Category: Food

I love my food. I do not share my food.

Review: Potluck Glasgow

The joys of social media mean that Potluck has been on my radar for a while now so when I made brunch plans with a friend this place was top of the list (yes, there is an actual list), and did not disappoint.

Venturing south of the river is always an experience, I know the area reasonably well – my Gran lived in Rutherglen and I spent virtually every weekend of my childhood travelling through to visit – and it’s been great to see the growth of quality establishments in recent years.

Checking the menu the night before (cos I like to torment myself that way) revealed a great selection of glorious sounding brunchy noms. I have to admit, from the photos I’d seen, the hotcake stack was the ‘go to’ dish… although as ever the promise of chorizo on another dish had me swayed… but not for long (hey, the heart wants what the heart wants).

When we arrived, early on a Sunday morning, it was already full but as it was such a beautiful day we sat on one of the benches outside for a pre-brunch coffee and a perusal of the menu. Cue the next 10 minutes of two adults exhibiting pitiful attempts at decision making. The menu isn’t extensive but each option has something that piques your interest making choosing the ‘right’ option all the harder.

I think we had finally managed to decide when we were ushered inside.

First impressions. Bijou is probably how it wants to be described but I’ll just go with small/cosy with a definite Scandinavian influence and a nice relaxed atmosphere. We ended up sharing a table with two other people so be warned if that’s not your thing, but I don’t mind and we got share a knowing ‘ohhh I’m still so full of food’ laugh as we randomly bumped into them again later whilst partaking in a postprandial walk.

Food then. And as I am easily swayed by social media, I couldn’t step away from the pancakes.

I’ve had pancakes before, many times. I like pancakes. I like pancakes with crispy bacon and maple syrup, I like pancakes with honey and ice cream, I like pancakes with sriracha chicken. I like pancakes. Mmmmm pancakes.

I have not had pancakes like these.

To be fair though, they are described as hot cakes so there’s that..

I ordered the Pistachio Peach Hot Cakes, which comes with roast peaches, pistachios, orange blossom honey, pistachio kulfi (Indian ice cream) and pashmak (Iranian candy floss).

The hot cakes are a little smaller but taller than most pancakes and ohhhh my word these beauties are so light and fluffy that the once daunting stack that was set in front of me was easily dispatched, leaving me feeling contentedly full. The kulfi added a nice rich creamyness and the pashmak sweetened things up.

At this point I should confess that the original plan was for my friend and I to order different dishes and swap halfway through. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, that did not happen.

But that just means we’ll need to go back again at some point. OH NO, WHAT A SHAME!

Was it worth a trek over to the south side? Very much so, and even if we hadn’t have failed at our ‘dish swap’ plan I think I’d be heading back here again anyway. The staff were relaxed and friendly, the prices reasonable, and there is nothing lucky about the food which is clearly prepared by a passionate and skilled kitchen.


Other reviews: https://www.theglasgowfoodblog.com/blog/review-pot-luck

Six by Nico: Forest

The sixth menu at Six by Nico would surely have to be an affair to remember, right? Well I’ll admit I was a little underwhelmed by the menu this time around but, having been pleasantly delighted in the past, I still had a little tremor of excitement as we sat in Kelvingrove Cafe prior to the meal.

The menu for our sixth visit (from the website):

  1. CELERIAC PANNACOTTA – Forager Salad / Red Cabbage Gazpacho
  2. SMOKED PHEASANT TERRINE – Rainbow Carrot / Chestnut Crumb / Wild Berry Gel
  3. FORAGED WILD MUSHROOM – Parisienne Gnocchi / Parmesan & Truffle Royale
  4. RAINBOW TROUT – Wild Sorrel / Toasted Hazelnut / Swiss Chard
  5. GROUSE (£5 SUP) OR VENISON HAUNCH – Beetroot Sauerkraut / Burnt Onion Jus / Blackberries
  6. TRIO OF APPLE – Pan Perdu / Cinnamon Chantilly / Brioche Parfait

But first, as always, Snacks!

These weren’t listed when we booked so it was only when we arrived and got to see the menu that we had an idea of what was in store. It turned out to be two perfectly boiled quail eggs which were deep fried in a crumb (parmesan I think), a tiny beetroot meringue with wonderfully sharp goats cheese filling, and the smoothest, richest, earthiest wild mushroom veloute I’ve ever had. Ohh and some sourdough bread and truffle butter.

Some big flavours to get our palettes tingling before the first course arrived.

I’m not a big celeriac fan so was quite glad that the little cube was sitting in a delicious rich red cabbage gazpacho. However, despite having eaten here five times already so I should’ve known better, the pannacotta was wonderfully subtle and gave a rich creaminess to the gazpacho, with a few drops of truffle oil floating on the top making all the difference.

Swiftly after, a point I’ll come back to later, was the smoked pheasant terrine. Telling this was the least favourite dish of the evening for me and my companions. That’s not to say that it was bad, it was well cooked and presented but just seemed to lack any real flavour punch, it was almost as if the lifting of the cloche, released more than just the smoke it was containing.

Having not had gnocchi for a long time I was excited to try the next dish, but obviously the star of the show was the foraged wild mushrooms. Coupled with some parmesan shavings, a parmesan crisp, and a return of the wonder that is the humble truffle, this was an absolute belter of a dish. A mixture of textures and flavours from the different types of mushroom, including a few pickled ones just to give a quick sweet vinegar hit to the tastebuds, coupled with the parisienne gnochi and the parmesan and I’d have happily have eaten this dish twice over.

