One of the things I love most about dining out is a menu that combines fresh, local ingredients in an inspiring, innovative way. But as someone with varied taste who can also be indecisive, I often struggle to narrow down my choice to one starter and main course and end up with food envy, keen to try the odd bite here and there from my friends’ plates to get the broadest experience possible of the kitchen’s expertise.
Imagine my delight to discover 64 Degrees; a hot new restaurant on Meeting House Lane, where the cooking skills are on show and sharing is almost obligatory.
Head Chef and owner Michael Bremner has devised an ingenious tapas-style menu of smaller dishes, fusing “molecular cooking techniques, sophisticated flavours and local produce.” And if that isn’t enough to get gourmands galloping to the door, 64degrees brings a whole new dining concept to Brighton with an open kitchen that forms the centrepiece of the restaurant, positively encouraging interaction between diners and chefs.
It’s a bold move, and one that’s already proving very popular.
There are tables at ground levels for groups of over two, but the best seats in the house are the bar stools, where you sit side-by-side facing the chefs as they prepare and serve your food.
This is Michael’s first restaurant of his own, but he’s no stranger to pressure and scrutiny, having worked in London with Chris Galvin at the Orrery and at Marco Pierre White’s Quo Vadis before becoming Head Chef of Brighton’s popular 2AA rosette restaurant Due South.
He’s a man passionate about food and his menu and cooking reflect that, garnering influences from Asia, America, Britain and Europe.
His philosophy is “the food rules,” and from the look of his glossy black and chrome kitchen he means business; his high-tech gadgets include a dehydrator and a sous-vide, where food is cooked in airtight bags that simmer in water on a low heat for a more even cooking. Precision is key in timings and temperature, hence the restaurant’s name.
The menu comes hand-written in four simple categories – meat, fish, veg and dessert – with four choices per section. All fairly straightforward for someone as indecisive as me.
The drinks list is similarly minimalist – two beers, three white wines, three reds, two champagnes, three spirits (including the Kent-produced Anno gin) and two cocktails. Everything’s served in a simple glass tumbler, except for the fizz.
Sipping some velvety Malbec Septima, we scanned the menu and Michael handed us each a salmon rillette: a refreshing palate-cleanser of salmon, crème fraiche and dill, resting on a crispy curl of salty salmon skin. Delicious and light, a great start to the meal.
As we watched Michael plate up other diners’ dishes we admired the crockery (as you do!) which, in contrast to the utilitarian glass tumblers, is beautiful and bespoke: glorious blown-glass bowls and more rustic earthenware of various shapes and colours.
Next up came mackerel with an Asian-inspired yuzu kosho dressing, coriander micro leaves and coconut cream (£6), served on a blue plate. The mackerel had been lightly seared and was soft and delicious, with a richness accentuated by the coconut cream that’s lightened by the citrus yuzu dressing and coriander.
We nodded with each mouthful, excited about the dishes to come.
Michael said our next dish was inspired by his time in the USA – kimchi chicken wings with blue cheese dressing (£5).
He put a glass bowl in front of us containing bright red wings that had such a moreish kick we knew just the right amount of chilli had been used in the kimchi spice mix. The blue cheese dressing in the bottom of the bowl was for dipping, and although it tasted great and softened the spices, the combination and smell was somewhat unexpected.
Michael’s food is as beautiful to behold as to taste, and the next dish was no exception – salmon pastrami with pickles and sour dough (£7), which was silken, delicate and a delight to eat.
The house egg with wild mushrooms and dried ham hock (£6.50) is where the sous-vide comes into play; the egg had been cooked to such an exact time it was still soft and runny, including the egg white – perhaps too soft for some people’s taste. The dish worked well nonetheless; a bit like a creamy breakfast soup of egg on which sautéed wild mushrooms had been piled then topped with the smoky dried ham hock.
The roast cauliflower with shallot bhaji, pomegranate and almond (£5) was one of my favourite plates of the evening; an exquisite departure in taste and inspiration from the previous dishes and a delectable experience . The Indian spices pared well with the sweetness of the almond and pomegranate. Wonderful.
We thought we had reached a crescendo, but then along came the potato knödel, cabbage and smoked butter (£5), which my companion claimed as his highlight of the night (and as a brilliant chef himself who is also German, he knows what he’s talking about!). The knödel, like German gnocchi, were smaller in size than usual and crisp on the outside, soft within, which helped to create an exceptional marriage of flavours and textures with the smoked butter and cabbage.
We were disappointed to finish the plate and could easily have ordered another but then we wouldn’t have had room for the beef brisket (£9.50), which would have been a shame. The brisket had been cooked in the sous-vide for 36 hours and was a fantastic piece of dark, luxurious meat, perched atop a mound of creamy potato and a slick of rich jus.
By this time we’d far surpassed the suggested three dishes per person and didn’t have room for much more, so it was a relief that the sticky toffee pudding with bourbon butterscotch (£6) was so light and airy. Sweet but with a smoky bourbon edge and a perfect size for two.
Last up was the rum bear jelly (£3), which was as cute as a button – two little bears wearing a generous dusting of sherbet; a delightful, innovative end to a superb meal.
64 Degrees is the restaurant Brighton has been waiting for, so keep an eye on Michael Bremner and try as much of his food as you can. He’s a chef who’s turning up the heat on Brighton’s food scene.