You can’t accuse Nico Simeone of inactivity – his Six By Nico concept is ever-expanding with restaurants in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Belfast and his original 111 eatery is constantly evolving its menu.
The one slight blip in the success story was the short-lived Public House by Nico at the lower end of Great Western Road in Glasgow’s bohemian West End.
For whatever reason, Public House wasn’t working well enough for its owner, so earlier this summer, Nico reinvented it as The Hebridean, a cosy gastropub showcasing the finest ingredients from Scotland’s Western isles.
First impressions are very encouraging, the restaurant really stands out against the surrounding sandstone buildings with its pristine white exterior.
Inside the decor manages to be both contemporary and traditional, with exposed brickwork, dark wood and chintzy tartan. Staff greeted us warmly and we were shown to a very comfortable booth by the window which gave us a great view of what looked like a very grand wedding taking place across the road.
I hope they enjoyed the food at their reception as much as we enjoyed ours.
On the face of it the Hebridean’s menu is typical gastropub fayre with pate, smoked salmon, haggis and soup among the familiar starters. Mains include pies of many variations, fish and chips, burger and fries and the now ubiquitous flat iron steak. However, this being a Nico establishment, we’re not talking Wetherspoons here.
I opted for the monkfish scampi with curried mayo to start, and they certainly didn’t stint on the portion size with half a dozen beautifully cooked crisp, golden morsels of loveliness. My only quibble was that the curried mayo needed a bit more kick.
My dining companions opted for the mussels, haggis neeps and tatties and the undoubted star of the show, the black pudding and pigs head terrine which, as well as tasting sublime was a visual treat straight from the Six By Nico playbook. Some of that attention to detail could have gone into the haggis dish which looked a bit slapdash on the plate, but tasted divine.
The attentive staff were great at keeping our glasses topped up and extremely knowledgeable about the provenance of both the food and the selection of craft beers. I highly recommend the Isle of Skye Craft lager – very moreish.
Our mains duly arrived, my lamb rump was a perfectly pink delight and the sheep’s curd added a lovely acidic note that cut through the sweetness of both the lamb and the carrots. The addition of gnocchi instead of potatoes kept the dish surprisingly light. It just needed a bit more of the lamb jus to elevate it to the exceptional.
My wife opted for the flat iron steak, which was again perfectly cooked. She also pronounced the chips ‘the best she had ever tasted’. Our two friends opted for the chicken and ham pie with mushroom and tarragon – and that’s what they got.
A pie that Desperate Dan would have struggled to finish. It’s just as well it was big as there was no veg served with it at all. Notwithstanding that slight disappointment the pie was a stunner, with huge chunks of meat and a fragrant sauce with just a hint of tarragon.
Only three of us opted for deserts – although the person who declared himself too full did manage to make quite a dent in my cheese board to such an extent that extra oatcakes were needed.
Nico’s take on crannachan was a triumph with tart sorbet balanced beautifully by sweet and succulent honey ice cream. The creme brûlée wasn’t such a success however. It did have the prerequisite crunch on top, but the consistency was a little too loose.
Overall, we had a tremendous, relaxing time at the Hebridean. The food is very, very good with just enough innovation to elevate these classic dishes to another level.
Price wise, the four of us spent about £190, but that included a couple of bottles of wine and four beers. Definitely money well spent.