At this point we had to ask for a little extra time as the plates had been coming out thick and fast. It’s not the first time it’s happened and is probably where you’d expect the restaurant to make some improvements. The food is very high quality but occasionally the service lets things down a little. Of course they were very accommodating but it was good to have 5 mins or so to appreciate the previous dish before the next one arrived.

I’m not quite sure how they cooked the trout – I’d guess at sous vide – but it was delicious. I’d never have thought to pair trout with hazelnut but the toasted hazelnut crumb was a wonderful compliment to the gentle flavours of the trout. I’m not sure the wild sorrel and chard added much to the dish though, but sometimes simple is best and the trout was quite happy to speak for itself.

Grouse or Venison? We all chose venison! And ohhh my heavens what a wonderful plate of flavours, textures and surprises. The venison fillet was cooked to perfection, with a wonderful sear on the soft tender slices that melted in your mouth, and the accompanying beetroot sauerkraut was rich without being overpowering. The burnt onion jus, blackberry reduction, a few bits of blackberry, and some small cubes of beetroot were dusted with a dark cocoa powder and it all came together in a rolling mesh of flavours.

The venison was by far the stand out dish last night for me, although part of me is regretting not taking the grouse option. I’ve tried grouse in the past but I’m pretty sure it would sit well as a replacement for the venison on this plate. Well worth considering.

As ever, with good company and stellar food, time flies and I was, once again, taken aback that we’d reached the last dish of the evening. Trio of apple doesn’t sound all that inspiring but as the plates were presented it was clear this was a lot more than just ‘apple three ways’, turns out it was ‘apple four ways’, with a sharp green apple gel to one side, a couple of apple flowers drenched in a light syrup, some fresh cut red apple slices, and the entire dish sat on a bed of apple puree. Add in the cinnamon chantilly, the brioche parfait, and a wonderful crumb topping and this dish would’ve sat well in the Childhood menu… a very sophisticated, deconstructed, apple crumble! Plates were soon cleared for this one!

And then it was over. The sixth menu of Six by Nico was definitely a hit, with only one dish that didn’t really dazzle, but I’m being very picky as the level of cooking is consistently high across the board. Even the ‘ok’ dishes are of a standard that many other restaurants don’t achieve, which is why we keep going back.

Is this michelin star level food? Perhaps, but I don’t think the restaurant is set up with that in mind, and whilst I think the food could be (if you collated their best dishes into one menu… hint hint Nico!) but the serving style can be a little off beat which is absolutely not an issue for me, but likely falls short of michelin standard. But then that isn’t the point of Six by Nico, it’s always been a relaxed, informal, fun experience that just happens to have amazing food on offer.

Have I mentioned that the set menu is £25 for six courses (and you can swap courses between the main and vegetarian options). Add in £5 for the ‘Snacks’, and £5 for an apertif, chuck a bottle of wine in and for £45-50 a head you are being treated to high end cuisine in a laid back environment. The food quality remains high, as does the execution of each plate. It really is a fine dining experience on a budget.


Addendum

For the last few visits we’ve taken to trying to rank each menu. We were in the midst of this conversation when the bill turned up and our server asked how our meal was. We mentioned we were ‘ranking’ the menu and it turns out that our pick of ‘best’ menu is what most people have said! The Chippie remains everyones favourite.

Six by Nico: Illusion

The fifth menu has arrived and so once again my intrepid friends and I ventured to Finnieston entirely unsure of what we were about to be offered.

Typically the menus that are published don’t really offer that much of a hint of what is in store beyond listing some of the core ingredients, and given the theme of this menu I’ve hardly bothered to do more than glance at what we will be eating.

That menu then:

  1. ‘CHICKEN’ – Lemon Thyme, Szechuan Pepper
  2. ‘PORK FILLET’ – Baba Ganoush, Pomegranate, Yoghurt, Sea Vegetables
  3. ‘TOMATO’ – Black Olive, Goats Cheese Panacotta, Nori Crackers
  4. ‘CULTURED OATS’ – Shellfish Bisque, Pickled Mussels, Pancetta, Celeraic
  5. ‘DUCK’ – Blueberries, Hazelnut, Wild Mushrooms, Cocoa
  6. ‘WHITE CHOCOLATE’ – Passionfruit, Lime Curd, Coconut

But first, as always, Snacks! Piggy Tea, Parmesan Royale, Smoked Ham Hough & Maple Syrup, Sourdough Bread… although this time as we had a Vegetarian friend with us, I shared the Mushroom Tea over a feta and olive tapenade. Holy umami batman, what a wonderfully rich complex set of flavours to kick off the meal. The mushroom flavour was strong but the olives added a subtler bitterness that meant, very quickly, I’d run out of bread from dunking in the deliciousness!

The first dish of the menu came as a cup of tea. A layer of dark toasted sesame seeds atop a wonderfully sticky based of shredded chicken. The kick of the pepper balanced the sweetness of the lemon thyme but the thick layer of sesame seeds really gave it some depth.

