As a child, the circus became a source of trauma for me, after a clown hit me over the head, repeatedly, with a newspaper.
As a result, some forty years later, I still turn the other way as soon as I see that a circus is on its way, and ensure that I avoid it like the plague.
Thankfully, The Circus is in town at a venue that I am more than familiar with, as it’s the theme for the newly reopened Six by Nico, at locations across the UK. I dined at the restaurant in Glasgow, at 1132 Argyle Street, and what a joy it was to once again be able to eat out.
The restaurant was buzzing with happy diners, able to enjoy food with a difference, with the relaxation of lockdown rules.
For the uninitiated, Six by Nico is concept dining from Chef Nico Simeone, where, every six weeks, there is a new menu of six courses, all centred around a theme. Previous themes have included New York, Paris and The Chippie, all of which put a clever twist on each course.
Inspired by memories of the The Circus, chef Nico Simeone and his team have created a bit of a showstopper with their new menu. After the past 12 months, when there’s been days when it’s been hard to find something to smile about, this new menu definitely brings something to grin about (clowns not included).
On arriving, my companion and I were seated – with staff all wearing Covid compliant masks and observing the rules to the letter of the law – and to set the circus theme in place, we were hander a ticket (a scratchcard with prizes on offer – we didn’t win), as well as a miniature popcorn holder, complete with fantastic salt and vinegar flavoured popcorn.
The new tasting menu begins with Waffles & Ice Cream, which is something of an illusion, as it promises the eyes that it’s going to be a sweet, but it’s not.
What appears to be a strawberry ice cream swirl is in fact a chicken liver parfait, which is wonderfully light and fluffy, accompanied by some sweet compressed peach, and rounded off with a potato crisp on the side, in a waffle cut. Given this was the first time I had eaten out in more than four months, I was in heaven – the parfait is so light that it’s almost mousse-like, and I wanted more.
As someone who adores a burger, I was especially looking forward to the second course, Candy Butchers, which was a beef tartare, topped with burger sauce, aged parmesan and pickled cucumber. This was adorned by a slice of pickled swede to give the impression of a piece of Swiss cheese.
I think the last time I had eaten a tartare was en route to Las Vegas in 2000, and here is a delicious combination that captures the feel and taste of a normal hamburger, with a deliciously decadent twist. The cucumber gives a good change of texture, and the use of burger sauce is a masterstroke, as it brings everything together, in a friendly, recognisable variant on the eternal favourite.
The Illusionist more than lived up to its name, as it was presented within a scallop shell, which in turn had been placed on a bed of stones, giving the appearance of seafood. And it definitely took me in. Here, we had chicken ballotine (think of a chicken sausage, in the form of a pig in a blanket, being wrapped in bacon), with crushed artichoke, brown shrimp, and a caper and raisin puree.
The ballotine is presented as a scallop, so was a pleasant surprise when I cut into it, and its avian origin was revealed. The accompaniment was delicious, as the puree was perfect to offset the saltiness of the bacon.
There was no escaping a seafood course, though, with the next offering, the wittily named A-Crab-atics, which features a piece of sole, smoked tomato compote, bergamot gel, with a crab tortellini, drizzled in a fabulous bisque.
For some reason, I have never been one to take red-coloured sauces with my fish (I blame James Bond, in saying that red wines with fish betray the signs of someone who is not a gentleman), but this was a delicious combination that was over too quickly. I left the tortellini until the end, having kept a little of the bisque for it, and it was worth the wait. The pasta was just the right side of al dente, as I prefer it soft, and this was a treat for the mouth. The crab is wonderfully fresh, and tastes of the sea.
Appropriately, the next course was named The Greatest Show, which brought forth a smoked breast of duck, wild garlic, black truffle emulsion and duck leg ragout. The emulsion was a beautiful clear smell that rose above the rest, giving the platter an extravagant feel.
The duck itself was a delightful thin cut, but both my companion and I felt that it could perhaps have done with another minute of cooking time, as it was perhaps a little too underdone for us both (I prefer my meat well done, my companion enjoys medium rare). However, that is a minor issue, especially as the ragout, complete with whipped cream, more than made up for any disappointment.
And so, we came to the final act, as we appropriately enough came to the dessert, know as The Grand Finale. I was really looking forward to this one as someone who would count peanut butter and rhubarb as in his favourite flavours.
I have a notoriously sweet tooth, so the peanut butter parfait, rhubarb compote and blood orange topped with candy floss was going to have to do something spectacularly wrong for me not to enjoy it. Thankfully, it more than met my high expectations. The candy floss dissolved to nothing in seconds, and the rhubarb flavour was that perfect sweet-sour taste that I have loved since my parents grew it in our garden. The parfait cracked perfectly and didn’t last long. I ended up scraping my bowl to get as much of the flavour off as possible – yes, it’s THAT good.
There is an alternative vegetarian menu available with a take on the same six courses of Waffles & Ice Cream – Goats Cheese Mousse, Compressed Peach, Potato Crisp; Candy Butchers – Beetroot Tartare, Burger Sauce, Aged Parmesan, Pickled Cucumber; The Illusionist – Herb Gnocchi, Samphire, Crushed Artichoke, Caper & Raisin Puree; A-Crab-atics – Sole, Smoked Tomato Compote, Bergamot Gel, Crab Tortellini & Bisque; The Greatest Show – Smoked Cep Mushroom, Black Truffle Emulsion, Crisp King Oyster, Wild Garlic and The Grand Finale – Peanut Butter parfait, Rhubarb Compote, Blood Orange, Candy Floss.
It’s a great menu, and I look forward to seeing how Nico will (big) top this one next time around.
Six by Nico is open from midday, Monday through to Sunday, each six-course menu will be available from noon to late. The menu will be priced from £32* per person with the option to enjoy an expertly selected wine pairing for an additional £26 at each restaurant. *London pricing is £37 per person and £33 for wine pairing.
The Circus will run until Sunday 6 June at Six by Nico Glasgow Finnieston, Glasgow Southside and Edinburgh City Centre. At Six by Nico Manchester, Six by Nico Liverpool and Six by Nico London, Circus will run from Monday 17 May – Sunday 27 June. Six by Nico Belfast opening dates are yet to be announced.
Step right up to make a reservation at www.sixbynico.co.uk