Tag Archives: Brighton

64 Degrees, Brighton: great flavours, portion issues

64 Degrees, Brighton

We booked a table at 64 Degrees in Brighton ages ago. This 27-seat resturant opened in October 2013, but it’s taken us a while to get there. When we did, it started pretty well. They had a couple of beers from the innovative Wild Beer Co and I ordered their Madness IPA, thinking its hoppiness would be a good way of cleansing the palette between dishes. It was. It was so hoppy, and frankly American in style, I’d call it an APA. So while it’s not Wild Beer Co’s most interesting, it was a perfect accompaniment to what followed. Dishes. A lot of dishes.

Wild Beer Madness

The music is loud, the place is cramped, and I couldn’t quite hear the waitress. I beleive she suggested we should order three or four of the plates each as they’re small. Some are small – like the superb, delicate scallops with lemongrass and seaweed kale – but others are pretty substantial. The anchovies – crisp giants offset by gochujang – came by the dozen, while the venison balls were the size of golf balls, pretty dense and served on brioche, making for a hefty dish.

Venison balls, slaw, ricotta, on brioche

The result – we ordered too much and it slightly marred the experience. It also meant I couldn’t justify ordered the “Chocolate, hazelnut, hot & cold” for dessert, dammit! Never mind the fact that, along with Silo, 64 Degrees seems to be the most interesting food place in Brighton at the moment.

Anway, I cannot stand wasting food – I’d go so far as to say it was criminal. It takes a lot of energy to cultivate, transport and process fruit, vegetables, grain and particularly meat and fish, even when, as with 64 Degrees, the emphasis is on local produce. And we in an era when climate change having a significant impact on our civilisation, we need to think carefully about energy use.

Every time you throw food away you really should consider the repucussions: ethical, environmental and even financial (it costs a lot to shift stuff to the landfill. Never mind the fact that you’ve paid for the meal anyway).

So there I was trying to hoover up anything left by my companions. And I ate too much, and I felt a bit ill –  both inbody and in conscience. Which isn’t a great way to end a meal, especially an expensive meal I’d been looking forward to.

64 Degrees menu 20 November 2014

So I want to return to 64 Degrees: I like their menu, I just need to order more carefully. In the meantime, I think they need to do a bit of calibration of their portions, and when the waiting staff are talking you through the menu, they need to be honest about the difference between a fairly small plate of mackerel and a massive pile of potato knödel. These dishes are not tapas. I didn’t get the impression you could order as you go along. So if you’re going to order it all at the start, it’d be good know how much is enough.

Rare mackerel, with peanut crisps and a tomato foam

Info:

53 Meeting House Ln, Brighton BN1 1HB
64degrees.co.uk  | twitter.com/chef64degrees
info@64degrees.co.uk | 01273 770115

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Filed under Ale, beer, Restaurants etc

Silo, Brighton: ardent principles and excellent food

Silo entrance crop

Not living in Brighton, I’m sometimes a little late to the party when new venues open. Not too late though – Silo opened in early October and I made it there yesterday. Apparently Fran was going to send me this Guardian article a while back, but forgot. So thanks to Rosie Swaffer for a reminder via her blog.

This is really my kind of place, but perhaps because it’s so in line with the sorts of food issues I’m interested in – such as non-industrial food, which they call “pre-industrial” – it makes me particularly critical. When I sat waiting for my food, which was slow-ish for an urban weekday lunchtime, I nitpicked. But most of the nitpicking in my notepad feels irrelevant now. The main criticism that lingers is how they use jars for drinks. Jars are for storage, they have lips and awkward necks. For drinks you need glasses and cups. I don’t think providing the right piece of kit for activity in question is a big compromise to the venue’s ardent principles. After all, they do give you knives and forks, not twigs or bits of pipe.

Flipping jars

But yes, Silo is a very principled place. Its founder and chef, Douglas McMaster, has tried to create a venue that overcomes much of that most monstrous of crimes in modern life: our wastefulness.

We are a shocking species. The garbage, much of it plastics, we produce and liberally sprinkle all over the environment is shameful. Last night was Bonfire Night here in Lewes, and while it was spectacular, and a wonderful traditional celebration, early this morning the town looked like a landfill site, thick with single use food and drink packaging. It’s truly horrible. How many tonnes of crap did the fiery party produce?

Modern society squanders resources like they’re going out of fashion, and restaurants are no exception. Indeed, they’re particularly bad, with food generally a commodity that’s both over-packaged and overly energy reliant. So it’s not just physical waste, food involves vast amounts of wasted energy too. McMaster is trying to tackle all this head on. Interestingly, a photographic exhibition in Lewes railway station features another café-restaurant that has a zero-waste policy – but it’s in the US. Silo may well be Britain’s first. Bravo.