On to the ‘PORK FILLET’ dish and this, alongwith the dessert, was the one that really messed with my mind. As promised, the illusion was in the presentation. In front of me was placed a scallop shell, with two scallops… which were actually shaped from succulent cuts of pork. The first mouthful was a real head twister but pretty quickly I was happily enjoying this. A subtle warmth from the Baba Ganoush base played perfectly with the burst of sweetness from the pomegranate.

Now, I’m not a big fan of tomato (the tomato based course on the Route 66 menu was my least favourite for this reason) and again this one fell short on my palate. That said, it would’ve been very easy to presume I was eating steak tartare when the plate was put in front of me, including the wobbly ‘egg’ yolk atop the dish. That said, it was a fresh and light dish, although I think the goats cheese panacotta was a bit too bland, offering little more than a texture.

Porridge then, sorry ‘CULTURED OATS’ and at first glance that’s exactly what we got. A bit of a cheat mind you as the top layer of the dish is exactly that, a light porridge that was hiding a shellfish bisque and an unmentioned red pepper puree base. Ohhh and we got a slice of (prawn) toast as well. For me this missed the mark and whilst each flavour and ingredient was well prepared, it just didn’t really come together. Now, that’s likely because I don’t enjoy (can’t eat) red pepper so that was an instant ‘ugh’ moment, but aside from the pickled mussels (a wonderful revelation!) I can’t say I enjoyed this dish all that much. Ohhh and the prawn toast was far too greasy. I’d be interested to see if they tweak this dish in the coming weeks.

After a couple of ‘not great’ dishes, I was starting to worry. I knew I had a review to write and I’ve got a superlative quota to hit! Thankfully the next course got us back on track. And then some.

Admittedly the ‘DUCK’ dish wasn’t really much of an illusion but frankly, with food this good I was happy with a pretty plate of heavenly flavours. The duck was (I think) smoked and sous-vide to utter melt in the mouth perfection, and the accompanying ‘forest floor’ added to the textures with pickled blueberries being a new, and delightful, revelation. At times like this I find myself wanting to stop time so I can continue to savour the dish in front of me, with each mouthful of the succulent duck an absolute pleasure.

Alas all good things come to an end, and so the ‘WHITE CHOCOLATE’ dessert arrived. But wait, is this half a boiled egg I see before me? Indeed it was, except of course it wasn’t. With a passionfruit gel ‘yolk’ and an absolutely perfectly smooth white chocolate ice cream, on a bed of honeyed strands. Oh my heavens, what a way to finish a meal. The white chocolate was far more subtle than I was expecting so wasn’t as overpoweringly sickly as it can be, instead it had just enough sugar to counteract the sharpness of the passionfruit gel. Silence descended on the table as we all savoured each mouthful.

And then it was all over.

Even with a couple of dishes which didn’t really land well on my palate, I enjoyed this meal immensely. There have been hints of some of these dishes already shown in previous menus and whilst not each course really pushed the illusion theme (I’m sure the duck dish could’ve been more cleverly presented) overall it was another superlative laden effort, rendering myself and my dining companions speechless at times.

Once again I’ll close by pointing out that the set menu is £25 for six courses. It was also good to note that you can swap courses between the main and vegetarian options, which may help if one dish in particularly may trigger an allergy. Add in £5 for the ‘Snacks’, and £5 for an apertif, chuck a bottle of wine in and for £45-50 a head you are being treated to high end cuisine in a laidback environment. The food quality remains high, as does the execution of each plate. It really is a fine dining experience on a budget.

The next question is what will the theme be for the next menu which will be the sixth menu for Six by Nico!

Six by Nico: Route 66

I’ll admit the temptation to start this review with some Americanisms (yeeehaw!) was strong, as this time around, Nico is taking us on a journey along a (fictitious) Route 66, the iconic American highway.

But no, I’ll refrain as I think it’s best to let the food do the talking and whilst it may have been inspired by our American brothers, it’s safe to say that as usual, Six by Nico offers up some interesting twists on some well known dishes.

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Six by Nico : Route 66

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On to the menu and I should point out that the one that was listed on the website (below) differs slightly from the menu you can see in the image above, same basic idea though and I take it as a good sign that they’ve continued to refine and tweak each dish right up until it launched.

  1. CHICAGO – Crisp Tart / Trapanese Pesto / Goats Cheese / Olive Tapenade
  2. GREAT PLAINS – Buffalo Mozzarella / Tomato Essence / Basil Oil
  3. AMERICAN DINER – Chickpea Pancake / Maple Syrup Mayonnaise / Guanciale
  4. TEXAS – 24 Hour Barbecue Brisket / Chilli Bon Bon / Sweetcorn Puree
  5. NEW MEXICO – Sea Bream Taco / Guacamole / Pickled Chilli / Lime
  6. CALIFORNIA – Lemon Tart / Orange Espuma / Red Wine Sorbet

As ever, we ordered the snacks to start and were treated to a tiny peanut butter milkshake, nachos, and a corndog. The corndog was a wonderful little ball of moist, flavour packed nom (seriously, what even is a corndog?) with a daub of spicy ketchup adding a nice edge, the milkshake was tasty but way too small and the nachos were disappointingly basic. It’s the first time I’ve experience that ‘hey I could make that’ moment at this particular establishment.

