Girdy & Birdy had been hearing about the buzz surrounding Six by Nico for some time now, and were excited to try out the Cooking ‘Sicily’ menu!
From the website: “Our 6-course tasting menu invites you to discover new flavours and favourites, satiating food novices and connoisseurs alike.”
Birdy: I’d been aware of Six by Nico for some time now, and so when we were planning the Girdy & Birdy hitlist, this was a no-brainer for me. Luckily, Girdy agreed! For a bit of background, Six by Nico famously comes out with a new six-course tasting menu every six weeks, inspired by a theme, destination or concept.
It’s an interesting format, and requires the minds at Six to be forever on their toes and coming up with new, creative menus with a fast turnaround! Despite that, they’re famed for pairing incredible flavours and foods, so I for one was very excited!
Girdy: I often walk past Six by Nico so knew the name when Birdy mentioned it. I agreed to go, booked and was surprised and pleased to see how busy their schedule was.
Over the following few weeks, whenever I mentioned Six by Nico to anyone they had heard of the restaurant and made suitably impressed noises. Birdy, as ever, had made me look more in-the-know than I actually am!
However, I dislike snobby places and I’ll admit I had a degree of concern – just a seed – beginning to glisten.
Birdy: I don’t know if it’s partially because I came in biased, but the vibe felt ‘premium’ from the minute we walked in (although, the space for waiting to be seated is very minimal!).
The decor is perfect – big fan of the rust-coloured walls and teal combination, lovely floor detailing and wood panelling. I didn’t get sat in a corner – in fact, the very opposite – but I won’t hold that against them! (Note to Girdy: request corner seating where possible!)
As expected (considering how popular Six is), the restaurant was busy – but this didn’t take away from the vibe, and I immediately felt at ease as we told our server it was our first time, and the menu was explained.
Girdy: I had remembered it was Six by Nico that morning and Google’d to see if there was a dress code. There was! Six by Nico are clear; dress to your comfort. The dress code is no dress code. My dark seed of posh-concern receded to a mere pin prick.
The waiting area shoebox by the door was busy but friendly, excited couples ahead of us and that’s always nice to see so I didn’t mind. We got seated quickly at what I thought was a good table.
Birdy reminded me she prefers corners. I think she was a sharp-shooting sheriff from a troubled Frontier town in a past life.
I relaxed. No more dark seeds. The place wasn’t posh at all, and a scan around the busy area revealed to me grey-haired couples and trendy young groups of friends, probably pairs of couples. I didn’t spot any likely first dates.
Because Six by Nico is quite a taste journey, this one’s formatted a little differently, with Girdy & Birdy talking you through (and helping each other out with describing) each course on their plates!
The snack: Cacio E Pepe Arancini
Black Pepper & Parmesan Arancini, Egg Yolk Jam, Toasted Focaccia, Olive Oil & Aged Balsamic
Birdy: I love a classic toasted focaccia, olive oil & balsamic! I wasn’t sure about the arancini (because I didn’t know what it was) so I initially suggested I go for the focaccia and Girdy have the arancini. But when it came out, it seemed better to just share both snacks 50/50 – and I was so happy we did! This was delicious. A great way to start.
Girdy: Checking to see if there was a dress code and revealed to me Six by Nico was a tasting menu. Ha-ah! Hence the name. Unsure about volume but erring towards filling up, I agreed to share a starter.
Arancini and focaccia was delicious but I could have eaten a whole starter to myself in a blink of an eye and I started to worry about whether I’d leave the restaurant still hungry.
Birdy: My bad. We should have just ordered our own ‘snacks’. I’m still glad we chose to share a snack at all full stop (and was worried about you feeling as full as required if we didn’t) – although, does this mean we actually had seven courses at Six by Nico?
Course 1: Anolini Ragu
Pecorino & Truffle Espuma
Birdy: When this first came out, I’ve got to admit it didn’t look the most visually appetising, as all we could see was the espuma (or ‘foam’) on the top. But underneath, the ragu and pasta was visible, and it turned out to be a very tasty dish.
