Six By Nico

1132-1134 Argyle Street, Glasgow

0141 334 5661

Lunch/Dinner: £25-30

Food rating: 7/10

A RESTAURANT with a theme that changes every six weeks? Now there’s an idea, one that extends the gastronomic reach of much feted Glasgow restaurateur Nico Simeone from outlying 111 By Nico down to the hip, happening Finnieston strip. He’s kick-starting with the theme of "The Chippie", a crowd pleaser that plays to the Scots fondness for everything deep-fried, be it battered or crumbed. His next theme is “Best Of British”. Can’t you just see the picket line outside the door, placards reading: “Why not Scottish?” But for the present what we’re looking at is a six-course tasting menu, five savoury, one sweet, that references the deep fat fryer.

Initially I’m charmed by the place. An open kitchen, a thrilling cosmopolitan buzz, our exceptionally pleasant waiter who has clearly tasted, bought into, and understood the chef’s intent. Recollecting the component parts of each dish requires the concentration of a Generation Game participant. We lack the necessary memory power. Our eyes work to interpret the presentation; the oral description is a litany that doesn’t sink in. So I tender apologies in advance for my inability to do justice to each and every element. And in a spirit of transparency and fairness I also put on the table my declaration: I don’t share the nation’s unswerving reverence for fried things.

We make it worse by ordering the snacks. Each includes a crumbed, deep-fried "bonbon": pleasant smoked haddock (the omnivore option), stunning cauliflower cheese (vegetarian). Like the fat, crunchy fried polenta "chip" flavoured with lemon thyme, and clever Chinese-style squid ink-black puffed cracker that’s topped with blobs of taramasalata, lemon gel, and something that could be an emulsion of avocado, these sit on top of real pebbles. Money-centric dentists must love this presentation. Soft peanuts taste like salt and vinegar crisps.

Here’s the first course proper, "chips & cheese", a sublime concoction of confit potato, powerful Parmesan espuma, and crisp, mustardy crumbs, which shows just how perfect Nico’s food can be. But as our meal progresses, the line-up of visual jokes and culinary quips, each with yet another deep-fried element, steadily palls.

I can take the crunchy breadcrumb jacket on the veggie Scotch egg. Its accompanying tartare sauce is exemplary, but the heavy, breaded deep-fried monkfish cheek served on a scallop shell with a sweet sponge coloured with squid ink that absorbs a brashly sweet dashi-style stock made from kelp, smoked tuna and more, is a misconstrued Japanese mash-up. By the time the beer-battered cauliflower arrives, the fried thing is beginning to feel like a chore, even with its delightful pomegranate, preserved lime, caper and raisin dressing. And when we come to the potato gnocchi that have been coated in polenta and fried, it dawns on me that the idea of shoehorning a fried theme into a tasting menu is logically flawed. A set menu needs inbuilt balance; this theme removes any such possibility. The gnocchi don’t suit their sickly caramelised onion sauce or the pile-up of fondant onions (referencing chip shop add-on pickled onions yet again) that come with it. The onion theme ploughs on with the beef shin: more fondant shallots, onion confit, crispy fried onion rings, and cubes of fried brioche.

I’m feeling seriously jaded with the theme before the potentially lighter Shetland cod arrives. But I can’t get my head round the jarringly sweet pickled mussels, and I’m noticing the repeat elements that straddle "different" dishes: more green squirt; more taramasalata; more cloying, throat-catchingly acetic fennel.

By the time our "smoked sausage" tips up, the said sausage casing being a hard-fried combo of potato threads and filo pastry, I think, I’m over the fried thing. And as the lids are dramatically lifted to exude the applewood smoke that’s been pumped into them, the procession of gastronomic puns seems silly rather than entertaining. Deep-fried Mars bar clinches it, chocolate rubble and chocolate caramel done absolutely no favours by their greasy deep-fried cracker base.

Nico hits some real high points with his cooking but never be a slave to a theme. Or choose a less dictatorial one: Scottish spring perhaps. Seasons have the natural diversity that forced chip shop monoculture lacks.