The first course arrived briskly and marked the first stop on the tour at the mighty Windy City itself. A take on the eponymous deep pan pepperoni pizza, what arrived was very far from what I had when last in Chicago. A few slivers of pepperoni, some rich goats cheese, a subtle pesto and a smear of olive tapenade was an intriguing combination. The crisp tart added a nice crunch, and the small chunks of candied black olive brought some much needed sweetness to the dish, off-setting the tart goats cheese and spice of the pepperoni. And hey, who doesn’t love pizza, right?

The Great Plains awaited next and I’ll happily concede that this was my least favourite dish purely because it heavily features tomatoes (of which I am not a fan). That said it was a very fresh and vibrant dish, with fennel crumb and a delicious dressing lifting what could’ve been a rather predictable mozzarella and tomato dish. A few drops of balsamic reduction helped cut through sweetness and whilst it wasn’t my favourite it certainly wasn’t a bad plate of food, which my companions confirmed.

It’s a long way from Chicago to the Great Plans so I was glad to see an American Diner loom on the horizon and after the first mouthful of succulent pork and chickpea pancake I was even happier. The accompanying celeriac coleslaw and pickled celeriac slices, coupled with some fresh green apple chunks, really helped cut through the dense richness of the marinated pork, and the chickpea pancake had a nice crisp bite on the outside and was a lot lighter on the palate, and stomach, than expected. A smart take on pork and apple, what a great dish.

Now on every road trip, there are a couple of destinations that you really can’t wait to get too, and whilst the journey is the important thing, knowing that next up we would have a plate that consisted of 24 hour barbecue brisket it was with some excitement that, as the plate hit the table, I tucked in. Hoooo mama!! The star of Texas was that slow cooked barbecue beef which had a wonderful chilli sear but was so soft it fell apart with a gentle prod of my knife. Then there was the sweetcorn salsa which, along with the pureed sweetcorn was absolutely delicious and really complimented the richness and deep flavour of the beef. I had no idea sweetcorn could taste that good, a revelation on the tastebuds. And lets not forget the chilli bon bon sitting to one side, a little deep fried ball of chilli that had a nice kick without being overpowering and helped combat the sweetness of the corn, bring a nice balance of texture and flavour to the plate. But the beef, ohhh the beef! I’m always a fan of well prepared and perfectly cooked beef and this was that and then some…

Editors note: I have removed the next couple of paragraphs as they mostly repeat the above sentiments, just in different ways. Short version is he REALLY REALLY enjoyed this dish.

It was a sad heart that I waved goodbye to Texas (or at least the plate as it was taken away) but New Mexico beckoned which meant it was taco time and at Six by Nico that meant a perfectly pan fried piece of sea bream, on a bed of the BEST guacamole I’ve ever tasted, and some kick ass pickled chilli to cut through it all. A sliver or two of taco added a much needed crunch, but despite some robust flavours, the sea bream was the star of the show and definitely held its own.

By this point in the meal I was starting to feel quite full – are the portions a little bigger this time to reflect the American theme? – but we had a long drive ahead from New Mexico to Calfiornia!

And what a reward awaited us. Lemon tart, orange espuma, and a red wine sorbet (with an extra hidden ingredient that I won’t spoil) sounded ok on the menu but OH MY HEAVENS. A perfect flavour combination, lead off by a ridiculously light lemon tart with a lightly bruleed crust, think whipped up lemon curd and you are getting close, and the orange espuma (and hidden ingredient) brought the tart back to earth only for a ridiculously good red wine sorbet to flood your palate with a wonderful berry richness, that in turn was cut through by the lemon tart which was… well you get the picture. I loved this, a lot more than I thought I would and it’s a perfect example of what Six by Nico does; delivering a dish that exceeds your expectations in delightful and delicious ways.

And that’s not a bad way to finish a meal… sorry, road trip… and overall this menu is up there with the other menus we’ve had the joy to savour. If I was ranking them (which I guess I am about to do) it wasn’t quite up there with The Chippie but I’d say Route 66 is easily in third place, or tied for second? It feels a bit mean to rank the menus against each other though as, on their own, they all have some superlative dishes to offer.

As ever, the menu had something for everyone and the standard of cooking is now as expected, very high and very well presented. This is clever, tasty, imaginative food which is never ever a bad thing, and the joy of the fixed menu continues to delight. The service is friendly, relaxed, as is the atmosphere in the restaurant (ohhh and top tunes on the playlist for this one, all the great driving American rock tunes were there) and, and I know I am repeating myself, this is all for £25 for six courses of high quality food (plus drinks and snacks, but still). £25 for food of this quality is ridiculous, so even if you don’t like every dish, it’s still a BARGAIN!

And so, sated and happy, my compadres and I osied off down the highway, ambling along the final stretch of road with no particular place to go. We definitely got our kicks on this Route 66, and I can’t wait to see where Nico will take us next.

You have 5 weeks left to try this menu, so I suggest you saddle up and head to Finnieston!

Review: Brunching at CTR

I’ve eaten at Crossing The Rubicon (CTR) a couple of times now but was delighted to be invited to go for brunch last weekend with a bunch of other awesome people who also like eating brunch (bit of an oxymoron that, only truly awesome people like brunch. Fact.)

After meandering along Great Western Road – CTR is a short stumble from Kelvinbridge underground – I was, despite a caffeine pitstop at Papercup, pretty thirsty so a watermelon and fresh lime mocktail was very welcome and very refreshing. I grabbed a seat and, alongwith everyone else, quickly started to peruse the menu. It’s not limited to just brunch options, and I did swither over some of the dishes I’ve had for lunch in the past (butter chicken OMG) but pretty quickly spotted the words “Sweet Potato Hash” on the menu and everything else just faded away.

