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Six By Nico Manchester
Address60 Spring Gardens, Manchester, M2 2BQ
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The Circus - Preview
Restaurants Of Manchester (Wednesday 19th May 2021)

Six By Nico - The Circus Six By Nico - The Circus
Six by Nico - The Circus Menu Six by Nico - Popcorn
A week into hospitality reopening for indoor dining, it already feels like ages since DIY food boxes were the norm.  Based on quality and value, some personal favourites during lockdown were from Home X; the box off-shoot from Nico Simeone aka Six by Nico, if you're talking about actual restaurants.    So with the restrictions lifted on us going to dining rooms, we were invited down to sample 'The Circus', and based on our enjoyment of the box versions we couldn’t wait to get back into a proper dining room. 

For those who've not been to Nico's before, the format is simple; a set 6 course menu with a vegetarian option also available, , all on a rotating theme.  These vary from menu to menu and include themes such as trips abroad, childhood memories and favourite dishes.  On this occasion Nico has chosen to wow customers with 'The Circus'; a menu packed full of trickery, fun, surprise and entertainment. You can opt to pair you meal with an additional snack and aperitif along with the option of carefully selected and sometimes surprising matched wines.
Six By Nico - The Circus Six By Nico - The Circus
Six by Nico - Corn Dogs Six by Nico - Cirque Du SideCar
We of course opted to start things of with the snack course, as who can resist a freshly fried 'Corn Dogs'.  Pretty, squeezy bottle swooshes of mustard and ketchup looked great, atop of the crispy corn batter which hid the first surprise of the night not a standard sausage but a juicy flavourful combination of pork and prawn.  A twist on the USA icon and a fun way to start the meal. 

The first of our six set course menu was ‘Waffles & Ice Cream’ which was 'Soft Serve' chicken liver parfait, waffle cut potato chips and compressed peaches presented as an ‘ice cream sundae’ complete with ice cream tub.
Six By Nico - The Circus Six By Nico - The Circus
Six by Nico - Waffles & Ice CreamThe Circus Six by Nico - Candy Butchers
Next up was 'Candy Butchers'; a clever spin on steak tartare, reimagined via burger driven flavours.  Think beef, cheese, burger sauce and lovely dill pickle, garnished with Microplaned Parmesan and a super thin slice of Turnip which gave the appearance of Swiss cheese.  Tasty, simple, and clever.  My personal favourite course!

'The Illusionist' was a bit of a Blumenthal nod with culinary ‘trickery.Plated in a scallop shell, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a shellfish course. In fact this playful dish will present you with ballotine slices of bacon wrapped chicken, pan seared perfectly to look like, well, little scallops complete with caramelised edges and seafood themed garnishes in the form of brown shrimp, caper and raisin puree with some samphire for that extra flavour of the sea.
Six By Nico - The Circus Six By Nico - The Circus
Six by Nico - The Illusionist Six by Nico - A-Crab-Atics
'A-Crab-Atics' vaulted onto our table next, and was probably my least favourite course.  The fish was overly soft, with a far too plentiful serving of the tomato puree over powering the delicate sole. The pasta filling was really good though, and the bouillabaisse inspired bisque hit the mark too.

Bringing some performance and drama to the table, 'The Greatest Show' arrived in a smoke filled cloche, lifted with sleight of hand to reveal the goods.  Slices of duck breast, fragrant truffle emulsion and some super seasonal wild garlic.  Served with a pot of duck ragout, topped with some espuma'ed (is that a word?) potato on the side. Personally I’d of preferred the duck to have been rendered a little more but still a great dish with bags of fun and the dish which created the highest level of excitement throughout the restaurant.
Six By Nico - The Circus Six By Nico - The Circus
Six by Nico - The Greatest Show Six by Nico - The Grand Finale
Now any show's success usually hinges on the impact of its conclusion, and 'The Grand Finale' was no exception. Chilled peanut butter parfait, cleverly moulded into monkey nuts with blood orange and lightly poached rhubarb, peanut brittle and    topped off with the quintessential circus snack and favourite of children everywhere; candy floss. Fun presentation with all the flavours of the circus, this dessert deserved an encore.

So in summary; clever cooking with tons of improvisation, entertainment, trickery and theatre, stacking up to that promised circus experience, at that always-amazing price point.   'The Circus' is another winner from Nico's.

