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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).