Editors note: I am on a major Sweet Potato kick at the moment, mostly for healthy eating purposes, plus NOM.

Food ordered and immediately I got a major dose of the ‘ohhh god, did I pick the right thing’ fear? This wasn’t helped as some of the Breakfast Naans started to arrive which looked awesome but thankfully when my brunch was set in front of me I knew, deep down, that I’d secretly won at brunch. Served in a medium-sized cast iron pan, I had two perfectly fried eggs sitting atop a wonderful sweet potato hash, which was a delicious mix of baked sweet potato, onions, herbs and enough chilli to give it a kick without overwhelming the dish, oh and I also had a couple of extra sausages added … because, sausages.

It was absolutely delicious, like ‘shut up and don’t talk to me’ delicious. No, I’m not THAT rude but it was close… as those sitting next to me will attest as it disappeared pretty quickly. Nom nom nom. Plus I’m guessing it was pretty healthy, given it’s oven baked sweet potato and… err… fried eggs. Ok, so I reckon it’s healthier than a full fry up is what I’m saying.

I also managed to try a little of the breakfast naan, which was really tasty as well, a surprisingly light naan and delicious spicy eggy filling. It’s a monster dish and is now stored away in my list of hangover busters!

And then someone mentioned dessert. I know, brunch dessert, this way madness lies!! It felt wrong, dirty even, to descecrate the wonders of brunch with a dessert!

Except … I glanced at the menu – hey I was being polite – and two words leapt out at me pistachio kulfi… yeah I wasn’t really sure what it was either but I like pistachios, and I didn’t want to appear rude and so I ordered my first ever brunch dessert. What arrived was a frozen sweet wonderous plate of nom. It’s a creamy/condensed milk kinda thing, with some subtle spices and a layer of crushed pistachios and was heavenly! It is VERY sweet but that’s ok with me and hey, brunch dessert is now officially a thing y’all.

And so that was brunch done! I really like CTR, not just for the food which is top notch, but the atmosphere, the (always changing) selection of beers, and the friendly staff, what’s not to like? Plus on one of those days when the bright shiny orb in the sky makes an appearance they have a perfect sun trap out front.

If you haven’t been and enjoy tasty indian food and a fine selection of beverages, get to Crossing The Rubicon!

Six by Nico: Picnic

Our third visit to Six by Nico and this time around the theme was Picnic with a menu that featured sandwiches, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, and strawberries and cream. Ahhhh but fool me twice … by now we know not to expect anything as mundane as an actual sandwich to appear!

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Another great meal at @sixbynico

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The menu then:

  1. PICNIC BASKET – Smoked Mackerel Pate / Sourdough / House Soda
  2. SCOTCH EGG – Falafel / Piccalilli / Watercress
  3. PICNIC BLANKET – Yellowfin Tuna / Tofu / Rose Harissa Yogurt / Herb Crumble
  4. SANDWICH PLATTER – Duck & Cherry / Ham & Salad Cream / Salmon & Cucumber / Coronation Chicken & Raisin / Crowdie & Beetroot
  5. BBQ – Ayrshire Pork Belly / Barbecue Sauce / Coal Oil / ‘Potato Salad’s
  6. STRAWBERRIES & CREAM – Tonka Bean / Balsamic / Black Olive

As always we ordered the Snacks & Bread option to sample the Chicken Caesar Salad Bon Bon, Sweet Potato & Feta Sausage roll, and Tomato Gazpacho with Basil Oil. It’s telling that each time we have tried the Snacks & Bread they have been just as delicious as the main course; the Bon Bon was a succulent and rich garlic laden deep fried ball of delight, the sausage roll was a wonderful balance between the sweetness of the potato and the salty tang from the feta, and the gazpacho was light and fresh.

And then our first course arrived – delivered in a small picnic basket no less – and we were each given a tiny cup to hold freshly made iced tea, and a pot of smoked mackerel pate with accompanying gooseberries. Popping open the tub the escaping smoke set my tastebuds going before the first mouthful and the oily rich pate was perfectly offset by the sharpness of the gooseberries. Off to a great start!!

Next up the scotch egg, a perfectly cooked egg – the centre of the yolk just slightly runny – wrapped in salty falafel was a nice take on the heavy sausage based version you find everywhere else. Served with a pea puree and piccalilli (which I’m not a massive fan of) it was tasty but of all the dishes on offer, my least favourite.

After that the prettiest dish of the evening arrived, squares of tuna, watermelon and tofu gave us our red and white checked picnic blanket. The rose harissa and avocado puree added enough bite and fresh green to make the entire dish a wonderfully light and very moreish combination. Could have happily, and easily, eaten two plates of these.

Fancy a sandwich? Of course there was little in the way of droopy bread abominations on show here, instead we had five separate offerings; fresh thin sliced salmon with shavings of cucumber in a dill gel, ham hough with thin fried bread on a bed of what I can only describe as a grown up salad cream (a hint of vinegar through the rich sauce), spots of crowdie and beetroot puree on a thin slice of sourdough, and my favourite two from the plate; a melt in the mouth duck and deep flavourful cherry puree, and the coronation chicken was a delicious, if subtler, take on the classic (and my perennial favourite) with a raisin puree and slow deep curried sauce.