Silo’s intentions greet you as you enter in a chalked up “mission statement”. As much as I dislike this kind of American corporate terminology, I wholehearted agree with the message of this one.

Mision statement

Of course, good intentions are all very well, but a restaurant is always going to be about the food, and the taste. Luckily, Silo comes through ably on this front, or at least it did on the strength of the lunch I had.

I really like the menu – it’s not overlong, indicating an emphasis on what’s in season, or available locally, or available at a reasonable energy cost. McMaster makes a point of serving the food and engaging with clients, and as I had both a chunk of their delicious bread, made from grain ground on site, and a risotto, I asked him about the source of their grains, as rice isn’t exactly a British crop.

Bread, recycled plastic trencher

He says that while utilising local produce as much as possible is important, it’s not the only deciding factor: they weigh things up and have to be realistic. A risotto needs rice. Orzotto is all well and good, but barley (which does grow in Britain) doesn’t cut it when you want the qualities of rice. He also made the point that while you could source an orange grown in Cornwall, it may well have required a higher energy footprint to grow and transport than one grown in the more suitable climate of southern Spain.

Risotto

As for that risotto, it was made with brown rice, and featured mushrooms that, McMaster said, were fruited on premises, downstairs (presumably a cellar). Its earthy, meaty flavours were offset with a tart salsa verde (featuring what the waitress called cilantro – that’s coriander in British English) and a blob of curd cheese. The umami was intense, perhaps because this was a fermented rice risotto. McMaster explained the rice was soaked then a locally made miso-type paste  was added. I said the maker of the paste sounded like a local version of Sandor Ellix Katz, the American fermented foods guru, and McMaster concurred, and also said they hoped to get Katz in for an event.

Fermentation is a time-honoured means of both preserving foods and making them more digestible and it’s something McMaster is clearly keen on as the menu, which is broken down into daily dishes in six categories (salad, “Plant”, “Dairy”, “Fish”, “Meat” and “Wild”) also featured fermented ramson (wild garlic) which, in an amusing twist of syntax “may contain shot”. I think they meant the partridge it was served with.

While the food was brilliant the language on the menu was a tad iffy, even containing a dreaded grocer’s apostrophe. Another minor criticism – when I asked the very friendly and attentive waitress a few questions about where ingredients came from, she wasn’t sure. I would say that a venue where provenance is so important should brief the waiting staff a bit better.

Silo bread

Overall, this really was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time. I despair sometimes, having lived in Rome then returned to small-town England. Getting great food in the former was easy, getting it in the latter is a challenge. Lewes is pretty rubbish for eating out but hopefully I can get to Silo whenever we visit Brighton. Tomorrow, perhaps. So much more to try on the menu, especially as it changes daily, depending on what’s readily available.

Talking of which, I drank  apple juice, made not just with English apples but apples from Stanmer Park, on the edge of Brighton. Earlier in the day I’d been in the supermarket trying to find apple juice made with English apples, which have been cascading off the trees here the past few months. There was none. I truly hope Silo succeeds, and also succeeds in taking its place in the dialogue that encourages a move away from this kind of absurdity, and a move away from the over-packaged, energy squandering, largely industrial, frequently toxic “food” we seem all too happy to accept in Britain.

Silo interior

Info:
39 Upper Gardner Street, Brighton BN1 4AN
silobrighton.com | twitter.com/Silo_Brighton | instagram.com/silobrighton
contact@silobrighton.com | 0330 3352368

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Filed under Restaurants etc

Burger buns with a twist

Beanburger with carrot and cumin bun

Over the past few years, the UK street food scene has improved markedly. Artisan producers, in part inspired by the US street food scene, have started producing real food from food trucks – a world away from the mechanically separated burgers, listeria buffets and industrial crap that has dominated here for so long.

The other day I was in Brighton and went to the Street Diner, a Friday street food market in Brighthelm Gardens, Queen Street, BN1. It started up exactly a year ago and is now operating Saturdays too I believe.

As well as various Asian and Middle Eastern-inspired food stalls, there was enough pulled pork, brisket and burgers to satisfy my carnaholic wife Fran and brother-in-law Al. No street food scene is complete without burgers of course. As much as I adore the form factor of a burger in a bun, I’m not a carnaholic, so went for something Middle Eastern. But the next day, back in Brighton to meet Fran, I thought she might be craving burger, so did some investigation into Brighton’s best.

