Menuwatch: Six by Nico
Chef Nico Simeone tells stories with his multi-chapter, many themed menus, from memories of his parent's chippy to a tale of New York. Lauren Bowes pays a visit
Every story needs a strong beginning, and chef Nico Simeone's certainly has that. With a CV that includes the Michelin-starred Number One at Balmoral in Edinburgh, where he was awarded Young Scottish Seafood Chef of the Year in 2010, and Le Chardon d'Or in Glasgow, Simeone had a strong foundations on which to build his first restaurant, 111 by Nico in Glasgow in 2017.
It wasn't long before a second chapter crossed his mind, and a new site soon presented itself. Having cut his teeth in both a modern French restaurant and a Scottish-influenced fine dining kitchen, as well as being raised by an Italian family who ran fish and chip shops, Simeone had plenty of influences to draw on.
"It was in quite a popular area and there were a lot of restaurants there – steak, fish, Italian, French, Spanish, seafood," he explains. "And I just thought, ‘what can we do here? Why do we need to decide what we do? Why can we not just switch it up?" So the idea [ for Six by Nico] just evolved from that really."
The concept is a themed six-course tasting menu that changes every six weeks – "four weeks was too short, eight weeks too long" – and after launching the first site in Glasgow's Finnieston in 2017, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester and a second Glasgow site soon followed, with a Liverpool opening just weeks ago.
Each menu costs £29 per person, with Simeone admitting that "a big part of our success is that the price is accessible. It's taking something luxurious and trying to make it a bit more fun. I wanted to make it somewhere you can go back maybe three, four times a year, rather than just for special occasions – so that you can follow the story with it."
When it comes to choosing a theme, Simeone says he can be inspired by anything – "travel, a destination or a memory … a movie can trigger something, or a holiday." As well as each site having its own head chef (John Wright in Manchester), a dedicated creative and development team works on structuring the menus alongside Simeone.
Each site launches with the same introduction – ‘The Chippy' menu. "My mum and dad and aunts and uncles all run fish and chip shops," Simeone explains. "It's always the first theme as it's from my memories of being young in the chippy." Dishes such as ‘Chips and cheese' (Parmesan espuma, curry oil, salt and vinegar potato croquette) and ‘Fish supper' (cod, confit fennel, samphire, beer-pickled mussels, brandade) seem a fitting start to each restaurant's story, taking Simeone's first experiences of professional kitchens as an introduction.
When The Caterer visits the Manchester site, the theme is New York. Simeone's playful style is evident from the first course of ‘Beef burger doughnuts', the minced beef replaced with rump, flank and ox tongue, and American cheese omitted in favour of a dusting of aged Parmesan.
‘Eggs benedict' follows, bearing little resemblance to the brunch-time staple. Sliced ham is replaced by a smoked ham hock terrine, which is sandwiched between four layers of filo pastry on each side and cooked a la plancha.
The traditional hollandaise is elevated, a nutty flavour added through the use of brown butter, and it is served alongside a pickled quail's egg, pickled radish, julienned apple and a black pudding bonbon. When asked for his favourite course, Simeone selects ‘Little Italy', a dish that draws on the Italian classic cacio e pepe, but instead Simeone creates a Parmesan royale, seasons it with cracked black pepper and serves it inside agnolotti and alongside pumpkin seed pesto, pickled pumpkin, roasted pumpkin purée and a parsley emulsion.
"It's quite a simple dish, but it packs the most flavour," he explains. The New York menu is on its second appearance for the Six group, but all the dishes except dessert have changed. This flexibility extends to changing dishes part-way through a run.
"I would never ignore feedback," he says. "There was one dish that just wasn't getting a good response, so we took it off the menu and spent a few days developing a new one."
Luckily, this has happened only once, but Simeone adds that, like any good storyteller, he is constantly editing his work:
"We always try to look at the whole six weeks to see how we can keep making it better and better."
From the menu
- Beef burger doughnuts: tomato ketchup, aged Parmesan, American mustard
- Eggs benedict: smoked ham hock terrine, brown butter hollandaise, quail egg
- Little Italy: cacio e pepe agnolotti, pumpkin seed pesto, pickled pumpkin
- Clam and cod chowder: barbecue leeks, lemon gel, roasted corn
- Flatiron Building: smoked flat iron steak, Jerusalem artichoke, lovage emulsion, brisket croquette
- The Big Apple: New York cheesecake, apple compote, cinnamon granola
£29 per person. Wine pairing, £26.
Vegetarian option available
Snacks – £5 per person
- Buffalo hot wings, blue cheese emulsion, sourdough and whipped butter
- Falafel, hummus, green harissa, matza flatbread
60 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BQ www.sixbynico.co.uk/manchester
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