It was about this point in the meal that I realise I have a stupid big grin on my face, I am excitedly watching my companions finish their plates and we all sit back and argue light-heartedly about which dish was the best on the plate (the duck won I think, but it was a close run thing!).

And now for one item on the menu I was wary of, pork belly. I don’t enjoy eating fatty meats (it’s a texture thing) and have had pork belly in the past and struggled to enjoy it. The flavours are wonderful but those thick layers of fat… shudder.

I should’ve know better though! BBQ was the theme of the plate and we were given a chunk of pork belly that was almost entirely meat, covered in a thick sticky reduced BBQ sauce. The pork was tender and absolutely delicious. It was served on a potato risotto, tiny cubes of par boiled potato and pancetta. A perfect evocation of a summer BBQ and I could happily have eaten two portions (this is becoming a theme!).

And then, all too soon, it was time for dessert. Strawberries and cream, who doesn’t love strawberries and cream! Well at Six by Nico it was a whipped strawberry mouse with tonka bean chantilly cream, a sweetened black olive sauce, and two kinds of meringue (a thin crisp slice and a lighter than air whirl). A wonderful balance of sweetness and texture.

At the end of the meal we were asked how we rated this menu over the previous two and, whilst the Chippie (the first) menu still takes top spot for us, we all agreed that the Picnic was firmly in second. That said, with the bar set so high at every visit, it’s really hard to choose between any of the menus.

Add in the friendly staff, great service, and … and I will keep repeating this in every review… the fact the meal is £25 a head… and the only thing I have to ask is, if you haven’t been yet, WHY NOT?

Six by Nico: Childhood

Six weeks have past, and it’s time for a new menu at Six by Nico!

They announced this menu the same night we visited last time, and after such a stellar start I was keen to get back but a little nervous in case it wasn’t quite up to the same standard. Mind you, it’s tricky to judge a restaurant when they’ve changed their menu, although I’m still not sure if I was being overly critical or more lenient given that the entire premise of Six by Nico is to do just that, regularly change their menu. This is their idea, but would it measure up to our previous visit?

While the menu hints at what was to come, on this second visit I at least knew that it would be the cooking, presentation, and overall execution of what is on offer that would make, or break, the evening.

And yes, this ice cream lover was excited to see TWO ice cream dishes on offer!! (sort of).

  1. ICE CREAM ~ Chicken liver parfait / Spiced pear/ Ginger bread
  2. EGG & SOLDIERS ~ Smoked haddock / Asparagus / Confit yolk
  3. FISH FINGER ~ Sea Trout / Sesame / Avocado / Radish
  4. MAC & CHEESE ~ Summer truffle / Sprouting brocolli / Glazed chicken wing
  5. HAMBURGER ~ Pork cheek / Brioche / Charred gem / Burnt onion jus
  6. VIENNETTA ~ White chocolate parfait / Rhubarb / “Pick n Mix” toppings

Ohhh and it was good, very good on the whole but we all agreed it didn’t quite hit the same heights as the previous visit. I’d still recommend it

As well as the six courses there is also the option for a ‘snack’ starter which obviously we took. It included truffled popcorn, a chicken nugget, and beans on toast. Not a fan of popcorn, and the beans on toast was ok but the start of that plate was the single chicken nugget made from tender chicken thighs (I think) with a lovely spicy tomato sauce. On reflection this set the tone for the meal, it was all tasty enough but I wasn’t WOW’d by some of the courses.

The first course was definitely a hit. Arriving in a thin pastry cone, smooth whipped chicken liver parfait was complimented by a thin smear of spiced pear, just enough to cut through the rich creamy parfait. And then in the first little moment of ‘ohhhh that is clever’ the bottom of the cone has crumbs of ginger bread, instantly transporting me back to those childhood cones when the bottom is nothing but wafer. Clever and delicious.

The next course arrived in a little toy soldier egg cup, with a little spoon attached. A whispy foam flecked with smoked haddock and crumbs of confit yolk was our egg, with accompanying asparagus ‘soldiers’ . The egg was wonderful, each mouthful revealing different flavours and textures, and whilst the asparagus was perfectly cooked, the dish felt a little disjointed. Should we ‘dip’ the asparagus (which was cut into small bite sized pieces) and where did the little side salad fit? Wonderful ingredients, great cooking and presentation but a not quite as ‘fun’ as it purported to be.

Fish finger time! And this, for me, was the stand out dish. Marinated sea trout covered in mixed sesame seeds, on a bed of brown quinoa, with an avocado puree, radish slices and wonderfully sweet pickled onions. The sweet sour combination was perfect, the sea trout was wonderfully fresh, and whilst the quinoa was a little out of place, the entire dish was perfectly executed. Heaven!!

Who doesn’t love Mac and Cheese? I’ll be honest, I enjoy it but it’s never my first choice so I was hoping to be swayed! The Mac and Cheese portion of the dish, two small cubes worth, was delicious and perfectly unctuous and cheesy, the glazed chicken wing pieces were tasty as well, the bbq sauce helping pull the two components together. The broccoli and pea puree helped keep it fresh and light but it didn’t have quite the range of flavours to keep my tastebuds guessing.

