Hanover Street

Six by Nico

23/04/22

Hanover Street, Edinburgh

This one’s been a long time coming. When Six by Nico first opened in Edinburgh, way back in 2018, our lovely friends mooted it as an option for an evening out. But it was so popular, we couldn’t get a booking. We kept trying to find a suitable date, but to no avail. Then the pandemic happened and everything was put on hold. We ate a couple of Nico’s ‘at home’ meals, which were very nice, but the authentic Six experience still eluded us. Even tonight – when, finally, both we and our pals are free, and the restaurant is open – we’ve had to settle for a 9.15pm booking, which is definitely too late for us, but we can’t let this opportunity slide. This rendezvous carries a weight of expectation…

Six by Nico‘s concept is well known by now: it’s become a mini-chain, firmly established in eight cities around the UK and Ireland. It’s a fresh, simple idea: a themed tasting menu of six courses, which changes every six weeks. The presentation is very much ‘fine dining’, but the prices really are not. It’s £32 all in, and £27 for five matched wines. There’s no denying this is cheap.

Sadly, however, it appears that sometimes the old adage is true: you do get what you pay for. The current menu is called Ancient Rome, and it sounds promising on paper. But, although there are glimmers of excellence, it doesn’t cohere to make a pleasant meal.

Philip and both of our friends opt for the standard menu, which includes meat and fish. I go veggie for the evening, because I want to. The first course is the same for everyone: it’s ‘Cacio e Pepe, which is crispy pasta , black pepper and parmesan royale. (Mine’s supposed to be goat’s cheese, apparently, but it tastes of parmesan, so I don’t think it is. I’m not actually vegetarian though, so I’m not too worried, and I like the flavour anyway.) This is a tasty little morsel, if a little too creamy for my liking, and it bodes well for the meal.

Next up is ‘From Eggs to Nuts’ for all of us. This comprises a crispy egg, some white asparagus, hazelnuts and brown butter. The eggs, nuts and asparagus are good, but the ‘brown butter’ takes the form of a creamy sauce again, which proves a tad rich.

Cream seems to be a bit of a recurring thing. Did the ancient Romans really eat so much of it? The third (veggie for all) course is ‘Cavolo Hispi Arrostito’ and, honestly, I’m starting to feel a bit queasy now. The dish consists of pasta (again), roasted hispi cabbage, pickled girolle mushrooms, truffle foam and pecorino sardo. I’m expecting the mushrooms to have a vinegary tang, so that they cut through the dairy fat, but they don’t really. The acidic wine (this one’s Duas Margens) helps, but our friends have soft drinks, so there’s no such respite for them.

Course four (‘The Bay of Naples’) brings my favourite of the savoury dishes: a risotto of parsley, garlic and porcini mushrooms. It’s a bit repetitive with the fungi, but the risotto is delicious, with bold flavours and nicely firm rice – and there’s no cream, which is definitely a bonus. The others aren’t so lucky. They have sole, smoked mussels, lovage, white turnip and mussel… cream. This looks great, and there’s a theatrical flourish, as it arrives wreathed in smoke and covered by a glass cloche. Once the smoke has cleared, the fish turns out to be well-cooked and the smoked mussels are a hit, but none of them likes the pairing of sole with turnip, especially as the neeps are deemed ‘uncooked’ and ‘rock hard.’ “Unpleasant” isn’t a word you want to associate with your dinner.

The fifth course is called ‘The Great Feast of AD14’. For the meat-eaters, this means a small plate of pork (belly, rib and fillet), with fennel, bean ragu and a date and apple sauce. The pork fillet is very pink, which makes one of our friends uncomfortable, and the meat in general is declared ‘underwhelming.’ The date sauce gives it a boost, but the bean ragu has something creamy mixed in, so no one’s much in the mood for that. It’s a mean-looking dish, which doesn’t conjure up images of a great feast of any kind. Not that we want more. We’ve kind of had enough.

Again, I fare better. The veggie option is baked globe artichoke, with leak, curd, toasted hazelnut and walnut foam. There’s bean ragu on my plate too, but the creamy stuff is next to it rather than mixed in, so I can just leave it – and the ragu is delicious without, all tomatoey-smoky loveliness.

We’re disappointed and we’re flagging, but there’s still a course to go. Our young waitress is lovely – she’s trying really hard, and is all gauche charm and friendliness – so we rally, give her a smile as she rattles through her memorised lines about the wine, and wait to see what pudding brings.

It brings a ray of sunshine. At last! The finale is excellent. The simple title (‘Honey and Cheese’) is deceptive. This is a honey parfait, served with ricotta cheese, preserved quince, fizzy grapes, pear and citrus. It’s bursting with fresh, zingy flavours – all complementing each other, each mouthful a delight. It shows us what this meal could have been.

But it’s not enough to save it. All in all, the menu just doesn’t work for us. There is no logical progression between the courses, no awareness that the dishes need to be more distinct (two courses with mushrooms, two with pasta, two with hazelnuts, five with cream). The next menu is ‘Hollywood’ and it reads well, but I don’t think we’ll be back. There are too many good restaurants in this city for us to bother with this again.

2.9 stars

Susan Singfield

Bistro Franc

10/03/18

Hanover Street, Liverpool

We’re with my parents, visiting the city they hail from: the legend that is Liverpool. We’ve been to Matthew Street (aka Memory Lane), taken photographs outside the Cavern, and listened to tales of how they used to go there in their school lunch hours to listen to the bands. Philip’s actually played here once, so he has his own stories to share, of being the lead singer with Hieronymus Bosch. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our morning, but now we’re hungry and it’s time for some lunch.

