An In-Depth Review of Six by Nico
Liverpool’s cheapest Fine Dining Experience
Recently, I was treated to a meal at Six by Nico. For those who don’t know, this is the chain where fine dining meets affordability. The group is making waves, pulsating down the country from where it began, up in Glasgow. The business model is brilliantly simple: 6 weeks of 6 courses and then a change of theme, all for a very reasonable £30 per head. Additionally, for lucky people like me (whose lovely gf payed for it), there is a wine pairing for the 5 main dishes. If you want the full experience, I really recommend this, as you will see below.
First impressions on arrival was that this restaurant is little smarter than my usual haunts. And this is to be expected, considering I tend to be drawn to places where a main course is less than a tenner. The décor is smart and chic, but not overbearing which creates a nice balance between sophistication and comfort. Going on a Wednesday night, I was expecting it to be busy but not packed. It was more on the packed side, but we got a nice corner table which meant more space and the avoidance of that awful situation when you’re in between two insufferable couples (this is horrible even if you are the third insufferable couple). It was a good start and the waiters were a nice amount of interested – not horribly OTT American-style interested. Anyway, enough about the place, let’s get into the food. Time for a course by course breakdown of all that was great, bad or indifferent, from the theme of the moment: ‘The Alps’.
Amuse Bouche: ‘Raclette Fondue’
To get the taste buds tickling, we started with a ‘Raclette Fondue’ with crispy pig’s head and quince. This sounded intriguing, especially as I absolutely adore cheese fondue and I love when chefs use the whole animal. After it arrived, we got an explanation of what the dish entailed and got ready to tuck in. It was only a small plate and it looked and smelt great. However, it did not ‘wow’ in the way that I had hoped for. I have done a ski season in the French Alps, where I was cooking for a chalet. During this time, I gained a great idea of how Alpine cuisine should be done, and in general, it shouldn’t be overcomplicated. This is where Nico went wrong in my opinion. Rather than a delicious, rich cheesy fondue which you would get in the Alps, this was more of a foamy affair. It was made worse by the bread used to give texture at the bottom, which had gone soggy and gave it a trifle like feel. As someone who isn’t a trifle lover, this was not welcome. On the other hand, there were some great flavours in the dish, and considering its primary purpose is to wake the mouth up, it did do that. The raclette flavour was strong and slightly smoky, and the pigs head was breaded and deep-fried which was delicious and salty. This was nicely balanced by the sweetness of the quince. So, the flavour was there but it didn’t all work as well it might have. It did however get me excited for the next course.
1st Course: ‘Salmon on the Rhine’
For this course, we had ‘Salmon on the Rhine’ with pumpkin, horseradish emulsion and an apple and dill dressing. We were very excited, especially as we had been provided with a fantastic ‘L’ermitage Rosé’ to accompany it. This was a zingy and fresh wine, with plenty of citrus flavours which were a natural pair for the salmon. When the dish came, it looked stunning, with beautifully pink sashimi style salmon pieces taking centre stage. These were accompanied by a crispy rice shard to add that much needed crunch, then a bed of grated pumpkin to create a supportive bed for the salmon. This provided some bite to the plate and a subtle sweetness as well. The apple and dill brought a vibrant and fresh undertone to each mouthful which was much needed because the horseradish emulsion was very rich, resembling a mild wasabi mayonnaise. Here is where the rosé really came into its own. When the salmon and horseradish felt a little too rich or cloying, the wine acted as a pallet cleanser, refreshing the mouth for the full enjoyment of the next bite. Overall, the dish had a lovely balance and the idea of umami really came to mind throughout the course. After the slightly indifferent start, the fresh salmon really set the ball rolling and Nico was now operating at the level I was hoping for – or maybe that was just the wine working its magic!
2nd Course: ‘Tartiflette’
The second course was one that I was really looking forward to. On the menu it bills it as ‘Tartiflette’ with barbequed broccoli, pickled walnut and reblochon cheese. Now for those of you who haven’t had the privilege of trying Tartiflette, it is a kind of potato gratin that is normally oozing with cheese and often bacon as well (what’s not to love?). It is one of my absolute favourite dishes and even better when enjoyed on a ski lunch. Nico sadly had a slightly different idea of what the dish was all about. To me this Tartiflette was too neat and seriously lacking in cheese – it was just grated on top, rather than running through every single potatoey crevice. I was hoping that reblochon would be a main event on this plate, but instead it was the broccoli that took centre stage. Now don’t get me wrong, this was done wonderfully, with a nice hint of smokiness that complimented the potato well. There was even a broccoli purée which was intensely different and delicious. So good that I told Lucy she had to try it on its own. And the walnut was an inspired touch, adding both texture and depth to the dish. Finally, there was a kind of brown sauce to bring everything together, which was good, and added to the BBQ effect, without turning the dish into a winner. Sadly, it just wasn’t delivering the cheesy richness that I so craved. On the bright side, the dish came with another good wine, this time a white called: ‘Mastri Vernacoli Trentino Pinot Blanc’. Another citrussy wine with a fresh earthiness that did work fairly well with the Tartiflette but wasn’t quite the same perfect marriage as the Rosé and salmon. It kept the mouth feeling fresh though and went down nicely with the saltiness of the dish. So, all in all a good plate but not quite keeping up with the amazing salmon.