It’s just as well the portions are small because next up was a hamburger! Made from pork cheek, topped with cheddar, on a circle of brioche with celeriac coleslaw and charred gem (and a sneaky bit of tomato too!) it looked very tasty, and the hamburger itself certainly hit the mark with the tender, almost pulled, pork cheek that melted in the mouth. Alas the burnt onion jus didn’t really have enough oomph to join the party, and the celeriac coleslaw was… well if they hadn’t told me it was celeriac would I have know? Probably the weakest dish of the night then (but that pork cheek though!).

As a dessert and ice cream fiend, I was excited to see what they did with a Viennetta and I was not disappointed. Definitely an ‘in the spirit of’ style dish, the white chocolate parfait was accompanied by a wonderfully sharp passion fruit foam, a thin slice of meringue textured white chocolate, and a hidden surprise underneath, little chunks of what tasted like the inside of a mint Aero! I think with out the surprise element this may have been a little sweet and cloying but the hit of mint really made it sing.

Overall six great plates of food, and whilst it fell slightly short, it was still worth every penny (and yes we are booked up again for the next menu, which has yet to be announced).

There is something giddily thrilling about dining like this. You don’t get to choose from a menu, so you are never quite sure what will arrive and whilst that can mean that some of the dishes aren’t quite to your own tastes, it is still a wonderful adventure!

Six by Nico: The Chippie

TL;DR – my tweet from last night:

Despite the fact the ‘parent’ restaurant (111 by Nico) was a 2 minute walk from my last flat, I only ate there once but it was a fantastic meal. So when I heard about this new venture, and started reading the reviews, I was desperate to try it out.

The premise is simple enough, as explained on their website:

A NEW RESTAURANT EVERY SIX WEEKS
Six by Nico will be home to a series of carefully curated and constantly evolving restaurant concepts.
Each six weeks, Nico and his team will serve a brand new six-course tasting-menu – each one themed upon a different place or memory.

We were there on Tuesday night, catching the tail end of the first six weeks of the restaurant – “The Chippie: A nostalgic nod to the traditional Fish and chip shop, this restaurant will showcase the ‘Best of British’ flavours for which the UK is famed for worldwide.” – and yes, it includes their take on a deep fried mars bar.

Entering the restaurant (at 9:15pm on a Tuesday night, one of the few mid-week seatings that was still available when I booked) you are warmly greeted and welcomed to a very stylish place. The first thing you’ll notice is the kitchen, open to the restaurant. The decor is dark but not gloomy, refined without feeling like it’s trying too hard. We were sat in the table by the door, right next to the kitchen area. Only downside was the draught from the front door but that’s mostly down to people not knowing how to shut a door properly (although could be ‘fixed’ by installing a taller glass panel at the back of the booth perhaps?). Even the menu and wine list shared the same high quality, muted appeal.

Safe to say the attention to detail was great, all the way down to the old school salt and vinegar condiments on the table, just like you get in a Chippie. Clever touch.

The staff were great. Friendly, relaxed, and clearly well drilled. They knew what they were talking about, explained each of the six dishes as they were presented to us and, always a good sign, they had definitely all tried the food. So, when you are trying to figure out what that extra component in a dish was, they can help tell you it was probably the tuna in the broth…

Anyway, on to the food. As it’s a set taster menu, you don’t really have to do much other than choose your drinks. We didn’t go for the wine pairing (this time), but felt it rude not to also get the Snacks & Bread prior to the first course. And boy did it set the tone for what lay ahead.

I had checked out the full menu beforehand and at first glance I was a little bemused…

  1. Chips & Cheese
  2. Scampi
  3. Steak Pie
  4. Special Fish
  5. Smoked Sausage
  6. Deep Fried Mars Bar

But of course there is a lot more to it than that, what we actually got were six dishes that were excellent prepared, beautifully presented and would grace the finest tables in the land! Specifically (and to be fair, I’m playing fast and loose with the menu here, it’s clearly articulated on their website):

  1. Crisp potato cannelloni with crowdie mousse
  2. Scrabster monkfish cheek, squid ink and herb emulsion
  3. Speyside beef shin, onion choucroute and brioche
  4. Shetland cod with sea vegetable, pickled mussels and taramasalata
  5. Ayrshire pork with black pudding, apple and celeriac
  6. Salted caramel, chocolate nougat, malt parfait

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Heaven on a plate

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Without fail, every dish elicited high praise from our table, usually through a quiet contemplative silence as we all just sat and savoured the fresh flavours and wonderful combinations, knowing nods as each mouthful revealed another contrast of flavour or texture, and cleared plates at every pass.

I’m stopping short of trying to describe each dish, largely because I don’t have the vocabulary but each one displayed the same core thinking. Take ‘know flavours’ and distil them down to their core, then present them in clever ways in dishes that were without fault.

A small example, accompanying the cod dish there were small morsels of crumb which tasted exactly like salt and vinegar batter. As each of us discovered these on the plate we all had the same look of delight on our faces as we were transported back to the chippies of our childhood.

The real kicker to all of this? The one thing I still can’t quite get my head around given the quality of what is on offer? All of this, the staff, the service, the fantastic food… £25 for the taster menu (all in with starters and wine, we were £40 a head), £25! Amazing value.

