Six By Nico Manchester, 60 Spring Gardens, Manchester, M2 2BQ – Visit Now
Six By Nico have updated their tasting menu, something they do every six weeks – hence the ‘six’ in the name, which also refers to the number of courses. This time it’s Mexican, and as such involves a little less deep-fried nuggets than the inaugural chippy menu (see below for full review), but is no less exciting. The flavours are bigger, bolder and a fair bit spicier than last time, and if anything, serve to show off the inventive ideas from the kitchen staff. Here are some photos from the press preview, but as ever, the real pleasure comes in the eating. And at a mere £30 – for a six course tasting menu! – it’s absolutely worth it. In fact, it’d be worth it at twice the price, but don’t tell Nico that.
Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone is something of a local legend north of the border. Raised in Glasgow by Italian parents, Nico has chosen Manchester as the location for his first English restaurant, to go alongside those in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast. The concept is there in the name – it’s a six-course tasting menu, that reboots every six weeks.
I initially thought a chippy-themed menu might be something of a gimmick but it’s clearly not
The venue is great, elegant without feeling stuffy and packed with staff who know every last detail about every last dish. The theme for the first six weeks is ‘chippie tea’, six dishes based on what you’d find in a traditional fish and chip shop. But there’s a lot more going on here than a mere battered sausage.
Before we look at the food, it’s worth praising the price. The tasting menu is a mere £29 per person, which is by far the lowest in Manchester, and likely the North-West as a whole. It’s ideal for those tempted by the thought of tasting menus but unwilling to remortgage their home to do.
The 3 am punters at Leo’s Fish Bar wouldn’t know what to do with themselves
First, ‘chips & cheese’. A classic post-clubbing meal, but here it’s decidedly more refined. It’s a small circle of melted parmesan and curry oil, with a wonderfully crunchy salt & vinegar potato croquette plonked in the middle. It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into the making of these courses – I initially thought a chippy-themed menu might be something of a gimmick but it’s clearly not.
Then scampi, except it isn’t scampi, it’s monkfish cheeks (of course it is), with a few blobs of pea emulsion, some herb butter sauce and gribiche (a fancy tartare sauce). It’s not enormously different from the opening course, with a similar deep-fried breadcrumb, but the sauces are the most exciting elements here. Three different sauces to dip your scampi in? The 3 am punters at Leo’s Fish Bar wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.
You’ll swoon at the rich meaty aromas coming from the steak pie, much like the Bisto kids if they were trustafarians from Alderley Edge
Things go up a few notches with the ‘steak pie’. You can hear the entire restaurant swoon at the rich meaty aromas coming from this darkly beautiful plate, much like the Bisto kids if they were trustafarians from Alderley Edge. It’s an artfully-arranged plate of beef shin that flakes apart wonderfully, plus burnt onion ketchup, mushroom duxelles, all kept together with a nicely potent red wine reduction. The incredible smell of this plate is worth the £29 alone.
Next it’s the extremely pretty ‘fish supper’, which is in no way done justice by the name. All bright whites and golden browns, it’s a small piece of deep-fried cod (if there’s anything to criticise, it’s the reliance on deep-fried breadcrumbed dishes, but then again, it’s based on chippy dishes so it’s hard to avoid), beer pickled mussels, mixed through with confit fennel and samphire. It’s gloriously light after the steak pie course, with veering too far away from the concept.
Then it’s back to meat with the ‘smoked sausage’, but you’ve never eaten sausage like this. A vertical tower of crispy-on-the-outside pork belly, brilliantly teamed with caramelised apple and black pudding, plus some salt-baked celeriac for good measure. It’s a hearty end to the savoury courses.
Then finally, what else but the ‘deep-fried Mars bar’. Sidenote: I tried a real one of these once, and as much as I love gross cheap snacks, even my Wigan-bred palate couldn’t stomach a full one. This is very different. Another deep-fried element, but with a lighter, thinner batter containing a swirl of chocolate and caramel, with orange sorbet on the side to lighten things, scattered with cocoa nib.
After being apprehensive about the theme, I’m a full convert. The courses are up there with those at The French or Restaurant MCR, but with a vastly more entertaining back story, and for under £30 per person, the price compares incredibly well to pretty much any decent restaurant in the city. Welcome to Manchester, Six By Nico, we’re already huge fans.