3rd Course: ‘Risotto du Crozets’
For me, this was the course of the evening: ‘Risotto du Crozets’ with hen of the woods mushrooms, truffle and pesto bianco. Not only was this the most delicious course of the night, but also the most interesting for me. Crozet is a type of pasta that is often used in the Alps to make ‘Croziflette’, which is the same as Tartiflette, but with this pasta replacing the potatoes. Imagine a kind of super mac ‘n’ cheese and you’d be in the right ballpark! The pasta is ball-shaped and pretty small, so using it instead of rice in a risotto actually makes a lot of sense, or at least it does when you try it. Cooked in stock like normal risotto, the crozets took on a delicious rich, earthy flavour, which works so well with the delectable hen of the woods mushrooms. Then, the truffle just added a pungent depth of flavour which could have become overbearing if it weren’t for the sensational pesto. This was salty, feisty and zingy all and the same time. There was not a huge amount of it on the plate, but it managed to compliment and balance the earthy power of the mushrooms incredibly well, making you want bite after bite, after bite. It came with an Austrian red called ‘Zweigelt Organic’ which was lovely and fruity, with enough body to handle the strength of the dish. To me it had dark fruits running through it, which complimented the flavours nicely and added some vibrancy and colour to the food. It was a triumph of a course! As one could tell by the fact that both Lucy and I more or less licked our plates clean and then had to refrain ourselves from stealing some from the diners on the next table – apparently that doesn’t go down too well!
Main Course: ‘Chicken & Pork Farcon’
The main event was a ‘Chicken & Pork Farcon’ with hispi cabbage, sauerkraut ketchup and meat sauce. The farcon is a kind of crispy potato parcel which is a great base for any dish, and the pork worked well with it. Then there was a piece of chicken on the side which had a lovely crispy skin but was a slightly random addition in my view. Perhaps I wouldn’t have thought this if it weren’t slightly dry, which didn’t help the dish much. However, the farcon itself was lovely, with bacon wrapped around the edge to give that salty deliciousness that only bacon can give. This was where the wine came in handy. For this course we got a glass of ‘Barbera Ceppi Storici’, which was a deliciously rich and fruity Italian wine. It also had smoky notes which tied in well with the dish and it was punchy enough to lift the whole flavour. This was balanced well by the fresh crunchiness of the cabbage and further smoky flavours coming from the deep-fried shallots – a great addition for any plate! Finally, there was the ketchup and the gravy (or jus if we’re being fancy). The ketchup was rich but tart which allowed it to add flavour without overwhelming other elements, but the gravy was not such a triumph. As Greg Wallace might say, ‘it should be meaty and well-reduced, with great depth’ (for Wallace fans, I hope you can hear his emphasis on ‘great’). However, this sauce wasn’t all that, it was lacking body and meatiness and there wasn’t enough of it to impact the dish. Although this might just be the impact of me being in the North for so long; once upon a time, I was happy with limited quantities of gravy! So, a good dish, with great potential, but it did not all come together as well as it might have. Basically, the risotto took first place for the night!
I am not really a sweet kinda guy, but that didn’t stop me from being impressed by the look of the ‘Snowballs’ of coconut & pistachio parfait with passionfruit caramel and chargrilled pineapple. It was a great looking plate, with an elegant simplicity to it. Plus, the glass of ‘Domaine De Grange Neuve Monbazillac’ was enough to make Lucy super smiley, even if it became a bit too sweet for me. It had lovely notes of melon which would have been great, but I became overwhelmed with sweet pudding and sweet wine – others would definitely love it though! Back to the food, the parfait had a lovely shell which provided bite and the pistachio gave good texture as well. Then the middle was lovely, soft and coconutty, like everyone’s least favourite Celebration. The other elements were excellent. The passionfruit caramel was amazing, and really lived up to its name. The caramel element came second to the uplifting fruitiness and it combined brilliantly with the smoky, crunchiness of the pineapple. As someone who tends to dislike cooked fruit, I will be excluding pineapple from that rule! All in all, this was a good pudding, as puddings go, and left the mouth feeling vibrant, clean and satisfied.
Six by Nico provides a great experience and brilliant culinary ideas, without always delivering on the execution of all the dishes. Whilst I enjoyed every moment that I spent there; I cannot say that I was delighted by every course. The risotto and the salmon were the two that I will be telling everyone about, and there are elements of other dishes which were fabulous and exciting, but little blips on other courses let them down. However, this does not mean that I would not recommend the restaurant to others, because it is so great to get a full tasting menu for a reasonable amount of money. I loved being able to try so many different things and this format of eating is brilliant for pushing people outside their comfort zone. For example, so many people would be put off ordering something with ‘pigs head’ from an a la carte menu, but here, you get what you are given, so you try it anyway. Then, lo and behold, it turns out you love it! And even if you don’t love it, you have experienced something new, which I think is always a good thing. Also, the wine pairings were a great addition and added further to the sense of luxuriousness and thought which exudes from Nico.
So, go and try it, so you can have your say! And let me know what you think. Perhaps I have been a little too harsh in some areas? Perhaps other dishes were better prepared on other nights? Perhaps I have overly romanticised memories of Alpine food? Or perhaps you agree with me and think that the overall experience is great, but you can find better food elsewhere in Liverpool?
I know this has been a long one, so thank you very much for those of you who made it through! Please comment with any feedback and follow my Instagram which is linked below. This way, you can be the first to know when new flogs are on the horizon and hopefully see pictures of the amazing food that I get to eat!
Yours in food,