A trip to ancient Rome for a fantastic feast

Ever since I was a little boy, I was fascinated by the Romans.

I’ve always loved the myths, the culture, the people and the history of Rome – indeed, I recall wearing a toga (or an old bed sheet) to primary school when we had a Roman feast at the conclusion of our project on the period.

Something we learn was that food was central to social life throughout human history, and it was, of course, widely known that the Romans appreciated good food.

The team from Six by Nico have been unearthing ancient recipes to create a historically-adapted menu that brings their gastronomical creations to life in the 21st century – and there’s not a peeled grape or olive to be had!

Inspired by Roman traditions and interpreted through modern delicacies, their new Ancient Rome menu pays homage to the origins of foods we are familiar with and even enjoy today, but with the familiar twist from Chef Nico.

The presentation was, as ever, first class, with plenty of thought having gone into it. The menu was presented, rolled up, like a scroll from Roman times, complete with a beautiful gold-coloured embossing, which gave a touch of class.

My companion and I – the notoriously fussy junior diner – enjoyed a started for freshly baked spelt bread, olive tapenade and extra virgin olive oil, with an artichoke fritti and anchovy emulsion. I’m always a sucker for bread to dip in olive oil, with a little bit of balsamic vinegar, so this was a delightly start (the bread was presented in a little cloth pouch, a great touch). The artichoke fritti was full of flavour, with some wonderful charring allowing for a feel of fresh from an ancient frying pan. Top notch.

The immersive six course menu began with Course I – Cacio e Pepe – Crispy Pasta, Black Pepper and Parmesan Royale. Neither of us had sampled the delights of crispy pasta before – achived, we were informed, by lightly frying it – which complemented the parmesan. This was, effectively, a twist on pasta with a cheese sauce, and it absolutely worked. The junior diner was delighted with hers and her plate was soon clear.

Course II (all in Roman numerals – a neat touch again) was White Asparagus, Crispy Duck Egg, Hazelnut & Brown Butter. Or, if you prefer, it was a rather nice take on a Scotch egg. I love these, so this course was a fabulous little starter – the duck egg has such a different flavour from the standard chicken’s variety, and went beautifully with the brown butter, adorned with the crushed nuts. The asparagus was a lovely flavour contrast the rich yolk, and was devoured at speed.

When it came to Course III – Roasted Hispi Cabbage, Cavatelli Pasta, Pickled Chanterelle Mushrooms, Truffle Foam andecorino Sardo, this was the course I was most intrigued by beforehand. There was a clash of textures throughout, with the cabbaga providing a crunch, the mushrooms a soft option, the pasta was slightly on the al dente side, and the foam was so light. I think, of all the courses on offer, this was the one that lasted the least amount of time, as the flavours were so rich and decadent, and I devoured with glee.

Course IV – Pompeii featured Sole, Smoked Mussel, Lovage, White Turnip and Mussel Cream and was the one the junior diner had most been anticipating, as a lover of seafood, and she was not disappointed. The sole and mussels were gone very, very quickly – beautifully cooked, and the sole crumbled perfectly when jabbed with a fork. The white turnip was a pleasant surprise, and the lovage and mussel cream were a perfect accompaniment.

Our penultimate feed, Course V, featured Belly of Pork Fillet, Turned Rib, Cured Meat, Fennel and Toasted Fennel Seed, Date and Apple Compote, and Braised Fennel. Having three different pieces of pork on the plate was a brilliant idea, as we were able to appreciate and savour the different cuts, textures and flavours. The junior diner was delighted with the rib – she’d never had it before without barbeque sauce and was so impressed that she asked for more at home, minus sauce! – and disappeared quickly. The date and apple compote was wonderfully sweet – a pleasant change from apple sauce.

All good things must come to an end, and it did with Course VI -Honey Parfait, Ricotta Cheese Mousse, Preserved Quince, Fizzy Muscat Grape, Pear & Citrus, Honey Tuile. The junior diner is not a cheese fan, but was impressed by the mousse, but her favourite was the parfait – full of flavour, and with a lovely soft crunch. We were both especially impressed by the fizzy muscat grape – a very clever touch, and rounded off a first class dining experience.

Diners can book a table now for Ancient Rome at Six by Nico restaurants.

Open from midday, Tuesday through Sunday in Glasgow Finnieston and Edinburgh City Centre and Thursday – Sunday at Glasgow Southside, each six-course menu will be available from noon to night.

The Ancient Rome menu is priced at £32 per person with the option to enjoy an expertly selected wine and specialist drinks pairing for an additional £27 at each restaurant. As ever, there is a vegetarian alternative available for every course, as well as snack sides available from £8.

To make a reservation and to book now, visit www.sixbynico.co.uk

Ancient Rome will run until Sunday 24 April.