Michael Bremner on Michelin Service

Gary Hall | Date posted - 02 Oct 2018
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 dining experience. From its innovative small plates to it’s unique setup where the chefs are taking over in service, this is one restaurant in the Michelin Guide that is one to watch!
How did you come up with the name 64 degrees? MB: Myself and Sam our head chef, used to work together in a different restaurant. In this place the water bath we used to cook things was permanently stuck at the temperature of 64 Degrees. This meant we had to get creative and cook things at this temperature until we could get a new one. The water bath didn't stick around but the name did. What made you chose your location at Meeting House Lane in Brighton? I had the concept in my mind for quite a while of what I wanted from my restaurant. I had looked at a few places but none were quite right. When the place on Meeting House Lane became available, I was immediately drawn to it. From the first viewing the potential of the space was evident, thanks to it's central location and amazing footfall. We completely stripped and refitted the place and moved in quickly!

Most restaurants have their kitchen hidden in the back. Why did you decide to place yours in the centre of your dining area? Having spent my whole career as a chef, the food was obviously the most important thing for me. I wanted to create a place that was massively food led. I wanted a place where people to come in off the street, watch the chef create and serve something delicious right in front of them. The term "Social Dining" applied to 64 Degrees - how would you define this? Social dining was coined in reference to our small sharing plates and the fact you get to chat to the chefs. We also get a lot of people talking with the people dining next to them - you can’t really get much more social than that! At 64 Degrees it’s not really about coming in for a quiet dinner. Tell us about the star of the show - the food! Where do you source your ingredients? 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. You have stated in the past that your approach to your food is to be ‘different but accessible’, what does that mean? Our approach is that we want to make possible for anyone 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.  

You have very few front of house staff in the restaurant, meaning the chefs are taking over in service . How do you think this changes the dining experience for your customer? The major benefit is that you are able to talk directly to the person who cooked your meal. In addition to this, we arm the Chefs with a good knowledge of the wine too. All the chefs are very passionate about the food they send out. As a result of their skill and knowledge they are able to deliver great service too. We think it’s a really good balance and something unique in terms of an experience for our diners. 64 Degrees has held a Bib Gourmand since 2014 and in 2016 you were voted 16th in the National Restaurant top 100. How significant are awards for you and the restaurant? It’s fantastic for everyone involved to be acknowledged for the hard work that goes into it. Obviously the buzz that 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.

Your new restaurant concept marks a departure from the classical French Michelin restaurant, where sommeliers and chef de rang lead the front of house. Do you think 64 Degrees can still deliver a Michelin-like experience? 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. At 64 Degrees we’re not particularly looking to emulate that Michelin-like experience, we just do what we do and try to execute it well.  

There is a strong creative force behind the food at 64 Degrees. Do you think this creativity in your staff and their practice keeps the team motivated? 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 constantly keep improving and not just be satisfied with what we’re doing. Quick one to finish off: What is your favourite dish on the menu? 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. We can't wait to get our tongues around that next time!
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