'The Circus' runs until Sunday June 27th, priced at £32 for the six course menu with matching wines for £27 which is a class act in anyone's book.
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Home-X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue
Restaurants Of Manchester (Sunday 4th April 2021)

Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box
Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Instructions Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Menu
If you're reading this then you've probably already done a few at home meal kits over the last 12 months right?  They've become the only alternative for proper eating out, and will without question continue to become a regular occurrence in tons of households across the nation, ours included.  Because let's face it, if you can’t go to London, Glasgow, Nottingham or Edinburgh, then why not bring them to you? 

Now a stable of meals kits which we've gladly paid our own money for on several occasions during the pandemic are from Home X; driven by Nico Simeone of Six by Nico fame.  The Home-X brand has various offerings to suit all tastes and occasions, and they will continue long after dining rooms reopen.  We generally find them to be good quality, well put together, super easy to finish off, and above all else, simply amazing value for money.  The cheese box, vegan box and Hebrides themed boxes all went down a storm in our dining room, so when were given the opportunity to get hold of a comped press box to showcase their new Roast By The Loveable Rogue boxes, we jumped at said opportunity.  The name of said box is derived from The Loveable Rogue gastropub in Glasgow's West End, who've hooked up with Home-X for this new venture, bringing you a faithful representation of the roast dinners served by the popular Glasgow venue.

DPD knocked on the door early on Saturday morning.  Anthony, with whom we are on first name terms with after the last 12 months, presented our lovely box.  As always the packaging is really well designed, with everything being laid flat to give its contents a fighting chance of surviving the 200 mile trip in one piece.  Thankfully they did on this occasion.  That's sadly not always the case in cube shaped boxes stuffed with wool packs, as per most food box deliveries.  Something which was instantly and obviously neglected when compared to other Home X boxes, was a bottle of wine.  Even just a cheap £4.95 RRP Malbec would have rounded the box off nicely, and completed the roast experience, in line with the rest of the portfolio.
Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box
Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Starter Boxed Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Starter Prepared
Into the kitchen we go and the prep guidance was clear enough, but then aside from cooking the joint of beef it was broadly just a case of reheating the sides, so you don’t need to worry about being a MasterChef contestant. 

The velouté starter came in a pouch which just needed reheating in a sauce pan, and then topping with the provided croutons, diced apple and curry oil garnishes.  The 'soup' itself was velvety smooth with a real depth of flavour, and the croutons added some textural variety, although they were a bit clunky in size.  A great way to start though, with minimal effort.
Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box
Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Main Boxed Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Main Prepared
Onto the main, and it was again a doddle to finish off.  Colour the quality wedge of Speyside beef sirloin in a screaming frying pan, and then roast in the oven on 180c until its cooked to your liking.  Stick the sides in the oven for not very long mid-way through the beef's roasting process, and also cook the Yorkshires.  Take the beef out to rest for 15 mins or so when it's done, whilst everything else is finishing up.  Right at the end, reheat your gravy.  If you only have a single oven, then cook your Yorkshires before anything else as you can’t open the oven whilst their magic is being worked.  Then just flick them through the oven again for 90 seconds right at the end whilst you're plating up.  Super simple. 

We feel the need to give a shout out to the semi-DIY Yorkshire pudding prep, which was a great touch and felt much better than the puddings being sent to you entirely pre-made.  You get 4 pudding tins and a vac pack of Yorkie batter for you to cook yourself from scratch.  If you own a proper muffin tin though, we'd suggest using that instead of the provided ones as they carry more heat/give a crispier pud.  Also there was enough batter for 6 Yorkies, rather than the 4 tins provided.
Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box
Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Beef Close Up Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Sides Close Up
The beef was great quality and a roasting joint of that quality/weight (620g) would cost you at least £15 alone in a good butchers.  It was blushing, juicy, and super beefy, with rich fat being the real giveaway of its quality.  More of that great Home-X value and produce quality on show. 

Veg sides were cauli cheese, carrots, broccoli, a perfectly seasoned vegetable ecrase, or crushed veg as we call it around here, and the all-important roasties finished the spread.  Roast spud wise though, 4 tiny spuds between 2 people isn't a portion in our house, or many others up north, I suspect.
Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box Home X - Roast By The Loveable Rogue Box
Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Dessert Boxed Roast By The Loveable Rogue - Dessert Prepared
Pudding was a Pear and Vanilla Custard Trifle, served in a glass pot for ease of plating, and layered up to perfection.  The deeper you dug, the more goodies ended up on your spoon.  A simple, no prep, tasty end to the best dinner of the week. 

