Saturday 22 November 2014

64°, Brighton

Funny one this. 64° in Brighton (they also have a place in London) has been getting rave reviews; Marina O’Loughlin enjoyed (gave the food 8/10 - here) and Michelin deemed it worthy of a Bib Gourmand Award. Also, my dining companions (wife, stepdaugher and her partner) loved the meal and experience… but I didn’t.

Perhaps I expected too much? I’ve said many times on blog posts how expectation plays an important part of enjoyment of a meal. The menu at 64° certainly reads as all I want from a restaurant - simple and seasonal with enough to pique the interest of, without pandering to, your highfalutin’ foodies. Some of the dishes were hits but for me, there were too many misses.

What Michelin say: The holder of a Michelin Bib Gourmand, ‘If you like things fun and fuss-free, then this intimate modern restaurant is the place for you! Menus are divided into four - 'Meat', 'Fish', 'Veg' and 'Dessert' - and each section also has four choices. Cooking is simple but well-textured and flavoursome; most of the dining takes place at the counter.’

Sadly we were not sat at the counter but our window location did enable us to look out onto Brighton’s famous Lanes. The atmosphere in the small restaurant was lovely but our dimly lit table was not ideal for taking quality pictures. Service was good.

Lobster roe, wonton crisp, yoghurt – lovely snack to start the meal.

Leg, puy lentils, salsa verde – the leg of venison was beautifully cooked and simply paired with firm lentils and full flavoured salsa verde. The best dish according to me.

Chicken wings, kimchi, blue cheese – this was one of the more disappointing dishes for me. The blue cheese espuma was a good thing but the skins of the chicken wings were unpleasantly flaccid (chicken skin needs to be crispy in my opinion). On top of this, I didn’t ‘get’ the dried kimchi ‘wafer’. It tasted like a chilli soaked napkin... tough and fibrous.

Ox tongue, pea, jowl – another of the hits. The ox tongue was meltingly tender yet manly; like an embracing hug from a mate when he’s just delivered some sad news; the pea espuma adding a fresh nod of support.

Smoked ox cheek, quinoa, ricotta – this dish was from the daily specials. On paper it sounded great but I didn’t think it particularly made for pleasant eating; I struggled to put my finger on exactly why. The smokiness was not ill judged and I felt the cheese worked well enough. Perhaps the snafu was caused by the quaggy texture of quinoa.

Lobster, sea herbs, bisque – being picky I’d have liked the bisque to have delivered more punch but for £4 I’m not going to complain too vociferously.

Bream, parsnip, seaweed kale – another good concept let down by poor delivery. For me, the bream left the pan far too late and the kale was tough.

Mackerel, peanut, danube – the barely cooked fish was more pleasing to my palate but the accompaniments on this dish did not do it for me. I didn’t feel the peanut crisp complemented the fish and I found the purple danube potatoes to be unpleasantly chalky.

Butternut, curd, pine nut – although not part of the menu description, the crispy sage leaves and pickled mooli were the two elements which I enjoyed most on this dish.

Potato knödel, cabbage, smoked butter – my stepdaughter's partner is German and she was excited when she saw knödel on the menu. I don’t think they quite delivered in reminding her of the the ‘Vaterland’; they certainly reminded me of the insides of bland and underseasoned orange school dinner style croquettes.

Cauliflower, shallot, caper, pistachio – taking the form of a bhaji the shallots were delicately spiced. This was one dish which we all enjoyed.

Mushroom, celeriac, egg, truffle – this was another of the stronger dishes. All ingredients I love; paired well and cooked simply and with respect.

Banana, malt, miso – I’m not a fan of bananas so am not going to pass comment. My step daughter loved this and the Chocolate dessert.

Despite my first experience of 64° not being overly positive, it’s definitely a place I’d want to try again next time we visit. From what I’ve read since, certainly everyone else seems to like the place… which must mean I’m wrong!

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