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Six By Nico Manchester
Address60 Spring Gardens, Manchester, M2 2BQ
Phone0161 832 1815
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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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