64 Degrees restaurant, Brighton

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It’s been years since we last went to Brighton (we last went three years ago), it’s one of those places that we kept saying we’d day trip to one sunny summer’s day but for whatever reason, we never made it, perhaps because summers here are generally terrible and we would be guaranteed to have something on which meant we couldn’t go on the one nice day. So a visit was long overdue. Of course, since we haven’t been in a while we were on the look out for recommendations for somewhere to eat. One restaurant that cropped up everywhere (the Michelin guide, Marina O’Loughlin and more, including, most recently, Squaremeal’s list of the top 100 restaurants in the UK) was 64 Degrees. We weren’t around for dinner as we were in Brighton for a showing of Pulp Fiction at Brighton Big Screen, so instead we booked in for lunch.

We found 64 Degrees hidden away in the Lanes and its unassuming front belies the genius that comes out of the kitchen. But don’t assume it’s a secret – you probably will need a booking, unless you’re particularly lucky, or have the freedom to go for a mid-week lunch. It’s small, with a table of two, a table of four and a table of six along with counter seats in front of the open kitchen.

We were seated at the counter under the skylight (perfect for photos) and after we ordered a bottle of wine to share (decadent but we were off work for the day) we were served with focaccia and whipped butter sprinkled with salt to nibble on.

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The menu doesn’t give a lot away about the dishes, giving only the briefest of descriptions of the main ingredients. Our first dish was described only as ‘tomato, cucumber, pesto’ so we were surprised to be presented with this beautiful dish with edible flower petals and the surprising addition of watermelon (they do ask about allergies before you start). It was an unusual combination and I’m not sure it’s one I’d have been convinced by on a menu but somehow the combination worked, with the dish being harmonised by similar textures, albeit different tastes.

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Split into three sections – Fish, Veg and Meat, the menu is short, with four dishes in each section. They recommend five dishes between two people and as we were sharing we picked mainly between the fish and veg sections (with one meat dish as a concession to my carnivore tendencies). Our first fish dish was the ‘cod, aubergine, peanuts’, the fish flaked beautifully below its golden surface and the peanuts provided interesting texture to the dish.

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The dishes came out as they were ready, but only ever one at a time, quite a feat of organisation for the kitchen. Our next dish was the ‘tagliatelle, truffle and yolk’. Hidden under that layer of parmesan and truffle shavings is a confit egg yolk done at 64 degrees (this was the point when I went ‘aha!’ and it all started coming together). Once dug into it provided a beautiful emulsion for the pasta.

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Although you might think that a table by the window at 64 Degrees so you can watch the world go by would be a good idea, you’d be wrong. Get a seat at the counter where you can watch the food preparation up close, it’s fascinating watching the effort that goes into creating and presenting each dish. Although I should warn you that it’s the ultimate way to suffer from food envy. We started by ordering their recommended five dishes to share and then saw them preparing the scallops and immediately regretted our decision to not order them with our first selection. Luckily the waitress allowed us to add on the scallops and also the pea dish that sounded intriguing but which we hadn’t seen being prepared.

There’s nothing better than watching the chef in front of you carefully preparing a dish before handing it over to you. In a way I felt a bit bad demolishing the dishes once I realised just how much effort went into plating them up. One of the most beautiful dishes was the ‘lemon sole, wasabi, cucumber’. This was possibly the dish we ordered that I was most sceptical about. I often see wasabi on the list of ingredients in a dish and I shy away from it as so often it’s overdone and it overpowers the other components of the meal. Here though there was the merest hint of wasabi to the sauce which added to, rather than taking away from the dish. Deliciously delicate and spring fresh.

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The scallops (scallops, lemongrass, kale) we had ordered after watching them being prepared arrived next. After his first bite my boyfriend declared it the winning dish of the meal and the best thing we’d almost missed out on. The scallops on their rich sauce beds were set off well with crispy kale which reminded me slightly of the crispy seaweed I love so much from Chinese restaurant starter platters. I had to agree, it was delicious.

