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Scotland’s Six by Nico makes it to London.
One of those restaurants with a reputation that goes before it, Six by Nico is a popular concept, born north of the border. With the original restaurant from Nico Simeone in his home city of Glasgow, there are now sister restaurants in Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester and Liverpool. It’s an idea that’s hard to knock – take a fine dining style of eating, a tasting menu, make it fun and memorable and then offer it at an affordable price. In swanky Fitzrovia, next door to Roka (now reopened) and almost opposite Michelin starred Pied a Terre (at the time of writing still closed), we were intrigued and thrilled to be invited along to review one of London’s most recent openings.
The exterior and interior of the restaurant fit perfectly with the neighbourhood. A scattering of tables for al-fresco dining on Charlotte Street and a charming bistro-style interior. It could have been there for years.
We arrive early enough at lunchtime to grab an outdoor table, perfect for watching the world go by and sheltered by an awning that will offset the occasional summer shower. Menus arrive and we’re offered an aperitif. This experience is called ‘The Chippie’ and our aperitif is a ‘Seaside 75’ – a play on a French 75 cocktail with Earl Grey, lemon, prosecco and a little fish fork coated in samphire and sherbert. You stir your drink and it froths up in the kind of way that reminds me of one of those childhood treats – a glass of Cresta. Of course, the taste is far more sophisticated. But if you are anything like me, you’ll still be channelling sherbert lemon with a whiff of the seaside.
Snacks arrive – sourdough with shellfish butter for me and with seaweed butter for my companion who has a shellfish allergy. My butter, whipped with sepia to a foreboding black, is saline and tangy. Her’s is a gentler mouthful. It’s proper sourdough too, with its own fermented tang.
Two tiny filo cannelloni are delicious and the perfect accompaniment to our aperitif. Mine with taramasalata, lemon gel and keta caviar, my companion’s lighter version from the veggie menu with crème fraîche, lemon and dill. It’s worth noting that both the aperitif and the snacks are extras – but at £7.50 and £5 respectively, it would be hard not to justify the treats!
The first course was labelled ‘Chips and Cheese’. It’s a dish I remember well, from the reports of a young friend who went to Uni up north. The kind of fortification against a Scottish winter that all students need in the form of chip shop chips topped with grated cheddar and served with a good dollop of curry sauce. The poshed up and gentrified version, with a goats cheese espuma, curry oil, a salt and vinegar potato croquettes and homemade brown sauce had all the elements, polished and exquisitely balanced to make a dish that triggers a memory in the tastiest possible way.
Next up scampi. Made with Scrabster monkfish from the very tip of Scotland, this not only had the requisite ‘chippie’ sentiment but was a delicious dish in its own right. I now know I need to learn how to make Beurre Blanc…I was scraping the plate clean.
This was served with the first of our wine pairings, Casa de Vila Nova Vinho Verde from Portugal, a fresh, acidic mouthful which made a great summer wine.
Steak Pie came with a mushroom duxelles, what was described as a ‘meaty salsa’, and delicious burnt onion ketchup. fine slices of mushroom were dusted with cep powder and the whole thing was finished off with a little mustard seed butter.
I loved the paired wine, El Porvenir de Cafayate, Amuata Malbec, which was fruity and full-bodied with notes of tobacco and mushrooms. Another one where I’d have happily enjoyed the whole bottle. But, paired wines are special – and we were both impressed by the pairings, especially as my companion can’t drink red wine and so every red was substituted for her with something equally appropriate.
Our fourth course was ‘Fish Supper’ with a beautiful fresh Shetland cod, pickled mussels, confit fennel that was so delicate and finely sliced, samphire and a beer emulsion. Garnished with a little fresh fennel and topped with the best ever fish scraps (for those not familiar, these are the little bits of leftover fried beer batter a good chippie will give you free with your chips). With this dish a glass of Boutinot La Fleur Solitaire, a barrel aged Cotes du Rhone Blanc which is made by blending Grenache Blanc with Viognier and then pairs of Roussane/Marsanne and Bourboulenc/Clairette to add freshness. A lovely soft, light white wine.
Smoked sausage arrived ‘smoking’. A trio of pork mouthfuls with apple, black pudding, salt-baked celeriac and choucroute, this was served with a Pinot Noir from Hanewald Schwerdt, Spatburgunder, Germany which was lighter and full of deep berry notes with an oaky smoke finish.
Finally, the iconic deep-fried Mars bar, another Scottish chip shop special (yes, they really do batter and deep fry the chocolate bars up north). Our plateful included a whole range of sweet treats to accompany the morsel of Mars bar – chocolate pavé, blood orange sorbet, honeycomb and cocoa nibs. An excellent finish to a great meal.
I loved the whole theatre of dining – it’s something I have missed. Though I really do enjoy cooking, eating out is a luxury – and this kind of tasting menu which tells a story with every dish is my favourite type of experience. What makes Six by Nico unique is that the pricing is set so that it’s an affordable luxury. The basic six-course menu is £35, matched wines £33. And, even if you add the special aperitif (which you should), you’ll be paying £7.50 for a sparkling wine cocktail that is fun, delicious and the perfect introduction to a meal. I loved the story – having grown up by the seaside to a half Scottish family, every element was recognisable.
If you are looking for a special dining out experience, with food that is faultless and impeccable service. If you like the concept of a tasting menu that tells a story. If you enjoy a slightly tongue in cheek view of the world, you’ll love Six by Nico. Go!
Six by Nico London is open with The Chippie Menu for £35 per person with an optional £33 wine pairing. Vegetarian alternatives are also available. To make a reservation visit Six by Nico London website.
Six by Nico
41 Charlotte St,
London W1T 1RR
We dined as guests of Six by Nico.
Looking for something different in Fitzrovia? Roka Charlotte Street serves excellent Japanese food and has reopened. Or just around the corner, 1947 London is an excellent Indian restaurant worth checking out.