Between the sea, surrounding countryside, and buzzing social scene, Brighton obviously has a fair bit going for it, but let’s not overlook another critical element – the south coast city enjoys some of the best restaurants outside of Europe’s major metropolises.
From the Chilli Pickle’s imaginative curries to the Coal Shed’s deft touch with the Josper, La Choza’s nigh-on peerless Mexican food, and Riddle and Finns’ mastery of all things aquatic (not to mention an outpost of Meatliquor and the Gingerman Group), you could eat out in Brighton for weeks on end without having a bad meal.
Read more: The Coal Shed review
The even better news is that the latest eatery to have Brighton foodies foaming at the mouth is almost certainly the best of the lot. Chef Michael Bremner, who previously had a hand in local institution Food for Friends, is now manning the hobs at 64 Degrees, a new small plates driven restaurant in the heart of town.
Featuring an eternally in-demand chef’s counter, minimalist menu that changes daily, and stripped back decor, it’s on-trend without necessarily coming across as try-hard.
A recent lunch outing kicked off with a soupçon of oysters, dressed with cucumber and soy. Surprisingly, this was the only dish I ate that didn’t leave me completely wobbly-legged. It’s not that it didn’t work, more than I discovered I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to oysters – a classic mignonette dressing please, or maybe a dash of Tabasco if I’m feeling really randy. An educational experience then, but I found the soy to drown out the natural flavours of the oysters.
That’s the lone grumble out of the way, as everything else was superb. Scallops were perfectly cooked – browned on the outside, still bouncy and translucent within – and a light curry oil added a bit of warmth that really benefitted the cold weather. The master stroke, though, was the popcorn garnish – a bold but really quite remarkable flavour combination that also added an extra element of texture.
Sea bass with clams also had a seasonal flavour – a hint of cinnamon in the clam jus sounds like a renegade combination but was pulled off with aplomb. The fish itself was textbook seafood cooking – erotically crispy skin, just slightly charred, but with the flesh still ever so slightly undercooked.
You rarely go wrong with anything featuring bone marrow, but what I ate at 64 Degrees was undoubtedly the best example I can remember. Coming with a light crumbed topping, the fatty goodness slid effortlessly on to the accompanying granary toast, which came blobbed with (I think) a parsley puree. It was a supremely simple dish – bone marrow on toast, essentially – but executed with an artist’s touch.
On the vegetable front, purple broccoli came with a poached egg – or at least what I can best describe as a poached egg. I’d wager the egg actually underwent some fairly sophisticated gastronomic treatment as it was set but still translucent. Needless to say, a slight poke revealed a gorgeously runny yoke and it was great fun competing to mop it up with the brocolli.
Trumpet Royale mushrooms came as close to stealing the show as a meat-free dish possibly could. Flecked with aromatic mint rather than the more ubiquitous, home cook-safe parsley, it was topped with grated parmesan, the mushrooms themselves masterfully prepared so they maintained all their satisfyingly chunky texture. Simple, but sublime.
Back to the flesh and mackerel with potato, tarragon and shallot was every bit as satisfying as it sounds, while venison with blackberry was expertly cooked to medium-rare (without having to ask, it’s worth noting), deftly seasoned, and a carnivorous delight in every way.
A brief diversion into guilty pleasure-land saw 64 Degree’s increasingly famous kimchi chicken wings land on the table. It wasn’t on the menu that day, but I spied another table ordering it and the kitchen was happy to oblige this rookie’s off-menu request as well. I’ll post a more rigorous write-up in Wingin’ It shortly but, perhaps needless to say at this stage, they were rather good. I’m a total sucker for kimchi these days, and this clever riff on buffalo wings didn’t disappoint.
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We rounded out the meal with sweets (as you do). Homemade doughnuts were superb quality and came with a kind of custard and rhubarb dip – all old school frumpy fun, if not quite loaded with the razzle-dazzle we’d come to expect by this point.
A new addition the menu, the pineapple tart came with a couple of smears of passion fruit and a generous glob of yogurt-y ice cream. Again, simply delicious – ultra-thin pastry and caramelised pineapple combining with the zesty passion fruit and refreshing glacée to great effect. The scary thing? It’ll probably taste even better when the warmer months roll around.
By now, it should be pretty well established that I fell head-over-heels for 64 Degrees. As well as a glut of faultless courses, the restaurant offers well-selected beers, English fizz, and some interesting cocktails, with attentive but not intrusive service rounding out the experience.
For lunch, it wasn’t exactly cheap, with 10 sharing plates and a few drinks coming to around £80, if I remember rightly. But you know what? To my mind, it represented very good value. Of course, Londoners also have to contend with a small travel premium getting down to Brighton, but I thoroughly recommend taking the hit sooner rather than later. Tables will no doubt be even harder to come by when summer hits, so do yourself a favour and make for some of the best food and most inventive flavours in the UK because, quite simply, that’s all that’s on offer at 64 Degrees.