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Our other add-on was the ‘pea, curd, dashi’. This was always going to be one for my boyfriend’s palate rather than mine as I’m not the world’s biggest pea lover, I think it’s the texture of garden peas that does it for me. He really enjoyed this though.

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The pea dish may have been his, but the final main dish was mine – ‘duck breast, lentils, loganberry’. I love duck, I know it’s terrible because they’re so cute, but they’re also so tasty and the berry pairing here was a new one to me. It was delicious, although it might have only just been pipped by the scallops dish (don’t ever tell my boyfriend I said that, he’ll think he’s lured me away from the meat and towards his pescetarianism).

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Ordinarily we wouldn’t have a large lunch, a bottle of wine and still be considering dessert but with food as good as this, we couldn’t help ourselves and ordered three dishes to share. To cleanse our palates before dessert we were given a cucumber granita with frozen raspberries.

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Now, here is the point where I thought the bottle of wine was going to betray my terrible blogging as I forgot to take a photo of the dessert menu and could not for the life of me remember exactly how our dishes were described, but, by the miracle of Twitter, I found a copy of the menu. So my boyfriend chose the ‘chocolate, raisin, zabaione’ which he had with the suggested dessert wine pairing.

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I went for a contrasting dish, the ‘pineapple, coconut, dark rum’ which paired beautiful caramelised pineapple with a light frothy foam topped with almonds for crunch. I decided to pair it with a Tokaji wine as a nod to our recent trip to Budapest where we sampled far too much of the local wine.

After a taste of mine my boyfriend got food envy and managed to coerce me into trading with him so we actually had half of both each.

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Marina O’Loughlin’s roundup of favourite restaurants said, and I quote “The gummy bear dessert, if it’s on, is a showstopper.”. It was. So reader, we ordered it. I’ve made vodka gummy bears before for a party using Haribo Goldbears and a week’s worth of soaking in vodka and triple sec, this was like a proper jelly version of that, but with a soft fine sour sugar to add that extra kick. It is fantastic, although I did feel terrible when my boyfriend sliced through his little teddy gummy bear neck with the spoon.

The moral of the story from our meal at 64 Degrees was to basically order anything and everything, it’s all fantastic. Get a seat at the counter and stay as long as you can (within the two hour limit they give for your seats, understandable and sensible as otherwise I’d definitely settle in for the afternoon and ask them to just keep the scallops coming).

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Brighton Big Screen – the Ibis Sweetbed experience

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I would say that last week we ‘nipped’ down to Brighton for a night last weekend, however, the truth is that Southern Rail had other ideas and all of the direct trains to Brighton were cancelled so we ended up on a delayed train to East Croydon and then a packed train to Brighton where we stood the whole way. So glamorous. But, it was all worth it as we were off to spend the evening watching Pulp Fiction on the beach at Brighton Big Screen.

After squeezing off our packed train, our first stop was our host for the evening, and sponsor of Brighton Big Screen – the Brighton Ibis Hotel. Located only steps from Brighton Station, it’s ideally located and means there’s no need to drag a suitcase around Brighton, plus it’s on the main street down to the sea and is well situated for the Lanes.

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Our room was well appointed with everything you need from a hotel room for the night – a clean bathroom and spacious shower, a TV with plenty of channels (not that we were due to be spending time watching TV when we could be out exploring) and an Ibis Sweetbed, a bed designed to ensure a good night’s sleep. My only complaint? No plug sockets right by the bed, although luckily my charger did stretch from the nearest plug socket.

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After spending the day in Brighton (more on that soon, including a post on one of the best meals we’ve had), we headed downstairs to meet Erica, Emma and Leigh and their guests for drinks in the hotel bar before hopping into a cab down to the seafront, where Brighton Big Screen is located, to meet up with Leanne.

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There were bars (including this super cute candyfloss pink van), street food stalls and little snack stands  bordering the site, something which other outdoor screens offer, but I’ve never seen such a good selection.

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We were given a little tour around the site and I was amused to note that the fire exit was pretty much just a route straight to the sea. Ideal.

