The bustling streets of Cathedral Quarter just got all the more exciting as Scottish restaurant chain Six by Nico landed in Waring Street last month. The Belfast addition marks the launch of the third restaurant in their portfolio and is their first venture for their conceptual tasting menu outside of renowned Scottish-Italian chef Nico Simeone homeland of Scotland.
As suggested in the name, the Six by Nico restaurant exists on the idea of a themed six-course tasting menu (£28 per person), reinventing the menu every six weeks. Themes are determined on the basis of different places, memory or an idea. Through drawing on inspiration both at home and abroad, the thought-provoking menus will combine different ingredients, flavours, and dishes, to create a brand-new dining experience. Upon their opening in Belfast, the team kicked off the series of evolving concepts with ‘The Chippie’ menu which will be running for a further two weeks. This menu provides a nostalgic nod to the traditional fish and chip shop with menu items re-imagined with a contemporary twist, giving people a fun and unexpected culinary experience. The menu includes Nico’s take on chips & cheese, scampi, steak pie, fish supper, smoked sausage and deep-fried mars bar with vegetarian options also available. The 80-cover restaurant gathered an impressive count of over 5,000 reservations before it had even opened its doors in Belfast and almost a month later, it doesn’t show signs of slowing.
The Six by Nico team have just announced their latest theme ‘Childhood’ which will run from Tuesday 16th April until Sunday 26th May. Known for his quirky dishes and original flavour combinations, Chef Nico Simeone’s latest menu, ‘Childhood’ will instantly transport guests back to the memories of their grandmother’s kitchen, their fond school canteen days or their first overseas holiday as a family.
Guests can look forward to the new six-course tasting menu which includes: Mac’n’Cheese – Compressed grape, cauliflower couscous, caper & raisin; Egg & Soldier – Duck egg, Pecorino, Black Garlic Emulsion, Asparagus Salad; Pancakes & Bacon – Pork Belly, Compressed Apple, Chickpea Pancake, Maple Mayonnaise; Fish Finger – Confit Salmon, Kohlrabi, Buttermilk & Dill Dressing; Duck Duck Goose – Duck Beast & Leg Bonbon, Spiced Date, Heritage Carrot; and Cereal milk – Pannacotta, Honey Gelee, Peanut Clusters & Strawberry.
Known for his quirky dishes and original flavour combinations, Chef Nico Simeone’s latest menu, ‘Childhood’ will instantly transport guests back to the memories of their grandmother’s kitchen, their fond school canteen days or their first overseas holiday as a family. The eagerly anticipated second menu to land in Belfast is set to be a hit as it has previously been a firm favourite at sistering restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The Style Edit caught up with Nico on the inspiration behind Six by Nico, his menus and how it feels to bring the conceptual restaurants to the heart of Belfast.
What inspired you to launch the Six by Nico conceptual restaurants?
We had a site in Glasgow that was very similar to where we are in Belfast now, Cathedral Quarter. It had steak restaurants, fish restaurants, every restaurant you can think of. When I got the site I was trying to think about what I could do with it but kept thinking, “Why do we have to choose? Let’s change it up all the time. Let’s do French, Italian, whatever we feel like.” The idea evolved from there and we decided we would change it every six weeks. Then Six by Nico came and everything fell into place from there with a restaurant menu having a different theme every 6 weeks.
We’ve had about 15 different menus now. Something just sparks the idea. For example, The Chippie menu came from the fact that my family all ran fish and chip shops. So that idea was sparked from my memories on that. Other ones have come from ideas when we’ve been travelling. We don’t tend to plan them too far ahead. Someone could come up with an idea last minute and we just go for it.
We’ve now invested in a creative kitchen back at home. So we have two development chefs in there and their main job, five days a week, is the creative development of dishes for all of the restaurants. I go to them with ideas for the menu and from there we sketch out a few things. We do about three tastings before we sign off the menu. Then we put the menu into the restaurants. Overall, the creation process probably starts about six weeks before the next theme.
“I was trying to think what I could do with it but kept thinking, “Why do we have to choose? Let’s change it up all the time. Let’s do French, Italian, whatever we feel like.”
What drew you to Belfast as the first city outside your home country of Scotland?
