek with a dash of blue cheese.

It was warming and subtle, as was the butternut squash velouté that followed from the menu proper, although it did have an arancini blob – a thick and gloopy ball of rice covered in toasted pumpkin seeds – floating in it. And, personally, with a velouté kicking off the menu, I wouldn’t have sent out a preceding velouté, even if it’s free.

But this was all marvellous compared with what followed. For the creator of our dinner has a thing about sugar. And it’s not a good thing; he or she lobs it about as if they’re celebrating the end of rationing.

Some delicately cured smoked salmon emerged with tart fennel and apple and chunks of sugar-coated walnuts. Eurgh. Curing aside, salmon and sugar don’t mix. It’s why, for example, you don’t sprinkle muscovado on your smoked salmon sandwich. Well, I don’t. Maybe they do in Slaugham. Because at Heritage they also serve sugar with chicken.

Chocolate marquis, chocolate glaze, milk & cookie ice cream and yogurt chocolate tuille at Heritage Credit: Toby Phillips

The duck having run out, we got a chicken breast cut into roundels so it looked like sliced banana (and, remarkably, had the same colour, so we thought for a moment it really was banana), served with turnips, shallots and a shallot tarte tatin. I love a sweet and sugary tarte tatin with apples, or plums or bananas, all that deliciously oozing caramelised sugar… But with chicken? No thanks.

Next up was a course of soft cheese surrounded by little cured radishes that looked like dead brown mice (trust me, I took a picture), salad, sweet apple chunks and sugary chutney. Then came a ‘banana sablé’ with coconut sorbet and some other stuff. Finally, a legitimate moment for sugar. But, God, that sorbet. Pure sugar and no trace of coconut. A tsunami of sugary foulness I’m trying to forget. And I mean the sorbet, but that could aptly describe the entire dinner.

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