Public House by Nico


I LIKE to think I spot the flaw with The Public House by Nico almost right away. Hang on, I say to Gordon and Gerry, it doesn’t look much like a pub. They pause their deep conversation on the travails of The Celtic only long enough to look at me as though I’ve just fallen through the ceiling. Hmm.

As one bottle of wine has already been finished and Glasgow celebrity chef/owner Nico Simone’s vino mark-up for the night is going to be boosted by lingering over a second – ordered by the glass – I suppose it does function like a pub. Albeit on this dreich Tuesday evening one that is so quiet and lacking in atmosphere that I can feel the metaphoric wind whistle round the high backs of the (far too) many chairs.

Have you read my book about Celtic, I drop into their intense chat, referring to a forgettable tome myself and my old chum Carlos Alba wrote when we were still treading the boards as reporters. Double blankos all round. Sigh.

Actually, by the time I make that non-pub revelation we will have been here so long that the waiter will soon bring the bill unprompted and the Public House will be about to fill with the aroma of the powerful fluids the staff are using to clean down that open stainless steel kitchen over there. And I will be wondering what exactly it is about The Public House that does not entirely convince me.

It’s not the food. Because when we were fully engaged in talking about work, for the first couple of hours anyway, that conversation was only interrupted by what was going on in our mouths.

Smash: Arbroath Smokie croquettes… possibly the world’s juiciest, tastiest fish fingers. Bang: sprouting broccoli, pickled walnuts and English feta, the broccoli tasting as though it has been preserved in garlic and oil sending me off on one about how my old man used to make jars of its deliciousness every year. Wallop: Hispi cabbage, black garlic, ewes cheese. That gooey, rich, garlic sauce kick-starting the thick pale cabbage leaves and salty cheese into a tantalising threesome across the palate.

We paused for a full two minutes on the Pork scratchings, to consider how Gordon had reached a ripe old age without ever tasting these puffy, salty (slightly gross) pleasures. And I even managed to set pulses slowing with a familiar monologue on how Nico’s triple cooked (a la Heston) chips, crumbly inside, crispy outside, are in fact not bloody chips at all but potato Jenga, or batons. More blankos here.

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That little smoked ham hough sandwich? Micro assembly, painstakingly tweezered into place, fresh piccalilli on the side but way, way too salty.

The sea bass though? A full-size steamed bok choi sprawling languidly beside it, slivers of pickled chilli sauntering by, soy and miso puddles. Boof, the fish fillets crisped to perfection, coloured to appetising and, hurrah, properly seasoned. They have sous vide’d that pork chop to textured perfection too; flash fried its crisply coloured edges, poached a purpley heritage carrot and crisped some sage for the sprinkling over of.

The last time I had a decent pork chop was at Dinner in London and I got whacked an absolute fortune for that. This is a tenner. If I wanted to be picky I’d say only this: I’d pay maybe twice as much for one cooked exactly the same way but with a better quality of pork. It would make a big difference.

Desserts then? We have had a few. But then again too few to mention. I find mine creamy fluffy and the rhubarb fool in particular pretty forgettable. But then I wanted the banana crumble thing that after even more blankos, this time from the staff, turned out not to be on the right menu or something like that and definitely not available.

Oh, hey, I’ve finally worked out what’s missing. Nico. And a bit of pizzaz about the place. Especially as it doesn’t really feel like a hip and happening gastropub.

Public House by Nico

333 Great Western Road


Menu: Nico of Six by Nico and other such ventures brings his top dishes to Glasgow’s Great Western Road with big flavours on small-plates-a-go-go. Arbroath Smokie fish fingers, sauteed broccoli with walnut. Good stuff. 4/5

Service: We caught them early in the week and while the staff were fine there wasn’t much sparkle about the experience, possibly better at the weekends. 4/5

Atmosphere: See above. It’s doesn’t feel to me much like a public house gastropub no matter how insistent the name and when semi-empty felt over-furnished and under-whelming. At weekends may fly. 3/5

Price: Small plates mean big bills and an easier life for the kitchen, but everything was packed with thought and flavour so for once I didn't grudge paying around £7 a plate. 5/5

Food: More evolutionary than revolutionary but Glasgow probably needs this. Some great dishes including that sprouting broccoli, pickled walnut and English feta, those hispi and those cheeky Arbroath Smokie fingers. 8/10