Mum’s booked us into Bistro Franc, because it’s central and she’s heard good things. When we arrive, though, we’re worried. The place looks fine, but the lunch menu seems suspiciously cheap. £11.90 for three courses? Really? What are we in for here?

Miraculously, we’re in for some decent scran: the low prices don’t correlate with low standards. Hurrah! And the service is friendly and unfussy, as chummily sarcastic as you’d expect from Scousers, but never intrusive and always well-judged.

None of us is drinking: it’s lunch time, two of us are driving and the others are keen to stick with tap water. But the wine list looks comprehensive enough; maybe we’ll give it a go another time.

To start, I have the brie and pine nut salad. It’s fresh, crunchy, and generously dotted with chunks of cheese. It would certainly benefit from a zingy dressing of some sort – a raspberry  or pomegranate vinaigrette, maybe? – but it’s a pleasant way to begin my meal. Philip has the chicken liver paté, which is creamy and rich, served on toasted baguette.

We both have the pork belly roast for our main, which incurs a £3 surcharge. This seems eminently fair: the square of meat is perfectly cooked, all soft flesh and crispy, sticky skin. The accompanying Yorkshire (although I suspect it’s not home-made) is light and fluffy and serves us well. There are roast potatoes too, which are beautifully done, and the broccoli, red cabbage and carrots are spot on. (We don’t eat the new potatoes, because there’s too much food here, and something has to give.)

I don’t even try to resist the bread and butter pudding with custard; why would I? It’s luscious: sweet and chocolatey and comforting. Yum. Philip opts for the rather more refined blackberry and hazelnut tart: the base is crisp, and the filling zesty. A big dollop of Chantilly cream cuts through the sharp fruit, and he’s smiling as he clears his plate.

We’re not in a rush, so we linger over coffee and fresh mint tea; there’s a relaxed atmosphere here, and we’re happy to stay a while.

And the bill, when it comes, is £63. In total. For four of us. I don’t know how they do it. But I’m glad they do.

4.1 stars

Susan Singfield

Grand Cru

15/09/18

Hanover Street, Edinburgh

It’s that rare beast: a Saturday where we have nothing particular planned, and a yearning to play out. Just as we’re wondering what direction our day will take, an email pops up, informing us that Grand Cru’s special lunch costs only £8.95 for two courses. Can this be true? We google the menu and it looks pretty impressive; the trip advisor reviews are decent too.

So we decide to head there for a late-ish lunch. And we’re really glad we do. Because, for the price, this is mighty fine.

There’s a friendly, informal atmosphere: a long bar and lots of nooks and crannies. We’re seated in the main area, and it’s buzzing – but even though it’s busy, we’re not too close to other diners and have plenty of room.

Philip begins with a caprese salad of mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado. It’s a generous portion, and the balsamic vinegar it’s topped with is as thick and sticky as can be. Delish! I have mussels in tomato sauce, which are served with a slice of warm, home-made bread. The mussels are perfect: big and soft and so plentiful I have to ask Philip to help me finish them. He’s more than happy to oblige, especially as the tomato sauce they’re in is rich and deeply satisfying. We’re off to a great start!

For his main, Philip opts for classic fish and chips – or, more accurately, angel cut Scottish haddock, cooked in home-made beer batter and served with chips and garden peas. The batter is hot and crispy; the fish perfectly cooked. The chips – often the weak point on a cheap menu like this – are lovely: clearly fresh rather than frozen, exactly as they need to be.

My beetroot and blue cheese risotto is a bit more unusual, but it’s really interesting and I enjoy it immensely. The flavours are strong and it’s very filling; we definitely don’t need the side of mac’n’cheese we’ve ordered to share, which matches nothing else on our plates, but we can’t resist (we never can say no when mac’n’cheese is on offer). It’s tasty and indulgent but quite unnecessary. Oh well.

We’re delighted to see a Willows End New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on the menu for a mere £22 and, after polishing it off, decide we’re too full to even think about pudding.

We’re sated; we’re happy; we’ve had a lovely time. And the bill comes in at £43. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be back again.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield

 

 

Henderson’s Salad Table Restaurant

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24/08/16

Hanover Street, Edinburgh

Henderson’s is a bit of an Edinburgh institution, with several outlets across the city, including a shop and deli, and a vegan restaurant (on Thistle Street). Today we’re visiting the Salad Table Restaurant on Hanover Street, where the vegetarian and vegan menu also has a number of gluten-free options, which is a necessary requirement for the friends we’re with.

It’s easy to see how this place has earned its reputation; it’s a bright, cheery, self-service cafeteria, and absolutely everything looks delicious. It’s hard to choose.

Philip and I both opt for the vegetable quiche, served with a mixed leaf salad and coleslaw. We can’t resist adding a couple of extras: a beetroot and olive salad that is very flavoursome indeed, and a quinoa concoction that, while perfectly nicely dressed, just can’t escape the worthy dullness that seems synonymous with its main ingredient. But it’s the only thing we don’t enjoy.

Our friend samples the vegan pizza and declares it’s “lovely.” She’s most impressed though by the fruity vegan coleslaw, which tastes just as good as it looks. Her son tries the chickpea curry; he’s eight, so he doesn’t have a lot to say about it, but he eats a decent portion and concedes that it is “nice.”

Overall, we’re really delighted to add another excellent establishment to our ‘list of places we enjoy eating in Edinburgh.’ At £10-£15 per head, this isn’t especially cheap, but the quality of the food is undeniable, and it’s definitely worth it.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield