It’s a group effort at Michael Bremner’s petite Brighton site, where everyone has a say in the dishes. Lisa Jenkins reports
The restaurant reminds me of a man cave. The decor of 64 Degrees, chef-owner Michael Bremner’s first site in Brighton, may be all wood panelling, granite worktops and leather barstools, but it is softened by a few pretty potted air plants on the tables and a welcoming front of house team.
The restaurant, which is located in the Lanes area of the East Sussex town, has held a bib gourmand from Michelin since it opened in October 2013. The seating at the pass was one of the most important factors in the restaurant’s design, alongside the food. “I wanted to create a place that was massively food-led – for people to come in off the street and to watch the chefs cook something in front of
them,” Bremner says.
Bremner is a Scot and he did his early training at the age of 15 at the Pittodrie House hotel in Inverurie, working under Bob Ovington, who he cites as his mentor. When Bremner was 20 he moved to London to work as a pastry chef at the Orrery in Marylebone, which held a Michelin star at the time. He then went to Seven in Leicester Square as chef de partie, before working at Marco Pierre White’s Quo Vadis as head pastry chef. Work in Australia followed, at kitchens in Melbourne, Sidney and Airlie Beach, then a three-year stint back in the UK at the Seattle Hotel in Brighton Marina. Then he was off on his travels once more, this time to Canada, where he worked at the Pan Pacific Whistler hotel, at the time the number one resort in the world according to Condé Nast Traveller.
At 64 Degrees, Bremner has brought all his experiences together in one restaurant. The menu is divided into four sections – fish, veg, meat and desserts – and head chef Sam Lambert will often describe the dishes to diners and talk them through their creation.
“The food is very much a statement of freedom,” Bremner says. “There are no rules as to what we can and cannot do. It’s not just about the food, though – the atmosphere and setting play a huge part as well, with diners being able to interact with the chefs. We wanted the food to be interesting but also accessible.
“The dishes are all pretty much a combined effort from every member of the team. That includes front of house, pot-wash and chefs – we encourage everyone to have an input. Sam and I have the final say, but we want everyone to bring ideas to the table.”
The chefs attempt to source ingredients locally as often as possible and they use Brighton & Newhaven Fish Sales and Barfields Butchers as well as Saddlescombe farm, which supplies a whole lamb each week.
When The Caterer visited in August, dishes on the menu included sardines, beetroot and jerk yogurt (£7.50) and lamb, oyster and gomashio (a Japanese sesame seed condiment) (£13.50).
Bremner’s winning main course on this year’s Great British Menu – ox tongue – is a star on the menu, but other notable favourites have included kimchi chicken wings with blue cheese cream, braised short rib of beef with Marmite and pomegranate molasses, and fettuccine, truffle and egg yolk (£15.50).
Desserts are not theatrical at 64 Degrees – there isn’t enough space – but the chefs do experiment with flavours, including a chocolate and salted caramel dish (£9.50), where the salt element comes from seaweed and miso.
At lunchtime in August the restaurant was full. The average spend for lunch is £45 and £50-£55 for dinner. “Someone could have a couple of dishes and a glass of wine for £20, or go all out and spend £100,” says Bremner.
Bremner smiles when asked about Great British Menu – he can’t believe he put himself through it a second time and says it was one of the most stressful things he’s ever done.
His overwhelming memory was being in the judges’ chamber, down to the last four, and thinking: “Wow, maybe I can really do it!” He says it was a mixture of happiness and relief when he heard the result.
Bremner’s partner, Carla, supports him front of house at 64 Degrees and at Murmur, their new beachfront venture, and is part of the team adapting the bar space at 64 Degrees to increase the number of wines available.
“We’ve got an amazing front of house team who really complement the restaurant,” says Bremner. “They’re serving people’s backs some of the time, as half the guests are facing the pass, but they are great at being able to help guide people through the menu and recommend which wines go well with each dish.”
From the menu
• Gurnard, red pepper, cockles £9
• Trout, pea, almond £12
• Watermelon, feta, pumpkin seeds £7
• Tomato, avocado, ricotta £9.25
• Duck breast, plum, cucumber £11.50
• Beef rump, sauerkraut, mustard £12
• Vanilla panna cotta, apple, yogurt £8
• Summer berries, lemon, hazelnut £8.75
64 Degrees, 53 Meeting House Lane, Brighton BN1 1HB