So, Roast is another string in the bow for Home-X, which after trying pretty much all of them now, are without question one of the best home kits for those who like minimal prep.  The only real improvement which I’d make to Roast is the addition of a bottle of wine though, even a half bottle, just to being the contents and value in line with the rest of the boxes on offer.  Once you've had a few boxes which all come with wine you come to expect it for the others, after all.

Roast is £65 for beef and £55 for chicken, including delivery on a Saturday.

Home-X - Green Haus
Restaurants Of Manchester (Friday 22nd January 2021)

Home X - Green Haus Menu Box Home X - Green Haus Menu Box
Green Haus from Home-X - Boxed Kit Green Haus from Home-X - Plated Dishes
Throughout the Pandemic we have ordered kits every month, and due to deciding to go Vegan this January we ordered the Green Haus Box from Home-X.  It fitted with our ethos of true veganism, by showcasing vegetables, grains and pulses rather than heavily processed and manufactured meat substitutes. 

The ordering process and communications from Home-X were faultless.  One big plus of the Home-X ordering system is that you can order you box in advance for a day that suits you, rather than having to wait for the box to be released a week in advance early on a Friday morning.
Home X - Green Haus Menu Box Home X - Green Haus Menu Box
Green Haus from Home-X - Korean Gochujang Carrots Green Haus from Home-X - Levantine Muhammara
The packing is well thought out and designed to ensure the product arrives in good condition, every item has its own secure compartment, so as long as your delivery driver is careful (which ours was) then your food will arrive in the same condition as it left the prep kitchen. 

The well produced ‘cookbook’ and numbering system on the packaging made it very easy to work out what was needed and how to finish each dish.  Having 4 hot and 4 cold dishes means easy preparation before serving and a reduction in the number of pans needed.
Home X - Green Haus Menu Box Home X - Green Haus Menu Box
Green Haus from Home-X - Chipotle Five Bean Estofado Green Haus from Home-X - Cantonese Vegetable Ho Fun
For us a down side of the box is the lack of actual cooking needed and it’s very much a heat and go box, so not necessarily a bad thing unless you enjoy the cooking as much as the eating as we do. 

Again because we like cooking and plating, we did find the lack of garnishes (as photographed) for each dish a little disappointing.  It would have been a nice touch for things like the spring of coriander, sliced lemons and nasturtium leaves to have been included.  We used what we had in our kitchen to recreate things as close as we could.
Home X - Green Haus Menu Box Home X - Green Haus Menu Box
Green Haus from Home-X - Goan Xacuti Masala Green Haus from Home-X - Salted Crispy Tofu
The food tasted fresh and bright with every dish having a unique flavour with no obvious repetition of ingredients.  The potatoes in the Goan Xacuti Masala even though sliced thinly did still feel a little raw, this may have been intentional to avoid them breaking up in transit and reheating, but it did slightly spoil our enjoyment of the dish.  The salted crispy tofu is possibly the best rendition of tofu we have eaten, but in all honesty we’re still not tofu converts! 

Overall this box is very good value for money and definitely worth a try; 8 dishes with wine and delivery for £55 is hard to beat.  It would make a great gift for your vegan friends’ birthday dinner or as a great starting point to explore more proper plant based dishes!
Home X - Green Haus Menu Box Home X - Green Haus Menu Box
Green Haus from Home-X - Pumpkin & Ornage Cake Green Haus from Home-X - Menu

Six By Nico Reviews
Restaurants Of Manchester (Friday 19th July 2019)
Six By Nico - The Chippie

Key: 5 stars = World Class!   4 stars = FANTASTIC   3 stars = GOOD   2 stars = OK   1 star = Poor