Girdy: You get what you get for any tasting menu (I’ve only done a few, and they’ve all worked like that), although Six by Nico has a veggie option you can sub in at any time.
I don’t think I’d ever have ordered foamy goop, but it wasn’t hard to persuade me to try the pecorino and truffle espuma when it came. It was a delight to find the meaty treat underneath the espuma. I have a feeling this review is the one and only time I’ll use the word espuma.
Birdy: My first bite was a tad messier, but my tastebuds were also won round!
Course 2: Spaghetti Al Nero Di Seppia
Squid Ink Spaghetti, Smoked Mussels & Shellfish Bisque
Birdy: This was delicious, from the very distinct taste of the squid ink spaghetti, to the perfectly paired smoked mussels, and shellfish bisque that really brought it all together. Yum!
Girdy: The meaty surprise this time was the squid ink spaghetti, but perhaps that speaks poorly of my taste buds and ability to match tastes with foods. I did have a few mouthfuls, then worried about squid ethics, then a few more mouthfuls before I remembered it was octopodes I wanted to avoid eating.
Phew! I happily chowed down on the fish pasta course.
Birdy: Just like actual squid, though, I did find this dish slippery! I’m one of those people who gets self-conscious eating spaghetti in public places, and getting it to stay on my fork whilst also getting a least-awkward way to eat it was a challenge! In the end, I just had to abandon the perfectionist in me and enjoy myself.
Girdy: If the “point” of a taster menu is to find food you’ve not tried before then did two exotic opening courses make sense? Would I ever get this chance again? Well, I might. Besides, perhaps the “point” of this menu was to get a taste of Sicily. I suspect you could fill the Strait of Messina with squid ink spaghetti, and I’d have a go at eating it all. Perhaps that’s what happened to Skylla.
Course 3: Agnello Siciliano
Barbecue Lamb Flank, Sicilian Caponata, Aubergine Ketchup, Preserved Lemon
Birdy: I enjoyed this course, and thought the lamb paired well with the caponata and aubergine ketchup. The lamb was lovely and tender. I had less of the lemon, as I’m not a huge lemon fan (more on that later!).
Girdy: Would I ever get the chance to have aubergine ketchup again? I doubt it but I know I’m a fan!
“Cooked to perfection” is how I’d describe the lamb flank I thought it went well with the lemon. An odd mix? Perhaps but I’d argue the same could be said for the first three courses and perhaps the point!
Course 4: Branzino
Sea Bass, Trapanese Pesto, Courgette & Basil Dressing
Birdy: I didn’t really know what to expect with this one, as I would never ordinarily choose sea bass from a menu – however, with the pesto, courgette and basil dressing, it was perfection, and I became a really big fan of this dish! The sea bass was nicely seasoned, too.
Girdy: The sea bass was light and lovely. I’m not great with seafood, rarely finger fight with shells and so leap with a splash at the chance to enjoy some simple fish as delightfully prepared as this was.
The courgette was great too; tasty and carefully dressed with basil. I thought the solid courgette was a bold contrast with the lightness of sea bass. My thoughts about whether Six by Nico were largely putting contrasting foods together to be provocative came to a head during course four.
Birdy and I had just come back from Lindsey Mendick’s Sh*tfaced out at Jupiter Artland, and there one nightclub scene of carefully sculpted models had reminded me of a Warhammer battle. Was Six by Nico doing the same here but with food? Rounds of battles to please the food gods?
I liked both but was not sure if the forces of the courgette were a good match for the skirmishers of the fish.
Birdy: Yep, totally disagree! I thought this pairing was one of the strongest, but at no point throughout the evening did I experience the flavours fighting each other. More like a warm (often passionate) embrace!
Course 5: Filetto Di Maiale
Pork Fillet, Salsiccia, Pickled Fennel, Orange Emulsion & NDuja
Girdy: Defeated! There is no Warhammer Chaos in Six by Nico as this course was nothing but harmonious delight!
