Last week saw the Ewing's birthday and after taking her wine tasting, when she had to drive, giving her a t-shirt emblazoned with cats which, even as a avowed feline lover, she has vowed never to wear in public, and then spending the rest of the bank holiday in a caravan in 50 mph winds I thought it only proper to take her out for a belated celebratory meal.
The venue of choice was 64 Degrees in Brighton chef Michael Bremner's small plate pean to dehydrators, blow torches and water baths (the restaurants name coming from the temperature that they cook their hen's eggs). Sat at the snazzy space age counter, a perfect vantage point to watch the chefs work, makes quite a change from the previous week's fish and chips on the beach and pints of bitter in front of the log fire (gas fire).
The menu has three short sections labelled 'Fish,Veg and Meat', obviously we wanted everything. To help while deliberating I enjoyed a Spirit pale Ale, a worryingly new ageish sounding beer from Hug Brewing whose tasty tropical hoppiness belied its low ABV. The Ewing got stuck into a spritzy white from Sussex, served in strange IKEA like tumblers that I nearly accidently topped up from the water carafe several times.
We started with new season's asparagus served with pink grapefruit, hollandaise and almond. Any shred of decorum left went out the window as we attacked this with fingers, harder than it looks when your sitting on a stool and sharing a plate; luckily both shirt fronts and dignity were left intact. A dish with a real spring in it's step, both literally and figuratively.
Next up was tuna, seared and sliced and served with a passion fruit emulsion, pomegranate, radish and micro coriander. Again a plate of fresh simplicity, the clean, sweet fish holding up well to the funky, sharp notes of the fruit.
Croquettes of sticky shreds of compressed pork cheek encased in breadcrumbs, came hot and crisp from the fryer and were served with a mushroom ketchup of deep fungal depth, even if it wasn't much of a looker. Alongside was yet more fruit, this time in the form of charred lime, and a tangle of pickled onions which both cut through the richness admirably.
The final savoury plate of smoked chicken, peas and whelks was a late switch that saw us jettisoning a lamb rump and seaweed dish. The Ewing was scared by the whelks, after being scarred several times previously - most notably during a 'romantic' meal in Paris that saw us grimacing over blubbery pigs trotters and rubbery fruit de mer - but thankfully it turned out to be a very sound move.
It may not have been the best looking thing we ate, but I think the pea mousse/foam, as Exorcist like as it appeared, was the highlight of our whole meal (it was divine!- TE). The sweet whelks were chopped finely enough to avoid being their usual briny choking hazard and the gentle smokiness of chicken rounded out proceedings.
The rum jelly bear has already become a bit of cult choice for pud; it's boozy, jellied deliciousness only improved by a Tony Montana-esque pile of citric sherbet served alongside it. Proving that you can still have fun as a grown up.
There was also espresso and, very good, chocolate truffles for the the more adult amongst us, although I think the Ewing felt a little pang of jealousy when she saw the impressive looking chocolate malt desert make its way to an adjacent table (looked amazing-had serious pudding envy - TE).
As we were paying the bill one of the charming team of staff asked us what our plans were for after lunch. After being so well fed, even we felt a little embarrassed to say 'going for an ice cream', so we cited the less greedy sunding option of 'going for a walk' instead. Before then feeling obliged to valiantly stretch our legs along the seafront, so we could at least try and blame the sea air for sharpening our appetites so quickly.
Fortuitously Boho Gelato, a experimental micro ice cream parlour renowned for it's quirky flavours such as bourbon and bourbon (biscuit and whiskey), beer sorbet and cucumber and rose. The Ewing surpassed herself with a triple scoop of licorice, chocolate cherry pavlova and Small Batch coffee sorbet, and easily dispatched the towering mountain of ice cream.
When I came to pick my flavour, there could only be one choice. The blackberry, gingerbread and white chocolate (with a scoop of cinnamon and fig on top) as, after an impatient nine months of baking, we had heard the exciting news that the Gingerbread baby - nicknamed after my brother-in-law's 'strawberry blonde' hair - had been born in Sydney the day before. A very memorable way to mark my sister's first (Australian) Mother's Day.
Obviously, being the loveliest baby that you ever did see, I'm obliged to share at least one picture of little Matilda Rose. And this one, with a very proud Grandad Tom, is a favourite. I'm already looking forward to sharing a few bottles (milk to start with, of course) with her.