Take note, any restaurant which my wife is happy to endure a 2hr journey with rail replacement service for must be worth heading to. I’ll spoil the surprise, 64 Degrees more than lived up to the challenge, delivering excellent cooking with interesting dishes and innovation on every plate. All this for a restaurant that only opened a few short months ago. We know one of the chefs Chopper and headed down with a couple of mutual friends to see how the restaurant was doing. Integrity is key to this blog for me, we paid full price for everything and I can easily say it was one of my top meals of the year.
Situated in the scenic lanes in the centre of Brighton, it’s a small restaurant with under 30 covers. We sat at the long bar in front of the kitchen, giving a birds-eye view of everything that was happening. The format is small dishes; being a group of 4 and greedy we literally ordered everything (4 fish, 4 meat, 4 veg and 4 dessert) which came out as Chopper presented them. Everything sounded too tempting to choose from anyway, so why not.
The intriguing salmon pastrami came first, a cured salmon with traditional pastrami spices. It had a firm texture which gave it bite and presence. Served with small pieces of rye bread, pickles and a mustard dressing it invoked a fish memory of pastrami sandwiches that worked very well. The dish I was most excited by next. Kimchi chicken dramatically presented with dehydrated cabbage kimchi “wings” and a side of the lightest blue cheese foam. The chicken wings were meaty and tender with a light spice, but the punch of the cabbage really picked them up and the sauce brought it together. The stand-out memory of the meal for me. Potato, artichoke, almond and mushroom topped with freshly shaved almond at the same time. A great side dish with interesting textures and ingredients, probably not enough depth to stand on its own though.
Onto seafood, in the form of seared scallops and apple. Served with a granny smith puree, the sour bite surprised me by combining so deliciously well with the sweet flesh of the scallop. A smidgen of bacon added some saltiness and depth although more is always good. Cauliflower with shallot bhaji brought a nice crisp deep fried bhaji with roasted cauliflower. I particularly liked the neat shaved squares of raw cauliflower stem, the pomegranate was a bit sharp for the warm rich batter though. Fish and chips, the classic English seaside dish, we are in Brighton after all. Deconstructed somewhat but still true to itself, with succulent fish, a pea puree and a punchy tartare. The chips could have been crisper, but the separate batter kept that light and crunchy. For balance I wanted a bit more sharp flavour from although the pickled quail’s egg helped in that direction. A very pretty dish next, mackerel with yuzu, cucumber and coconut. Deliciously cooked fish with some citrus sharpness from the yuzu and the slightly odd-sounding but actually well balanced addition of coconut.
Pig cheek, pineapple and tortilla. An intriguing combo again, but hinting at a more traditional salsa side. Tender, meaty soft pig cheek went well with the pineapple although I found the tortilla a bit heavy. Very elegantly dressed, as was every dish so far I noted. Now it became more clear why the restaurant was called 64 degrees, particularly with the sous-vide circulator working away in front of us. Their signature “64 degrees” egg reflecting the temperature it is cooked precisely to, served with girolles and ham hock. It makes for a very soft egg as you might expect, served with the classic mushroom and bacon effectively, a solid dish although not as interesting to me as some of the others. A great dish next, onions with a “Longman” cheese sauce, a punchy English mustard sauce and malt crumbs. Earthy, sweet and pickly combined into a taste of a Ploughman’s in a single bite, clever.
We were getting full by now but pressed onwards. Soft unctuous salty brisket served with potato and carrot. Classic cooking done well, the carrot hat was whimsical presentation but the flavours were spot on. The final savoury course came, potato knodel with cabbage and smoked butter. A comforting dish of “gnocchi” like potato dumplings and cabbage, it lacked the punch of earlier dishes and might have been better to have earlier. I can’t fault the dish in itself though with soft dumplings and the added dimension of smoked butter.
A fantastical selection of desserts to finish. A classic sweet sticky toffee pudding with an added kick of bourbon in the sauce. Next my favourite, soft poached rhubarb with a cinnamon cream, perfect balance between sharp and sweet. A nice nod the the Fat Duck jellies came on a tile in the guise of somewhat larger “rum bears” dashed with sharp citric acid sugar (Haribo-esque in a good way). Finally a hot chocolate in a pot, with a pumpkin smore and the added bonus of a more cake like base and popping candy in the bottom. Every bit demolished.
Drinks wise, a short wine list gets straight to the point with good value and everything by the glass (including a cheeky English sparkling number from Ambriel, lots of sharp apple flavour in there). We also went for one of the chef’s cocktails, a great twist on an old fashioned by charring the orange to add smokiness to a base of Highland Park.
Wow, what a meal. The friendly, relaxed atmosphere and simple menu descriptions lull you in, then they hit you with a massive punch of flavour and clever twists in every dish. The total bill came in at around £55 a head with plenty of booze, ridiculously good value by my standards and I can’t wait to be back soon. Easily worth a trip from further afield, I’m looking forward to seeing how the restaurant and dishes develop.