Birdy: I think this was my absolute favourite, followed by the sea bass. I found this course absolutely delicious, with all the flavours coming together to form an absolute delight. I was a big fan of the pickled fennel as one of the more prominent flavours.
Girdy: The pork fillet was tender enough to melt, the fennel a reason to get up and raid other people’s tables and the N’duja completely changing my mind (for the better) on N’duja.
I had a new concern as I finished course five. Actually, it was an original course concern come back again as we were getting to the end of the meal and my poorly calibrated internal systems told me that I was still hungry.
Course 6: Sicilian Limone
Sour Lemon Curd, Hazelnut Ice Cream, Lemon Verbena, Whipped Ricotta
Birdy: This was the course I was least looking forward to, as I’m not generally a fan of lemon in desserts/sweet things. Sometimes it’s okay in cooking, depending on what it is. However, I didn’t hate this! It wasn’t an overpowering lemon flavour, and the hazelnut ice cream and the meringue and whipped ricotta helped tone it down a bit, too.
Girdy: The Sicilian limone was my favourite course of the night. Yes, I have a sweet tooth, but a lot was riding on dessert as I was still hungry. It would have been easy to have gone skimpy on dessert, but Six by Nico did me proud.
The curd, ice cream, verbena and ricotta were a treat together and expertly overlapped in taste and texture.
Birdy: Our servers were all really friendly and helpful in explaining what our options were, how the menu worked, and exactly what was coming out to the table for each course – which I felt was a really nice touch. Everyone was very attentive, and multiple checks that we were enjoying our experience occurred throughout the evening.
I also can’t figure out where the amazing rhubarb and apple drink I had was from, but it was an absolutely wonderful accompaniment to my meal and I would easily drink that again! It wasn’t one I’d seen before, but can’t find drinks on the website.
Girdy: I was impressed when my coffee came with what I think was heated milk on the side. I use the word “think” because I did not test it. I had ordered black coffee, gone through the ritual of saying “No, thank you” when asked if I wanted milk with it (I know life is easier if the question is asked) and so, dear reader, I did not want milk. That the stubborn milk might have been warmed for me, though, was a nice touch.
Birdy: It was alright, though – the milk didn’t go to waste, because once I’d drank half my cappuccino, I added it in! Mmmm, lovely milky coffee.
Girdy: Actually, lots of things about Six by Nico are a nice touch but it’s the busy staff who I’ll give top marks on the nice scale for. It can’t be easy in their shoes but despite how busy the restaurant was, I felt the whole team made suitable time for Birdy and I.
Six by Nico as a place to eat in the city centre
If you’re visiting Edinburgh from a city without a Six by Nico of its own (there are others in this little success story) then Six by Nico will likely be a contender for your time! It’s very central, close to the St James Quarter, Princess Street, George Street and Waverly Station.
The catch? You need to book in advance. During the Edinburgh Festivals? We doubt you’ve any chance of a walk-in table at all.
Team Edinburgh Reviews think it is a fantastic venue for celebrating graduation with your family, for a friend’s birthday or anniversary meal. The latter ideas are handy with the Omni Centre, complete with Vue Cinema nearby, the National Galleries, indies like Watson Gallery and loads of taxi ranks nearby.
Birdy: This was a fabulous and fairly unique dining experience that felt really quite special. Despite all the hype building up to this visit, I didn’t feel in the slightest bit disappointed with Six by Nico. It’s not something I’d do on the regular, but for a special occasion (like a birthday) or just as a treat, this seems like a solid choice.
Girdy: I walked in wrestling with a mix of feelings; excitement, concern and very aware people seemed to be thrilled with the idea of someone they knew – me! – going to Six by Nico. Wow. Fortunately, the food, the staff and the experience were all fantastic. I’m just not sure the vibe of the too-busy-to-be-intimate Six was quite there. Don’t get me wrong; the vibe was good, boosted by the staff, but fantastic is a high bar to hit. However, without a doubt, I recommend and would go back.
One last thing – by the time I got home, I realised I was full.