Decor & Ambience World Class
Occupied at the top of King St, in a spot where most of the buildings have a bit of a wow factor, housed in the ex Roc & Rye space; it was always going to be smart inside.   Considering that the fit out only started a little over a month ago, the transformation is astounding.   Decor feels a bit eclectic, with no consistent theme throughout, but then the Nico dining model is one of variety and no set theme in itself.  Still, it's a handsome room for sure.  The open kitchen dominates the dining room, with the pass/plating stations covering literally half the length of the area.  Ideal for those who love to watch Chefs grafting away, or who just don’t like their other half's company very much.  Slick indeed..
Tables are packed in pretty tightly to maximise those covers, and it's more than snug no matter where you sit.  There's also a clear intention of tables turning over every 2 hours.  Our circa 7pm sit down slot ended at circa 9pm, and whilst we weren't ushered out into the night, you could feel the next wave arriving and hence you knew it was time to get the bill and scoot.  Crucially, this removed any real timeslot of post-meal reflective conversation that comes with in most mid-range places, where your table is yours for the night, or half of it. Not a third of it.
Six By Nico - The Chippie
'The Chippie' - Snacks
Price World Class
Getting straight to the nitty gritty, it's 6 tasting size courses for £29.  Frankly, for food and a general package of this level, its brilliant value.  The matching wines were also a steal at £26 for 5 glasses which add up to around a bottle in volume, with undeniable quality.  For two, with added snacks, water and aperitif cocktails, we paid £125.  Barring special offers that are often littered about, it's possibly the best value mid-range dining experience in the city, in all honesty.
Whilst not a negative towards the value in itself; the aforementioned crammed in dining room is no doubt influenced by this value for money offering.  The whole business model, at these prices, must surely hinge on filling those 3 evening timeslots as tightly as possible. High cover numbers with low margins per cover, seems to be the financial model here.  Personally, I'd rather pay more and feel less packed in and conveyor belt like when eating out at the mid-range, but each to their own.
Six By Nico - The Chippie
'The Chippie' - Chips and Cheese
Service World Class
From the second you enter, it's warm, friendly, charming, and well run, with bags of both Celtic and French charm via our hosts on the evening.  Due to the aforementioned triple service per evening, service needs to be well run, tip top, and done with precision in terms of pace. You simply can't have people hanging on 20 minutes for a course in this format, and front of house does a great job in guiding the pace of your meal to fit the bill.
Not much to be honest.  Our water was served at room temperature so we asked for some ice to work around this.   And all our wine glasses were fresh out of the dish washer too, which impacted the wine itself, especially the whites.  Again, this is probably another downside of having so many covers in at once, when most of them need a fresh glass with every course.
Six By Nico - The Chippie
'The Chippie' - Scampi
Food & Drink World Class
As per the Nico concept, the menu comes with a theme, in this case 'The Chippie', so is bound to be familiar to any Manc.  Interestingly, another theme in the portfolio is Childhood, a food theme which resonates massively with me.  Whether we like it or not, our tastes and preferences along with go to comfort food dishes, are formed in childhood. This stays with us forever, regardless of how our palates change over the years as they become more seasoned.  Interestingly, 'The Chippie' menu for me also ticked a lot of my childhood food memories, so we evidently spent too much time down the chip shop when I was a kid.  Anyway, 6 courses is a lot to detail, so bear with me. 

The optional snack course Manchester Egg was decent, served as a half, topped with 2 nasturtium leaves, paired with lovely bread and some currently-trendy chicken butter.  The black pudding was rich and tasted made in-house, which is very brave in these parts.

The first proper course, 'Chips and Cheese', was a nice light way to start, for a chippie themed dish at least.  Espuma-gunned Crowdie cheese sauce, topped with a deep fried, crumbed, potato canelloni, all garnished with cheese shards.  A nice mix of richness and crunch.

'Scampi', was actually breaded monkfish cheek with gribiche, which is basically a spin on tartare sauce with a less runny consistency.  Some freshness was brought to the party via a lovely pea emulsion and some good old fashioned mushy peas.
Six By Nico - The Chippie
'The Chippie' - Steak Pie
'Steak Pie' was a slow braised ox cheek, which fell apart like a charm, with a rich braising liquor sauce and an umami laden mushroom duxelle, garnished with bursts of burnt onion ketchup.  It was also a welcome break from having anything crumbed and deep fried on the plate too, chippie themed or not.

'Fish Supper' was next off the pass, and was easily our dish of the evening.  Perfectly flaky and semi-translucent pan fried cod, some fresh and lively confit fennel, a salty pop from samphire, beer pickled mussels, and brandade.  A winning plate, full of texture with perfect acid balance, great flavours, colours and temperatures.  I wanted more of it, which is exactly how you should feel after any tasting sized dish.

'Smoked Sausage' was the last of the savoury plates.  A clever potato string encasing a quality sausage, with a hit of pork belly, salt baked celeriac with freshly sliced apple, which the uber-rich plate badly needed.

