The Pass, South Lodge Hotel, Lower Beeding, near Horsham, West Sussex

What you see is what you get at The Pass – all the tables are in the kitchen. But is it worth a look?

The Pass at South Lodge Hotel in Sussex is all about the food. It has taken the chef's table concept (at which one lucky party sits inside the kitchen to watch the maestro concoct their dinner) and super-sized it. All 22 seats are in the kitchen.

Now, this concept works best if the kitchen is jumping – where there are lots of flashing blades and bubbling pots to entertain diners. But at The Pass, the chef works in silence and there is only one sous chef, whom he doesn't even brand with a hot palette knife. Probably just as well. Not surprisingly, most of the dishes have been prepared in advance, so I watch a lot of things being unwrapped from tins wrapped in clingfilm. Very posh things, of course. The only word I hear from chef is "service", which he says often, because I'm here for the six-course signature tasting menu.

Taking our seats on the narrow row of tables high against one wall, my companion CDH gets the bar-stool style chair, upholstered in green leather and with the ability to swivel, so she can swing around to observe any action that she can't catch on the screen above my head, placed for the guest with their back to chef. Alas, the camera linked to it seems to be trained on a tray which never gets any food put upon it.

I'm back-to-the-wall and eyes-on-the-pass itself, where Matt Gillan assembles the components of each dish. We're here because I've heard Gillan is making a name for himself with creative, clever menus. "The Gourmet Experience" of the "Dramatic Dining Experiences" on offer – surely not his choice of words, nor the theatrical mask and crossed whisk and knife on the menu cover – is £60 per person, with an accompanying wine flight at £48. It should be the ideal forum for him to show off his skills.

Things start blindingly with a pea velouté with a poached quail's egg and truffle. It's vibrant and welcoming, a culinary kiss on both cheeks. Inevitably, I can't focus on the dish as my eyes are drawn to the pass. What on earth is he doing with that piping bag? That, I suppose, is the drawback to dining in the kitchen when you're interested in food: nosiness about what's coming precludes enjoying what you've got.

Six courses, each with several components, make it difficult to describe everything here, so forgive the brevity of some descriptions. The chicken-liver parfait with spiced biscuit, prune compote and apple is a thing of beauty, artistic as you like, arranged in dinky blobs around the plate, with the parfait sandwiched between two paper-thin tuiles. So that's what the piping bag was for. It tastes sublime but I can't help feeling that something's not right about a meat product being squeezed out of a tube.

This Sunday night there are just six other diners in The Pass, which would usually feel awkward, but because the focus is on the food there's a feeling of fellow adventurers – in the moments I'm not studying the chef or my plate, I steal glances at the faces of those putting a morsel in their mouths, looking for an "Oh, I didn't expect that" expression or a smile of contentment. I see both in equal measure.

Next up the poached trout, Jersey Royal mash, artichoke purée and samphire is elegant, if veering towards traditional, which feels odd during a "Dramatic Dining Experience"; as odd, in fact, as finding snail porridge in a Cornish cream tea.

Saddle and belly of lamb served with caramelised aubergine, red pepper, cabbage and "pesto" is a definite misstep. The meat is tender and rich, but the "pesto" – I can't abide things in quote marks on menus – is bizarrely deconstructed. A pine nut here, a slick of oil there. Why?

But I can forgive any chef – who quietly watches each plate being taken from the table, watchful (I assume) for food unloved and uneaten – who creates what comes next. Gingerbread crème brûlée with a rhubarb sorbet so intense yet refreshing that my mouth waters as I'm eating it. Is that a smile from chef as CDH and I whimper with pleasure?

I'd have loved something savoury, or tiny and chocolatey, after that, but here comes a huge strawberry parfait with lemon sponge, honeycomb, balsamic jelly and basil gel. Altogether too, too much.

My criticisms are niggles, really. This meal has been a curate's egg (which sounds like something one might expect to see at a Dramatic Dining Experience): very good in parts. But Gillan is one to watch – whether you're sitting in the kitchen or not.

7/10

Scores: 1-3 stay home and cook, 4 needs help, 5 does the job, 6 flashes of promise, 7 good, 8 special, can't wait to go back, 9-10, as good as it gets

The Pass South Lodge Hotel, Lower Beeding, near Horsham, West Sussex, tel: 01403 892 296 Lunch and dinner, Wednesday-Sunday. Tasting menus from £40 for four courses to £70 for seven

More open kitchens

Angelus

4 Bathurst Street, London W2, tel: 020 7402 0083

There's a magnificent wine list, enthusiastic service and superb cooking at ex-Gavroche sommelier Thierry Tomasin's ambitious yearling – a smart Gallic pub conversion tucked away in a cul-de-sac near Lancaster Gate

JoJo

209 Tankerton Rd, Whitstable, Kent, tel: 01227 274 591

Excellent food in unpretentious surroundings are allied to a warm welcome at this operation, which has a big following for its tapas-style dishes; costs are kept low by the BYO policy (with modest corkage)

Bryce's Seafood Brasserie

The Steyne, Worthing, West Sussex, tel: 01903 214 317

Good food, with a smile, served from the open kitchen – after three years in business, that's the formula making this fresh-fish specialist deservedly popular .

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010'. www.hardens.co.uk

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone