Every six weeks Nico changes the menu for another six course journey into his culinary mind. Now it’s time to go through the looking glass.
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast, “ said the Duchess, and it appears Nico Simeone does too.
His restaurant concept Six by Nico, first opened in Glasgow in 2017 and since then has spread around the UK and the world. It’s a simple concept, a menu of six dishes changed every six weeks. There is no choice, although there is of course a vegetarian and a vegan option.
What I like about Six is the way that Nico brings the ‘feen deening’ tasting menu to the masses. It is not expensive for what it is, and it allows anyone who has ever wondered what a tasting menu might be like, but was wary of possible bankruptcy, to put a toe in the water. Perrier water, of course.
Each dish is small and reasonably complicated, but because the chefs in the open kitchen only have to cook six dishes repeatedly, the service runs very efficiently, and I imagine the consequent cost savings on ingredients is one reason it can be done for such a good price.
You can also choose to have matched wines for each course, usually resulting in a staggering bill elsewhere, but here I calculate each well-considered glass is under six quid which, when you think of the price of a glass of indifferent wine in a pub, is excellent value.
The staff at Nico, and I have been to three different restaurants on various occasions, are always relaxed and charming and very well-briefed.
They know how to explain each dish economically and they know about the wines they serve, but don’t overwhelm you with detail or stretch it out too long. The whole experience is supposed to be fun and it is.
The Alice in Wonderland menu that’s now on is highly amusing right from the moment the waiter tells you that the menu itself is actually edible, now that is sustainable thinking.
We add on the two optional extras – an aperitif of Alice’s Gin & Jam Tart Raspberry, white chocolate liqueur, gin and lemons, a drink I find a bit watery, and a nibble called ‘Have I Gone Mad” – Ox and Comte nuggets, confit garlic & onion, sweet roasted tomato ketchup with sourdough and yeasted butter which are packed out with flavour and gone in a bite. Luckily there are four per person.
On to the main show and the dishes start to come out with well-paced timing, i.e. just as you start to want them, with the wines served in a generous glass.
Some dishes are theatrically finished at the table, some come in a kind of component form. All are extremely good looking. My wife raved over the Rabbit & Date Ballotine with rabbit bolognese and carrots done numerous ways. A tarragon pesto that recalled Watership Down added a very ‘magical’ flavour note, and the wine, a Spumante Brut, was a good match.
My favourite dish is roast cod with miso and yuzu glaze in a dashi broth. This has a whole deck of cards of ingredients, flavours and textures, the joker in the pack being the turnip puree. Sweet and earthy and deliciously unexpected.
A vegetarian dish of a Celeriac Rose, Baby Beets, Garden Radish, Kalamata Olive Soil and Red Apple Caramel is a cracker too, the celeriac puree and finely chopped olives playing off against each other with aplomb
Grand finale is Off With Its Head! – Pork Belly, Choucroute, Apple Gel, Pig Head Croquette, Cauliflower & Sauce Charcuterie. It’s a big ending, but each component is perfectly judged for size and flavour. The choucroute cuts any incipient fattiness from the perfectly slow cooked pork, aided in the task by the sharp but also sweet apple gel.
Of course there is dessert, and with it a delicious Monbazillac wine. The dessert is called Learn How To Make Mushrooms and it’s 54% Chocolate & Cep Cremeux, Praline Ice Cream, Candied Hazelnut, Chocolate Soil, Smoked Maldon & Cask Sherry. That’s a lot of ingredients and perhaps Nico was hallucinating when he came up with the idea? It’s very rich, it’s a good ending. It was a good meal.
I’ve never had a bad Six at Nico’s, and I like the fact that I can expect another magical surprise in just six weeks time. In a restaurant world that sees so many restaurants floundering to find a way to maintain repeat custom and consistency, Six By Nico has come through the looking glass fully intact