Burgers in Brighton
This seems to be such an important subject, there’s even an entire blog dedicated to it (here). So yes, we couldn’t possibly hope to get to the bottom of the Brighton burger scene straight away, so just plumped for Troll’s Pantry. They’re one of the most established of Brighton’s burger outfits, emphasising a use of local ingredients and operating out of the Hobgoblin pub. Which is all well and good, but on a Saturday evening, the latter wasn’t exactly a joy. It felt just like some dodgy student pub from my uni years in the 1990s, stuck in grubby aspect. And even though they have half a dozen or so handpumps, most of them were off. Don’t they have any actually trained to change cask on their busiest night?

The burgers themselves were excellent though. They’re served, US-style, in a plastic basket and a brioche-style bun. Chips – or fries, if you must – extra. I had a veggie one, Gaea’s Bounty, that was tasty, and Fran said her beef job, the Imperial Swine, was excellent.

“All beef comes from Sussex conservation project, where the English Longhorn cattle lead a wholly natural lifestyle,” says the blurb on their site. “The beef is aged for 35 days before being ground into 100% steak patties.” So that at least compensated for the lame pub. Pity Troll’s Pantry can’t find a better place to ally with.

Brioche for breakfast not burgers
Anyway. The brioche thing. It’s had me scratching my head since I first encountered it in Rome, in a venue doing US-inspired burgers. I just can’t quite reconcile the use of brioche buns for burgers.

For me, brioche is quintessentially a breakfast bread. Enriched with egg, dairy and sugar, it lends itself to eating with jam, Nutella (god forbid), coffee and hot chocolate. I don’t get how it’s considered an appropriate partner for the salty, savoury experience that is burger patty and chips.

So when I wanted to make some bean burgers at home, I didn’t want to make brioche buns. I’ll save that for a weekend breakfast, thanks.

Good old Dan Lepard had a good option, a recipe in Short and Sweet, the book that collects his wonderful recipes from the Guardian. His burger bun involves carrot and cumin. And onion. And paprika. In the dough. Yes. Quite odd, perhaps, but it worked well.

In fact, the buns are, like brioche, made with dough enriched with milk, butter and egg. But rather than taking the dough into sweet, breakfast-appropriate territory, Dan takes it into savoury, burger-appropriate territory. With the addition of veg and spices.

If the addition of carrot sounds strange, just think how it helps make for delicious moist cakes. Dan, meanwhile, says, “The grated carrot and corn flour keeps these buns bouncy, soft and moist, helped by the hot oven and a short baking time.”

The original recipe can be found recipe here. The version in Short and Sweet is slightly differnt. Here’s my version,a tad tweaked.

100g milk
120g boiling water
15g fresh yeast
50g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
100g carrot, finely grated
50g onion (ie a small-medium one), finely grated
500g strong white bread flour
50g cornflour (that’s cornstarch in American)
12g fine sea salt
1 t ground cumin
1 t paprika (I used smoked)
Water and sesame seeds to finish

Ingredients

1. Combine the boiling water and milk in a jug. You don’t want it too hot – if you have a thermometer, no more than body temp, or 37C.
2. Once it’s at a suitable temperature, crumble in the yeast.
3. Whisk the butter and egg into the liquid too.
4. Combine the flour, cornflour, salt and spices in a large bowl.
5. Add the liquid to the powders and bring to a dough.
6. Knead for a few minutes to clear (that is, bring it all together nicely), then leave, covered, for 10 minutes.
7. Give the dough another short knead, then leave for another 10 minutes and repeat. Do this once more.

Dough before proving
8. Form a ball then leave to prove in a covered bowl in a draught-free spot.

Dough after proving
9. When the dough has doubled in size – how long this takes will depend on the temperature of where you leave it – take it out of the bowl.
10. Divide into six pieces. My dough weighed just over a kilo, so each ball weighed about 184g. You could make bigger or small balls depending on what you’re doing with the buns – are you making massive burgers or small ones?
11. Form the pieces into balls, put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and leave to prove up again.

Buns before baking
12. Preheat your oven to 220C (200C fan).
13. When the balls are plumped up – the original recipe says “until risen by half” – brush the tops with water and sprinkle with seeds.
14. Bake for about 25 minutes, until nicely browned.

Buns after baking
15. Leave to cool completely.

We had ours with some bean burgers. I like making bean burgers – you can basically just chuck beans and some stodge and whatever flavours and leftovers you have into a food processor. I used butterbeans, some soffritoed onion and garlic, some bread, a bit of mashed potato, some of the wild garlic and nettle pesto I made a massive batch of after a foraging walk on Sunday.

I’m not going to get into veggie vs meat argument here, as obviously a bean burger is a very different proposition to a real meat burger, lacking that juicy, bloody fattiness. But, like a meat patty, bean burgers can exploit the same satisfying format of condiments (in this case mustardy mayo) and additons (cheese, gerkins) all combined inside a bun. The chips here were actually just made from roasting raw potatoes.

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Filed under Baking, Breads, Recipes