On arrival at Brighton station yesterday I decided to walk to the Centre for some shopping. Imagine my surprise in nearby Trafalgar Road to see the familiar corpulent figure of Bob Tickler, small boy in hand, entering the toy museum. I joined the party to appreciate a museum devoted to model railways, cars, soldiers, puppets and the like.
We then proceeded to the Royal Pavilion.This was the brainchild of the Prince Regent, the future George IV, whose larger than life personality in many ways defines Brighton still to this day. He was a man after my own heart. He gave fabulous dinners, one banquet menu contained 8 soups and 40 main courses alone. He changed the old formality of seat placement, where the host sat at the head with the ladies down one side and gentlemen the other. He sat in the middle with his favourite mistresses to his right and left and this became the protocol of alternative gender placement that exists to this day. He was a cultivated man, he particularly patronised music and musicians, Rossini was a visitor. His favourite mistress was the Catholic Mary Fitzherbert but, as a condition of being bailed out by parliament, he was obliged to marry Caroline of Brunswick, a unpopular personality who did not attend his Royal Coronation. He would be rather confused by the alleged dalliance of Prince Andrew. Despite his excesses, he lived beyond 60 in a time when the arts flourished: Constable, Reynolds, Jane Austin, Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth were of this époque, as well as the architect Nash whose stucco buildings still glorify the sea front from Brighton to Hove. The Pavilion itself is Indian in character with its Mughal domes and the interior in red wallpaper and dragons Chinese in decoration.
After such cultural activity I was ready for a scrumptious lunch at 64 Degrees. This is one of the great restaurants of the UK. They have redefined cuisine. In the average restaurant you would be lucky to sample more than 2 original dishes and in all likelihood none at all. Here every plate is a concoction of flavours they have formulated and prepared in platters for two. We had chicken wings in a blue cheese sauce,a sea bass so divine that we ordered seconds, pork belly with apple and chump of lamb. The sea bass was served with a stick of an aniseed tasting root vegetable – who would have thought of that? I was concerned that’s the cuisine might be too rich and intricate for little Jamie but he loved the sea bass as much as Bob, who soon dispatched his. I finished with the rum gummy bear jelly served with salt, but Jamie’s ice cream with shortbread and passion fruit was too delicious. If this was not good enough, the ambience is cool and vibrant and Emily presides over the dining area with a maturity and experience that belies her years. It’s always fun too to sit at the bar opposite the kitchens and the chef would serve us directly with a commentary on the dish. At £35 per head it’s good value too.
Because the dishes are so eclectic, I find it diffcult to choose the right wine so I order a gin and tonic with cucumber which cleanses the plate between courses. The Prince Regent would be proud that the city he loved and himself a gourmet has produced such a fine establishment.