'Deep Fried Mars Bar', which was a playful rendition of the Glaswegian chippie icon that singlehandedly introduced Scotland's general food reputation to a massive wrecking ball, despite the fact that some of the world's very best produce comes from north of the border.  I'm not even slightly ashamed to admit that I've had a few deep fried Mars bars, and there's nothing refined about them. Just crispy batter, housing a melted Mars bar.  Abysmal in so many ways, but just as nice as it is naughty if you leave your food snobbery at the front door.  Nico's version was safely on another level in terms of refinement.  The dish centered around a lovely, smooth as silk caramel mouse, which was garnished with chocolate shards and some fittingly deep fried nuggets, along with orange sorbet on the side as a token nod to lightness.  Very sweet across the board, but fitted the brief and indeed the inspiration.

So on reflection; simple, tasty, and straight to the point is the gameplan here in terms of the food.
Six By Nico - The Chippie
'The Chippie' - Fish Supper
So generally solid food, but; I'd serve the Manchester Egg cold personally, with stronger pickle on the egg to pair with that rich black pud, and a more runny yolk would be nice too. 

The cheese foam on the Chips and Cheese lacked the super lightness of that at the press lunch, as if the canister was coming to an end and a bit short on CO2. 

The monkfish cheek on 'Scampi' was heavily overcooked and quite over seasoned too, and the gribiche lacked acidic punch. 

The 'Steak Pie' course felt lacking in some form of pastry, even just a pastry tuile garnish to tie things in to being, well, a pie.  'Steak Stew' felt more apt as a name, based on the components. 

The potato string on 'Smoked Sausage' was badly overcooked and quite bitter, with the whole dish feeling very heavy for the last savoury course too. 

Also, wine glasses were very ropey in quality, being very clanky and heavy, which married the enjoyment of the wines a bit.  A few minor points, which over 6/7 courses, actually reads much worse than it ate. 
Six By Nico - The Chippie
'The Chippie' - Smoked Sausage
Overall World Class

We heard a few whispers shortly before it became public that something decent was happening in the old Roc and Rye unit.  But since the news of Nico opening in town was publicised only a few weeks ago, the PR train has gone into overdrive.  All the stops were taken out within internal marketing departments and local PR/publicity firms, and hence Nico's, as it's already known, has quickly become the place to book into as briskly as possible. In short, the speed at which they got up and running has been astounding.  We were invited to the press launch a few days prior to this review taking place, and it's safe to say that standards were generally upped slightly since then.  Professional rule of thumb dictates that you don’t review places at press/soft launches, for several reasons.  Mainly, because you're there as test pilots whilst staff are bedding in, so it's not a proper service.  2, you're there for PR reasons and to be generally positive, not to 'review' as such.  And 3; you're not paying and were invited in, so how can it be a proper review, really?  And so after feeling suitably happy at said press launch, popping back a few days later to get an accurate picture of actual service was a must do.

The format of having a brand new 6 course menu every 6 weeks, is very clever indeed, especially at these prices.  And why wouldn’t you go back in 6 weeks' time to spend another £29 per head?  It's great value.  When talking to an associate in Edinburgh about Nico's just after launch was announced, she said 'We go every 6 weeks, its brilliant value, a bit quirky, and great fun'.  After experiencing it myself, she's spot on.  I personally can't wait for the Childhood menu.  One of my strongest food memories from as a child is stopping off in Dumfries whilst on the way to our holiday elsewhere in Scotland. Every year, weather permitting, we would sit on a bench facing the River Nith after a visit to the chip shop. I'd always order battered haggis and chips, and looked forward to it for weeks before, leaving my Mum wondering why I enjoyed it so much.  I can still smell it, I can still hear the river, and see the flaking paint on the railings adjacent to the river bank.  Food memories are a very emotionally strong thing indeed.  Fingers crossed that Nico's pending Childhood menu will contain some deep fried haggis, although I'm not so sure that many people associate it with their earlier years, even north of the border.

We have high hopes for Nico's flourishing to be honest, despite the tough market climate at present.  The price point is bang on, making it accessible for most pockets, the glamour level and location is just right for the city, and the food is also something which I'm sure will resonate with the majority of customers.  Serving tasting menus in Manchester has always proven to be a risky thing due to local mindsets, but it makes sense here.  
Just the slightly conveyor belt like service and its related downsides, plus a few minor cooking quibbles too, which at a fiver a course, don’t matter too much anyway! 
Six By Nico - The Chippie
'The Chippie' - 'Deep Fried Mars Bar

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