04 January 2021

At Six by Nico, a Festive Dinner in Six Parts

Before Christmas and when restaurants were still open in London, I was able to get a table at the London location of Six by Nico. Nico Simeone's small family of restaurants are currently located in six UK cities (the original was in Glasgow) and specialise in themed, six-course tasting menus priced at an extremely reasonable £35. The restaurants are currently closed but will hopefully be back again soon when restrictions ease with another exciting theme.

I'd wanted to experience Six by Nico's New York-themed menu, but couldn't get a reservation. The most recent incarnation was the Christmas-centric Miracle on Charlotte Street and although my Scroogey nature means I'm not a huge fan of Christmas food, I figured that Six by Nico's characteristically playful takes on classic dishes and menu items would be right up my street.

My booking was for a Friday lunchtime, a few days before the newly instated tier-3 restrictions in London shut restaurants down again. The restaurant, located on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, has a large, modern dining room with quite a New Yorky ambiance. All of the wait staff were very friendly and welcoming.

Six by Nico only offers set menus, but there is a veggie menu too and you can substitute veggie courses for a meat courses, and vice-versa, if you prefer, and if there's a particular ingredient you don't like or can't eat, you can ask for a substitution. You can also opt for a paired wine menu, but I went for the festive aperitif instead: the Gin-gle Bells cocktail, with gin, rosemary and ginger syrup, Prosecco and a candied cranberry garnish. It tasted great, wasn't too heavy for lunchtime and looked suitably Christmassy too.

The first course, Memories of a Christmas Market, came in a small, ceramic cup containing sausage and onion, onion and crispy potato topped with a smoked sausage foam. It was creamy and comforting — a very good start. Next up was the Partridge in a Pear Tree, which cleverly combined the partridge (in a sort of black pudding format) with nashi pear, pumpkin and a game consommé. A beech smoke leaf-shaped biscuit completed the concept.

I only asked for one substitution, which was to the Who Hates Brussels Sprouts? dish — ironically because although I don't hate Brussels sprouts, I do hate mushrooms, which featured prominently. The chef instead beefed up the Brussels sprouts component, with sprouts tops, layered over ewe's cheese royale, confit egg yolk and fermented black garlic. It was attractively plated, and tasted really good — sprouts, Jim, but not as we know them.

A tasting menu wouldn't be complete without a wee dose of theatre, and despite the dish's unadventurous name, the Smoked Salmon Blinis certainly delivered. The server presented what I initially thought was an opaque white cloche, but once the lid was lifted, I realised that this salmon was smoked in more ways than one: the smoke that filled the cloche rose, revealing the salmon, Jerusalem artichoke, baby kale tops, smoked caviar and buckwheat blini foam that lay beneath. This was my favourite dish: each element prepared was delicious, and the flavours combining very well.

Bob Cratchit's Three-Bird Roast was the final main course and was probably the most Christmassy. There was duck breast, turkey roulade and chicken liver parfait, accompanied by turnip, an impossibly light, crisp potato soufflé and fig and wine preserve. By this point, I was getting rather full: each dish is small but six courses is still quite a lot for a lunchtime. Nonetheless, I found room for dessert, the Bûche de Noël, constructed with dulce de leche mousse, sour cherry, caramelised hazelnut and an Aero-like garnish. It's the kind of pudding I love — not too heavy on either fruit or chocolate — and a satisfying end to a great meal.

After experiencing two high-end tasting menus at Clove Club and Olive Tree during the past two months, I was interested to see how a more affordable version would compare. And overall, I was very impressed with my first experience at Six by Nico. The food was very good, and I enjoyed the creativity and playfulness of the menu. The service was excellent too, with friendly, enthusiastic wait staff who were efficient despite the busyness. The regularly changing themes are also conducive to repeat visits, so I look forward to returning when there's a new theme and when the restaurant is open again. Oh, and if you're looking for a post-meal coffee, you're spoiled for choice, but the lovely Kafi Cafe is about two minutes' walk.

Six by Nico. 41 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 1RR (Tube: Goodge Street). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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