Roll up, roll up! The circus has come to town – in the form of a sleek six-course tasting menu at Six by Nico.
An eatery renowned for its inventive and artistic take on fine dining, they have decided to embrace the big top as our much-missed restaurants re-open.
Bringing a carnival of flavours and fun to your usual bog-standard eating experience, the circus menu promises to provide playfulness and elements of surprise within each course.
And although they aren’t committing to high-wire acts and clowns spattered with custard pies, it still makes an entertaining outing; as the dishes are directly inspired by the fond memories of the ringmaster behind the restaurant, Chef Nico Simeone.
It also draws upon the 2017 hit film ‘The Greatest Showman’ – potentially because Nico has similar plans of world domination to that of P.T. Barnum.
Before our introduction to the clever courses, we’re given a ticket to the circus that doubles as a scratch card. We didn’t win, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.
The first course doesn’t tease the concept but instead barges straight in with a funfair favourite, waffles and ice cream.
But you will be forgiven for thinking it is anything like it’s sweet and salty namesake – as gelato has been swapped for a chicken liver parfait and waffles have been traded out for a potato crisp.
The parfait is mousse-like and sports a signature ice cream swirl – but chicken liver is certainly an acquired taste. It’s a little bitter for me.
The dish is salvaged by soft cubes of compressed peach and a singular raspberry also included in the ensemble – that bring a welcome splash of colour and sharpness to this savoury amuse bouche.
A petite and pretty little starter, but it leaves a peculiar taste in my mouth.
Course number two lends its name from a classic circus calamity, Candy Butchers.
Old school vendors would have to carve up hard candy into smaller pieces for them to sell; so the deconstructed form of this dish perfectly personifies its title.
Our server tells us it tastes exactly like a posh Big Mac – and they’re right on the money.
Beef tartare takes centre stage, which proves a succulent foundation for this interpretation of traditional fairground food.
Lay on a bed of burger sauce, intermixed with pickled cucumber to bring all the gherkin goodness and sprinkled in aged parmesan, this tent-shaped cheeseburger is the most recognisable course that really transports you to the circus.
A slice of pickled swede with the appearance of a piece of Swiss cheese is lovingly laden on top to finish it off. It’s a firm and acidic element that makes the perfect competitor against the powerfulness of the savoury meat and cheese.
The indulgence of this course is complemented with a fresh, lively and fruity Tuscany rosé.
We all know a circus act isn’t complete without some degree of misdirection – but thankfully it’s no saw a lady in half type of show.
The Illusionist unapologetically fulfils its name – as lay on a scallop shell and suspended on a bed of pebbles is…. chicken ballotine.
Tenderly wrapped in bacon, the taste of the ballotines rival that of pigs in blanket. Yet the crisp ring around its edge enables this pint-sized poultry to perfectly resemble a seared scallop.
Soft and salty like the seafood they imitate, the chicken performs harmoniously with the moisture of the hearty caper and raisin purée.
It’s an interesting concept that’s superbly executed – but the logistics of cutting up your meal on a seashell are certainly something I need to coordinate.
It’s sexy, surprising, and succulent – all washed down by the delicious white wine, Domaine des Tourelles, which literally glides down your throat like a glass of water.
Instead of being followed by a highwire performance, Six by Nico swiftly spin our plates to bring our fourth course, aptly named a’Crab’atics.
Like an acrobat, it has expert fluidity.
The centre of this dish is the sole; which is white, fleshy, and the perfect canvas for to soak up the vibrant crab bisque.
Escorted by a smoked tomato compote, bergamot gel, and crab tortellini, it creates a crowd of commanding flavours that merge seamlessly.
I didn’t want it to end – I nibbled upon each one individually to appreciate the ingredients, before gorging on the entire plate.
The differing textures – the softness of the compote, the firmness of the tortellini, the suppleness of the sole – complete this seafood course that has well and truly reeled me in.
Like I said, this really is just like acrobatics – so it takes balance.
Next, is The Greatest Show – arguably the most spectacular small plate and the perfect homage to the celebrated circus godfather, P.T Barnum.
The grandeur of its name certainly lives up to its entrance.
Encased in a glass dome, it is hidden by a stream of smoke that eventually reveals a stunning smoked breast of duck.
Now that’s my kind of magic trick.
Along with wild garlic, black truffle emulsion and a duck leg ragout, it forms a classic dish with a contemporary twist.
Its presentation alone gives it a fair crack at the whip of being frontrunner.
The two perfectly pink and tender slices of duck dominates with a smoky and woody aroma, but each element doesn’t go unnoticed.
The decadence of the truffle emulsion only amplifies the flavour of the meat, while the veg adds some substance and texture.
The ragout comes in its own side pot so all the attention can be diverted to the creamy counterpart.
I savour each bite of the supple shredded duck and even scrape around for any last morsels.
Hearty and arty are two words that spring to mind.
This is a menu that becomes more and more engaging with each dish.
It’s the excitement of the unknown, the unique memories it provokes in each different diner, and the reward of gaining a further understanding of the concept.
And following The Greatest Show, is The Grand Finale.
It was certainly the course that caught my eye on this menu, as I have a painfully sweet tooth.
It’s a fusion of cohesive consistencies that serves as a symbol to Nico’s sophisticated circus: peanut butter parfait, rhubarb compote and blood orange, topped with candyfloss.
The candy floss shrivels away in seconds, but this sweet treat acts almost like a palate cleanser between the bold flavours.
The chef’s sheer creativity in crafting the parfait into monkey nuts proved the attention to detail and effort in this place is exceptional. Nice one Nico.
The earthiness of this cool component is the perfect soundboard for the sweetness of both the rhubarb and orange to excel, while the minute meringues add some toughness to this soft treat.
For my first visit to Six by Nico – I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed.
Pulling off a six-course extravaganza with a circus theme is a stroke of genius.
The concept can only be applauded further for being so fine-tuned within weeks of the return of indoor dining.
Nico might not be no lion tamer, but it seems he can master any cuisine he puts his hand to.
In the words of Britney Spears – it’s “just like a circus,” and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.