Hailed by the Guardian as “Food-wise, the most exciting thing to hit Brighton for years” – 64 Degrees Brighton has become one of the most exciting venues in East Sussex. We sat down with Owner and Head Chef Michael Bremner to talk about how 64 Degrees is changing the perception of the Michelin experience. From its innovative food to it’s unique setup how the chefs are taking over in service …
RD: Hi Michael, How did you come up with the name 64 degrees?
MB: A few years back my now our Head Chef, Sam, and I used to work in a different restaurant where the water bath we used to cook things was stuck on 64 Degrees, so we had to cook things at this temperature until we could buy a new one.
RD: Haha, those pesky water baths... What made you chose meeting house Lane in Brighton?
MB: Well I had the concept in my mind for quite a while for what I wanted to do, and had looked at a few places but none quite fit. The property on Meeting House Lane then became available and I was immediately drawn to it. Not because of the layout at the time – we completely stripped and refitted the place when we moved in – but just because I saw what I could do with the space, even if it is a bit cosy. The location is pretty central and the footfall is amazing.
RD: Most restaurants have their kitchen hidden in the back, why did you decide to place yours in the centre of your dining area?
MB: Having spent my whole career as a chef, the food side of things was obviously the most important thing for me. I wanted to create a place that was massively food led – for people to come in off the street, watch the chef cook something in front of them and literally serve it there and then.
RD: Sounds amazing, we've heard the term "social dining" applied to 64 Degrees - what is your take on this?
MB: The term social dining refers to the sharing plates and the fact you get to chat to the chefs – we also get a lot of people talking with people sat next to them too, you can’t really get much more social than that. It’s not really about coming in for a quiet and intimate dinner.
RD: We think we prefer a grander term "For social butterflies who are searching for more than pollen! " perhaps needs more thought...ANYWAY tell us about the food, the produce and working seasonally with local producers...
MB: We always work closely with our suppliers and when possible, directly with the farms so we plan our menus in line with this. We alter dishes on the menu pretty much every day to reflect the local, seasonal availability.
RD: You have stated in the past that your approach to your food is to be ‘different but accessible’, what does that mean?
MB: When we refer to accessibility we mean that we try and make it so that anyone is able to come in and enjoy a meal with us. The menu is set out so that someone could come in for a light lunch, have a couple of dishes and a glass of wine and spend £20 if they wanted.
RD: You have very few front of house staff, meaning the chefs are taking over in service - how do you think this changes the dining experience for your customer?
MB: The major benefit here is that you are able to talk directly to the person who cooked your meal. All the chefs are very passionate about the food they send out, but we also make sure that they have a good knowledge of the wine for example, so that they are able to deliver great service. Likewise, the front of house staff we do have are also very knowledgeable with both the food and drinks so it’s a really good balance in terms of service for the customer to experience.
RD: It's great, as it gives the diner a complete experience - not just passive tasting, but seeing the work and dedication that goes into each dish, plus a chat and excellent wine tips - we are sold - and we aren't the only ones . Since 2014 you have held a Bib Gourmand and you have been voted 24th in the National Restaurant top 100 list 2015. How significant are these awards nowadays for a restaurant in general and yourself?
MB: It’s fantastic for everyone involved to be acknowledged for the hard work that goes into it. Obviously the buzz these kind of things create can only be beneficial to the restaurant in a business sense. Our team works very hard to be up with the best restaurants in Brighton so it is great to get recognition for that too.
RD: With your new restaurant concept you are moving away from the classical French michelin restaurant, where sommeliers and chef de rang are the leading actors front of house – do you still believe you can deliver a michelin-like experience?
MB: I think that these days this kind of conception is changing anyway. Some of my most enjoyable dining experiences of late have been in a ‘non-traditional’ style setting – nothing too crazy, but less of the stuffiness. With what we do, we’re not particularly looking emulate that Michelin-like experience, we just do what we do and try to execute it well.
RD: What is really evident from talking with you is that there is a real creative force behind the food at 64 degrees. Do you think this creativity in your staff and their practice keeps the team motivated and delivering a consistent high service/dining experience?
MB: Absolutely. But then I think that’s the same for a lot of restaurants – to be a good chef you have to have that passion and drive to push yourself further. One of my biggest fears is letting the restaurant stagnate, so we’re all aware that we need to always be looking to continue to improve and not just be content with what we’re doing.
RD: Quick one to finish off: What is your favorite dish on the menu?
MB: That’s a tough one as we change the menu so regularly, but one of my favourites is probably the braised and smoked ox tongue that we serve with a pea puree and pickled shallots.
RD: We can't wait to get our tongues around that next time...Sorry #DadJoke