I decided I wanted to grow the brand and somebody mentioned there was a restaurant site available in Belfast. So I decided to come down to see it. I’d never been to Belfast before but it’s really similar to Glasgow. I really loved it when I came down here to the Cathedral Quarter. I’d been looking at sites all over the UK but this one was one of the first ones we viewed. We came and saw about four or five sites and this was one of the first we’d seen.
How did you get your start in the restaurant industry?
I’m a chef by trade. I got most of my training in a Michelin star restaurant in Edinburgh and had my own restaurant by the time I was 22. That was in Glasgow called 111 by Nico but I had it for about four years and basically, it failed. Through one last roll of the dice, we decided to rebrand it and it finally worked. That was three years ago.
In terms of branching out on my own, I just wanted to try and do it myself (open a restaurant). I was probably too inexperienced at the time but as I say, it didn’t make any money for four years. I was losing money. I did breakeven for one year. I just knew one go would be worth a try. From that moment to now has been three years and we’ve gone from one to six restaurants.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
Self-confidence. When I was younger, I was always very influenced by the customer. So if someone came in and mentioned a beer we didn’t stock that they wanted, I would go and change it. I’d always try and change things. Whereas now I’m much more confident in what we do. It’s more like ‘this is what we do. We do six-course tasting menu. That’s it.’
So I guess, the biggest lesson has been sticking to my guns a bit more. At the start, I was changing it too much. Every little bit of feedback, I was always just trying to adapt. It just had no identity at that stage. Whereas now, we know where we stand and we know what’s ‘our’ thing.
“The biggest lesson has been sticking to my guns a bit more.”
What surprised you most about the industry when you started out?
The management was the hardest thing to adjust to. You’ve got a whole team to manage and everyone obviously reacts in different ways. I made mistakes along the way and through the pain of those mistakes, learned along the way too. It’s been a huge learning curve. It’s one of those on the job experiences.
Tell us about the biggest risk you’ve taken and how it paid off
The first Six by Nico. 111 by Nico had only been open for about nine months at the time. So I basically emptied an account to pay for it. I was lucky that I was able to pay for it over two years. My cousin did the shop fit so I took about £30,000 in finance to cover that. There was also stuff from suppliers that gave me 30 days credit so it had to do well from day one otherwise I would have been in a lot of trouble.
How did you feel before opening Six by Nico?
I was really nervous about going from one to two. From there, I’ve found it easier because the model is there. I’ve been lucky with the team that’s involved. It’s gone from a family business to a more office based team that means I can delegate to them when it comes to things like dealing with accounts and admin. I’ve got general management and a head chef so I can now distribute the workload.
What excites you most about your profession?
Creativity. It’s the most exciting bit and being able to be creative on so many different levels.
What are you most proud of so far?
That I’ve grown this with the same team from the beginning. They’ve seen the business right through from then to where we are today.
What advice would you give to those just starting out in your industry?
To always play the long game. I think a lot of people play the short game now and they go for the number and chase the extra 50p which I can never understand. If you’re going to be cooking and spending your whole life in a kitchen for 20 to 30 years, for the first 3 or 4 years try and work in the best places, gain the knowledge and then your time will come. Invest in your future from the early stages and don’t just chase the money.
“Invest in your future from the early stages and don’t just chase the money.”
What would be your dream menu to create?
There are ideas that I’ve had but they’re ones you might need permission to do so you have to take that into account when dreaming about future menus. Maybe something like that and go to the big brands to collaborate.
What’s your favourite thing to cook?
Fish. Because you see the product start to finish. You don’t exactly see a full cow before you cook it whereas fish you see start to finish.
How would you describe Six by Nico in three words?
Fun. Experience. Value.
Diners can book a table now for ’Childhood’. Open from midday, Tuesday to Sunday at the Belfast restaurant on Waring Street. Each six-course menu will be available from noon to night. The menu is priced at £28 per person with the option to enjoy an expertly selected wine and specialist drinks pairing for an additional £25. There is a vegetarian alternative available for every course, as well as childhood theme inspired snack sides.
To make a reservation and to book now, visit https://www.sixbynico.co.uk/belfast/