They announced the new menu for the coming six week stint and by the end of our meal we had already booked to go back in a few weeks. Can’t really give it higher praise than that and, as I said, I’m not sure I have the words to do so.

Fast Food

OK, confession time. I have a go to, super quick meal that I eat about once a month. It’s not the healthiest, but it’s not bad for you*, and it can be ready in a few mins (depending on how long your kettle takes to boil).

Gosh, I feel quite nervous about this, this is one of my darkest held secrets, and I’m about to share it with the world. Please try not to judge me, or at the very least, don’t be nasty about it.

Right, here it goes.

Tuna, Smash, and baked beans (with butter/salt to taste).

It’s perfect if I’ve had a long shitty day and I can’t even be bothered flinging something in the oven, but I know I want something warm and tasty and comforting (which rules out my other occasional dinner substitute, a bowl of cornflakes) then tuna, Smash, and beans is the way to go.

Yes, on the same plate. Yes, as a meal. Don’t mock it unless you’ve tried it, meanies!

And there has been the added bonus in recent years; it’s gotten even quicker to make thanks to Heinz snap pots, 1 minute in the microwave! Perfection.

Now, I can imagine that you are, probably, thinking I’m some kind of crackpot. Based on discussing this with some work colleagues, and the horrified, quizzical looks it brought to their collective faces, I know I’m kinda out on a limb with this one.

BUT, and I’m convinced of this, I know I’m not alone. Well, I might be alone with this particular ‘dish’, but I know damn well that you’ve got some weird concotion hidden away at the back of your mind, ready to be rolled out in times of need.

Do you have a quick go to meal? Is it a bit weird? I’m always looking for more options (how else would I have discovered the lunchtime joy that is a roll with ham, cheese, and banana!) so leave a comment, spill the beans (geddit!), and share your own fast food dish of choice.

* a portion of Smash (100), a tin of tuna (340), and a snap pot of beans (160) = 600 kcal

Review: Blogging the Rubicon

Caesar (yes, that one) instigated a war by crossing the river Rubicon, so when I heard that a new venture had opened, and taken its name from this historic act of war, my interest was piqued. Let’s see what Crossing the Rubicon had to offer.

They had invited around 40 bloggers, of various shades of disrepute, and as with most new venues we were all keen to try the wares and see just how provoking the menu and approach was. The short answer, never judge a bar by its name (as you wouldn’t a book by its cover), but do judge it by the quality of its food (and beverages). The very short answer, good food and beer are served here!

The longer answer then…

With strikingly painted walls, and a more spacious and open feeling than it’s Squid & Whale incarnation, first impressions are good and a little more refined than the aforementioned venture. It has a nice laid-back feel, the staff were all friendly and welcoming, and it feels like the kind of place you could drop in on a Saturday afternoon, end up staying for dinner, then roll home after last orders with ease…. or maybe it’s just me that does that? Given the array of beer on offer, it wouldn’t be for the want of trying, mind you.

On to the evening itself, once we were all in and seated we were told we would be given a sample of a variety of dishes; a few starters, a few of their curries, and a dessert. Add in some of the excellent beers available and my palate was excited to get tucked in.

Starters included a fresh, thin onion pakora, black pudding pakora, veggie haggis pakora, and crispy chicken pakora. Each was good, the chicken edging it by remaining succulent and fresh and far removed from the usual stodgy fare we all know, with the onion pakora a close second and more of an spiced onion gratin, subtle changes that made all the difference to these dishes.

With those all swiftly dispatched – amongst lots of ohhhs and ahhhhs of appreciation – we moved on to the main courses. Described as ‘Indian tapas’ you’d probably order 2 or 3 of the main courses, and some breads/rice to accompany them.

We got to try several of the main dishes including a coconut heavy Sweet Potato and Carrot korma (a firm favourite at our table), a Tarka Dhal which had a nice kick, a Crispy Tofu Mutter and Gobi Khali Mirch which both came with a tomato sauce that was a little on the watery side for my liking, a Dhal Makani which was rich and subtley spiced, a wonderfully smokey Tandoori Butter Chicken, and finally, my least favourite dish of the night, the Venison Madras which was a bit too heavy on the Juniper for my tastebuds (but others enjoyed it, such is the joy of a mixed crowd!).

We also got to sample a few of the wonderful beers on offer; I opted for a flight including an XPIPA (Wylam & Yeastie Boys), a Crossing the Rubicon (Drygate) lager, and a Redact (Williams Bros) red ale, and also got to try the Bombay Dazzler (Bundo Bust & Northern Monk) a subtle cloudy ale, and the wonderfully named Disco Forklift Truck (Drygate) a gentle mango ale, and the Strawberry Beer (Timmermans) which was delicious but I think a half pint would be the limit as it’s quite sweet.

I was pretty full by this point but it felt rude to refuse the offer of dessert… and boy was I glad I said yes! Described as a ‘chocolate pot’ on the menu, that is over simplifying a deliciously rich, dark chocolate dessert, with a hint of orange and a tiny tickle of chilli, which we found out was made with tofu (I’d have sworn heavy cream and butter!).

And with that, the evening drew to a close. I wander home along Great Western Road, nicely sated, with a new ‘place to take friends when they are in town’ venue safely tucked away in my pocket.

If you are in the area, it is well worth a try, the joy of tapas style eating – order too much food just to try things – and some excellent beer choices, all for a reasonable price. What’s not to like?