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We started with drinks in the bar with Bill Murray (yes, THE Bill Murray, nah, only kidding) who explained that the Brighton Big Screen had started off as a free big screen showing the 2012 Olympics but after a huge showing of support from the local community, made the organisers realise that they were onto something special! It’s been running for several years now and is getting bigger, better and more varied every year. The Ibis Sweetbed experience is this year’s newest addition and has proved to be super popular. Fenced off in its own VIP area, it is super impressive.

We stepped beyond the picket fence and into a curtain-lined tent (complete with chandeliers) where we found our beds for the night! Seriously, how amazing does this look?

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Brighton Big Screen offers several different ticket options for their films (sports have free admission):

General Admission – £3 – Ticket guarantees entry.
Grandstand Tickets – £7 (for adults) – Includes guaranteed entry, a shaded covered seat in the grandstand and bar access.
VIP Experience – £30 – Includes guaranteed entry, a shaded covered seat, bar access & extras.
Ibis Sweetbed experience – £40 – Includes guaranteed entry, the reservation of a comfy ibis double bed and access to the VIP bar area.

The Ibis Sweetbed experience is definitely the fanciest and as we bounced onto our beds we drew some envious glances from those passing by. I totally felt like a VIP, although perhaps everyone was just disappointed that we weren’t Zoella (who had been there only the week before us to enjoy the Sweetbed experience and who vlogged the experience).

Although in past years the screen had been placed so the seats were facing East, this year it was positioned so that everyone faced West, which meant that the sun was setting behind the screen and we were able to watch the sky gradually go from grey-blue to golden orange before darkening to black as the evening went on.

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Popcorn and more drinks were delivered bedside and we sat back as the film started without ceremony. My favourite bit of Somerset House is when the introductory music starts up, the searchlights start to whirl and you know it’s time to settle down. Brighton Big Screen needs to introduce something similar as the film just started up with no fanfare – I love some pomp and ceremony!

I’ve never seen Pulp Fiction (yes, I know), although I have seen other Tarantino films, so I was excited to watch it and to spot all the pop culture references that I’ve never really understood before.

Although we started off just perched on the bed, as the night wore on and the light and temperature dropped, we slipped underneath the duvet. We don’t have a TV in our bedroom, partly because there’s no TV point in there and partly because it doesn’t make for a particularly restful bedroom, so we never get to watch TV in bed. We sometimes (mainly if I’m hungover) put the sofabed up in the lounge and spoil ourselves by vegging out, but mostly we never watch TV all snuggled up under a duvet, so this was a wonderful treat.

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Unlike other outdoor film screenings, Brighton Big Screen have an interval in the middle of the film – which offers the perfect opportunity to nip to the (Porta)loo, grab some food from one of the many food stalls or refuel at the bar. Being VIPs, we had food delivered to our bed – so luxe, in fact, how do I make this happen in my real life?

We’d chosen pizza from Pizzaface – an Albore for me (pork and wild boar salami, pancetta and fresh rosemary) and a Johnno for my boyfriend (red onions, olives, peppers, sautéed mushrooms, parmesan and fresh chillies). Perfect film watching food.

When the film resumed we settled back in and under the covers as the night got colder. Now it may have been the wine, it might have been the fact that I’d just come back from four long days of work in Brussels, it might have been the sea air but I think it was probably the comfort of the Sweetbed that caused me to drop off to sleep ever so briefly towards the end of the film. Poor Erica stopped by our bed to check we were ok for drinks and caught me dozing (I just hope I wasn’t drooling or anything).

As the film finished and people applauded we were so warm and cosy and all needed coaxing out from under the duvets. As other people started leaving and they were all bundled up with coats, we knew that the glares were envy as we were all super tucked up and comfy. Luckily we knew that we were trading our Sweetbed on the beach for a Sweetbed back at the Ibis hotel and as soon we got back to the hotel and my head hit the pillow I was out like a light.

The next morning we all convened for breakfast and a little tour of the hotel. We were shown around by Gabor who explained to all of the little touches which make the Brighton Ibis special, including their breakfast which they recently improved following feedback. Now it’s all presented in a slightly rustic farmhouse style and a greater selection is offered. We were surprised to learn how about the flexibility that each Ibis branch has to change certain things, like breakfast.

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After checking out we left our bags at the hotel and went off into Brighton to explore a little more, but that is a tale for another post.

We had a wonderful time at Brighton Big Screen and although it’s now finished for this year, I’ll be keeping an eye out for next year’s programme. When I told my mum about what we’d been up to she loved the idea, so maybe it’ll be me and her on a bed next year! Ibis Hotels, you have to be a sponsor next year – sitting on the floor just wouldn’t be the same experience!

Our night at the Ibis Brighton and the Ibis Sweetbed Experience were provided on a complimentary basis by Ibis. Thanks Ibis and Talented Talkers for the invite! 

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June 2016: This month I have mostly been…

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Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these… life (and work) got in the way a bit. I had planned to get this up a week ago but then ended up with a rather intense work week spent in Brussels, so yes, we’re now a third of the way through July, but oh well…

Feeling: In need of some ‘me’ time

Although I have had time off in the past few months it’s mostly been to go on holiday, where we spend our time running around like crazy people trying to see and do as much as possible. What I miss and need is time off that’s more than just a few days just to do things for me that I enjoy. Do you remember university holidays when you spent the first few days just catching up with sleep and important life stuff but then after a few days settled down into fun projects or new things or generally just doing what you really wanted to do at a lazy pace? I never get to do that anymore, life is just too busy.

Reading: Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

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One thing I need to learn to do more is to step away from screens in an evening or weekend, take myself off to the bedroom, curl up and just get into a book. I don’t read anywhere near as much as I would like to. It’s sad that it should require discipline, but I need more downtime that isn’t connected to the fast-moving digital world. I need to disconnect from news, social media and ‘likes’ and just do something I really get something from. I have been reading Strange Weather in Tokyo lately though and although I haven’t quite reached the end just yet, I will do very soon. There’s something quietly understated about Japanese novels and writing which is different from Western novels. I like it, it’s simpler and calmer perhaps, more minimalist.

I might not have had much time for reading novels lately but I did pick up a few magazines on the Eurostar back from Brussels the other day. I always tend to pick up home magazines and was drawn to House & Garden because of the cover, I love Chinoiserie-style wallpaper and for a long time I’ve been obsessed by de Gournay wallpaper. It’s hand-painted silk wallpaper that is custom designed so the panels don’t repeat, they just encircle a room. I dream of having my own salon or bedroom papered in de Gournay. Sadly they also come at a cost (upwards of £800 a panel). Maybe one day… although I need my own house first. So, I was surprised when I opened House & Garden to find that the wallpaper featured on the front was indeed a de Gournay (typical, I was hoping for an excellent and cheaper alternative) and the magazine had a feature on the flat of Hannah Cecil Gurney, whose father founded de Gournay. So jealous.

Watching: Rich Kids of Beverly Hills

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I am terrible for watching reality TV, my grandad is permanently appalled by my viewing choices and doesn’t understand how I can spend my day doing such a sensible job and then come home and watch trash. But it’s partly because I spend my day thinking difficult thoughts that I love a bit of mind fluff when I get home. I don’t have Sky at home (although we do have Now TV) but my mum does and when I was at home a while ago I caught an episode of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills and have been trying to find a way to watch it all since then – I’ve had to sign up to Hayu in order to do so, but it’s my newest guilty pleasure.

Planning: To apply for my Masters

Last year I did a Postgraduate Diploma in my area of practise sponsored by work, if I now do a dissertation I can end up with an MA. So I’m currently in the process of reading in detail the Directive I hope to base my dissertation on in order to formulate a question and proposal. I never did a dissertation at university (I chose to do more modules of taught subjects instead) and so the prospect of writing something quite so in-depth and lengthy is slightly daunting, especially as I’ll be continuing to work full-time. I’m worried that I’ll be so sick of thinking about what I do all week and then writing about it on the weekend, but it’s one year and it’ll be totally worth it.

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Afternoon tea at Little Nan’s Tropical Den

Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham

Can we be super British and talk about the weather please? What’s going on with it?! Whilst I don’t expect long weeks of constant sunshine, I shouldn’t be leaving work in the last week in June and wishing I’d put a thicker coat on. I should barely need a coat at all by this point of the year! But, as the whole world has been thrown into chaos, I suppose the weather might be a little screwed up too.

If you’re looking for somewhere to not only escape the weather and pretend for a while that everything’s ok, then I have just the place for you. It’s a hidden den where The Queen Vic meets boudoir meets Club Tropicana with a soundtrack designed to make you want to dance. Under The Golden Anchor, an unassuming pub in Peckham, you’ll find Little Nan’s Tropical Den which in the evenings serves up bottomless cocktails in teapots (or pay as you go – book in advance here) BUT every Saturday it opens up early for afternoon tea with a twist – it’s not tea being served from those teapots…!

We descended down from the pub into the bar and perched ourselves on little velvet chairs and we were handed a golden envelope with my full official name on…

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Inside I found a playing card with details of my own personalised cocktail on – how rockstar is that?! It’s sort of on my bucketlist to one day have a food item named after me on a menu, this was the first step. My own cocktail had been based on preferences given in advance so it was perfectly tailored to my tastes. However, just in case we didn’t fancy it, we were handed a book about the Queen Mother containing a list of the other cocktails on their menu. Of course, we stuck with the Queen Lisa.

Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor PeckhamAfternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham

Once we’d decided on our cocktail, we had a chance to have a proper look at the place. It’s not the parlour of your regular nan, more the louche nan you befriend in a bar in Mallorca, the one that’s wearing purple and entertaining the group with stories of her youth whilst encouraging the barman to bring over another round. It’s full of knick-knacks and pottery pieces but strung with neon fairy lights and set against a backdrop of a leopard-print wallpaper.

Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham

There’s also an illuminated tribute to the true Queen – Queen Pat Butcher. While we were there a hen party were also in and it seemed like the idea place to be with a gang of girls.

Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham

Our Queen Lisa cocktail arrived in the BEST teapot, seriously, I looked at the teapots that other tables got and ours was definitely the best, I mean, it has a cat on it! How cute is that?

Also, you don’t just get given a teacup, you go and hunt down one that you fancy from hooks hanging around the room.

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Our tea arrived on a royal cake stand – a Wills and Kate plate for the middle layer and Charles and Di on the bottom. In true afternoon tea style there was an assortment on sandwiches on the bottom layer: smoked salmon & cream cheese, egg mayo, ham and mustard, and jam. Upon finding out my boyfriend was pescetarian they also brought us two other veggie options – hummus, mango chutney and grated carrot and a beetroot sandwich with other stuff that I can’t remember. The hummus sandwich was great, it definitely needs to find its way onto the standard afternoon tea plate.

Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor PeckhamAfternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham

Of course there were also fresh homemade scones served with jam (in a genuine Babycham glass) and cream. And to follow – a selection of little cakes – a chocolate refrigerator cake and the orangiest orange cake. As if that wasn’t enough, we were offered cake to follow up – Victoria Sponge or Carrot. We couldn’t manage any more though (plus I was sort of breaking my diet anyway – I’ve lost a stone in the past few months!), although based on their other offerings, we were sure it would have been delicious.

Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor PeckhamAfternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham

Little Nan’s Tropical Bar would be the perfect place to spend an afternoon (or an evening) with a bunch of girls and when we were there a clutch of girls were enjoying a hen do – yes, clutch is apparently the collective noun for hens. It’s only a short stroll through residential streets from Queen’s Road Peckham Overground station. Although if you find Peckham a bit far out, they also offer afternoon tea at two other venues – Little Nan’s Rio Bar under the Rio Cinema in Dalston and Sutton House in Hackney.

Afternoon tea at Little Nan's Tropical Den The Golden Anchor Peckham

At £25 each for afternoon tea and cocktails, you should definitely try and visit Little Nan’s Tropical Den before it moves on, afternoon tea runs on Saturdays from 9th July to 20 August 2016, you can book here. Remember, paradise is only a teapot away…

Our afternoon tea was provided on a complimentary basis by Little Nan’s. Thanks Little Nan’s! 

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