I’m not going to be the first person to write about Six by Nico, that honour goes to, well, who cares. Nor will I be the last; on the evening I’m there – an hashtag ad, hashtag invited, hashtag freeloader affair with no bill – the place is chocca with Birminghams Instagram set. There’s Can’t Wait To Try This, and Looks Unreal and her sister Looks Great, Need To Get Here, Stunning, and the weird hearts for eyes emoji, but maybe that’s just poorly applied make-up given it does look like they dress in the dark. Each booked in, just like me, on the first available evening to be the first to talk about the six courses for an obscenely cheap amount of money in what must be one of the cities sleekest, sexiest dining rooms.

This menu is an ode to the chippy, the menu they always launch with, I’m speculating, because of the ease of service. From memory – which at my age is a diminishing quality – only the fish is cooked a la minute, meaning the rest of the menu is an easing in affair for a team made up of seasoned members and newer, and occasionally, green staff.

The start isn’t great. No pickle martini tonight, so it’s straight in with a soapy spritz I assume inspired by the washing-up section of the chippy. Then a deep fried potato terrine like they do at Quality Chop House to be plunged into a parmesan emulsion. And it’s here that the audience becomes apparent: it’s not particularly refined. The dominant flavour is the piccalilli purée, heavy on American mustard and little else. The cheese emulsion is good but not a patch on the one a minute away at Purnell’s. Without the reference points it’s a very good dish; with them you see the visible flaws. A salt cod fishcake is a polite affair, if a little over seasoned. There’s a creamy sauce with peas and dill, and a gribiche which would benefit from some of the first courses mustard. Sophie likes it because it reminds her of her mothers cooking. I like it slightly less because it reminds me of her mothers cooking.

The first real bit of clever cooking happens on the beef pie. It’s not the enjoyable mound of braised beef shin, or the very well made mushroom duxelle, but the ‘meaty salsa’ that’s not only my favourite week on Strictly, but a demi-glacé of beef stock cut with sofrito and pickled mustard seeds. It’s this that makes the dish pop; the lick of acidity to lift it. The coley that follows has way too much acidity, mostly from a quite unpleasant pickled mussel, but also from batter scraps seasoned with vinegar powder and sharp, pickled fennel. The best bit is a brown sauce rich with date and tamarind notes. I’m still not sure whether it works on the plate.

Pork three ways features a black pudding sausage roll so good it should have its own starring role on its own course, alongside a very nice croquette of hock meat. The cube of belly is a little overdone but so what, this, with its various forms of celeriac, is a very nice main course. Dessert is a chocolate pave of impeccable technique with Iron Bru sorbet and a bit of deep fried Mars Bar. It’s great. Bold and a bit cheeky. I eat mine and hers.

My first really fancy meal was a cheap lunch at Simpsons. My second a cheap lunch at Gauthier, my third a cheap lunch at Le Gavroche, and my fourth a cheap dinner at Turners. I was clueless and not earning a lot. Without affordable menus I wouldn’t be the unbearable prick I am today. And that’s why I’m fully onboard with Six at Nico despite appreciating that it’s maybe not for me. £39 for six courses is a gateway to an often intimidating sector of hospitality, even if the £30 paired wines are a little bit crap. It’s too easy for me to sit at a table dissecting every element whilst for others this will be their first time eating a tasting menu. Broke young Simon would have loved it here, I expect many others will feel the same.


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