Inspired by our most-loved childhood tales, Six by Nico's chef and founder Nico Simeone has created ‘Once Upon a Time’, a new six-course menu with an optional wine pairing for the largest restaurant in his group, situated just moments from Canary Wharf station.
The fairytale element of the evening started immediately with a Mary Poppins themed cocktail; a spoonful of sherbert in a glass with an accompanying bottle for diners to pour in and mix together. Both interactive and very pretty, this set a fun and playful tone for the experience.
These little savoury doughnuts with pate arrived as a snack before the first course, alongside bread and salted butter, as an unexpected treat.
Oliver Twist: Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?
Confit Hasselback Potato, Hay Baked Potato Mousseline, Preserved Wild Garlic & Pickled Onion
The attention to detail in the delivery of this menu is impressive; check out the little printed note under the Hasselback potato. This dish is also very carefully balanced, with a touch of acidity and crispness from the pickled onion and the mellow creaminess of the mousseline, the flavour note of hay really coming through.
Paddington Bear: Marmalade
Sourdough Bruschetta, Ox Cheek Ragu, Mushroom XO Marmalade & Truffle
I was hoping for a little more from this dish. The XO marmalade had a pronounced mushroom flavour but none of the spice or complexity I had expected. The small chunks of meat had a dry texture at odds with the rich ragu base and I'm not sure they added much to the dish. On a practical note, I also found the crispy sourdough bruschetta a little difficult to cut through.
Matilda: Hey Dipface, Have a Carrot!
Whole Baked Tandoori Carrot, Carrot Remoulade, Carrot Top Pesto, Saffron Pickled Carrot, Citrus Goat's Curd
This was much more successful; the carrot was only just cooked and so kept its firmness and freshness of flavour, with the dots of lemon gel an inspired touch. The natural sweetness of carrot was brought out by the creamy remoulade whilst the carrot top pesto was sharp and punchy. This was a delicious showcase for the versatility of a humble and inexpensive ingredient and a no-waste approach to high-end cooking.
Danny, Champion of the World: Let's Go Trout Poaching
Sea Trout, Smoked Bone Veloute & Dill Dressing, Artichoke, Sea Herbs, Bergamot Gel & Salted Cucumber
Beautifully-cooked sea trout topped with caviar and samphire, served with Jerusalem artichokes as both crisps and puree, a zingy bergamot gel to cut through the richness of the veloute, a dill oil and finely diced salted cucumber beneath the fish. Delicate plating and each mouthful slightly different yet harmonious; this was one of my favourite courses.
The Ugly Duckling: The Most Beautiful . . .
Duck Leg Boulangere with Pickled Walnut, Salsify, Pear & Fig
The sliced duck was perfectly pink and juicy, well-rested and tender, served with sticky roasted salsify and an excellent rich jus. Figs have a characteristic texture that is not universally popular but I was a fan, the sweetness balanced by the pickled walnut. I was less keen on the boulangere, maybe a touch under and somehow visually out of place on the plate; I think a crispy version might look more appealing and add a welcome crunch.
I mentioned the high level of care and attention to detail that has clearly gone into developing this menu; this has been extended to the whole dining experience, evidenced here by this rather lovely decanter used for the Ugly Duckling course.
Beauty & the Beast: The Last Rose Petal
Mascarpone Creme, Rose, Hibiscus & Rhubarb, Lemon Chocolate Aero
In a suitably theatrical finish, this dish was presented beneath a smoke-filled glass dome which was then removed with a flourish, allowing the smoke to drift away and reveal the very pretty dessert. The red rose was filled with the lightest mascarpone cream and paired with slightly sharp, hibiscus-scented rhubarb and aerated white chocolate. It is a considered finish to an indulgent meal: not too large or over-sweet but bang on theme and pleasingly dramatic.
A note here about the staff. We were served by the lovely and genuinely enthusiastic Ethan, with help from other members of the team. This menu had only just gone live when we visited and yet every member of the FOH staff knew the ingredients for every dish, with Ethan explaining each of the wine pairings and how they complemented the particular dish.
Unusually for a tasting menu, when we asked if we could swap out one of the dishes for the vegetarian version (owing to my companion's deep and abiding hatred of cucumber, present in the fish course) it was arranged with grace and charm; we were fully prepared for him to have to miss that course. And FYI, the Goldilocks and the Three Bears 'Best Ever Porridge' vegetarian dish, a pecorino and pearl barley porridge with winter truffle and pesto bianco, was so delicious that I was slightly envious.
A tasting menu with a wine pairing is an act of faith; there is something quite freeing and indulgent about not having to choose your food or wine, something like dining with friends where you just turn up and your plate and glass are kept happily full. Of course, this only works if the food and the wine are good, and the atmosphere the right mix of buzzy and relaxed; fortunately, at Six by Nico you are in a very safe pair of hands. How they manage all of this for the price is in itself a sparkling piece of fairytale magic.
Six-course tasting menu: £37.00
Matching wine flight: £33.00
Book here: https://www.sixbynico.co.uk/canary-wharf/once-upon-a-time/
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Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
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