First Look: A fine-dining take on the chipper as Six by Nico opens on Molesworth Street in Dublin

Nico Simeone’s Glasgow-based chain serves a competitively priced six-course tasting menu

Six by Nico: chefs David Boath and Erin Sweeney at Dublin’s newest restaurant, which opens today on Molesworth Street. Photographs: Tom Honan

Six by Nico: chefs David Boath and Erin Sweeney at Dublin’s newest restaurant, which opens today on Molesworth Street. Photographs: Tom Honan

 

“The open kitchen is a big factor. I wouldn’t do one without it, to be honest.” Nico Simeone, the Scottish-Italian chef and director of Six by Nico, the Glasgow-based chain of restaurants that serves only six-course tasting menus that change every six weeks, is looking at a solid wall in his new Dublin restaurant that is covered in fake plaster and graphic prints as he talks about his restaurant-design philosophy.

The Dublin opening, right next to another UK import, the Ivy, on Molesworth Street, is the ninth since Six by Nico launched in Glasgow, in 2017, and the first outside the UK. There are branches in Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Liverpool, Manchester and Belfast, too.

Instead of that wall there is supposed to be a sizeable opening, linking kitchen and dining room. When the first paying customers arrive for dinner, later today, that is what will greet them, following a delay in getting final health-and-safety sign-off that meant the temporary wall remained in place during a series of preview nights.

The connection between front of house and back of house is so important. I teach the chefs to read the room, even though they’re cooking

“I think that the connection between front of house and back of house is so important. I teach the chefs to read the room, even though they’re cooking. From a service point of view it’s a lot of plates of food that leave the kitchen. Our Liverpool restaurant has 90 covers” – which is to say seats – “so on a Saturday they can do 400 people; 400 times six courses is 2,400 plates. Then they might have 200 plates of [optional] snacks on top of that. If you divide that by 11 hours, it works out at 3.9 plates of food every minute for 11 hours,” says Simeone.

Six by Nico: founder Nico Simeone
Six by Nico: founder Nico Simeone

Those are staggering statistics, especially considering that the six-course menus feature intricate and process-heavy dishes, such as the Chips & Cheese that is the first course in the launch menu, inspired by chip shops. “Parmesan espuma, curry oil and emulsion, crisp potato terrine” is the full menu description. There is no let-up in ambition and detail in the five courses that follow, including the fourth and pivotal course, Fish Supper, which features Shetland cod, pickled mussels, confit fennel, samphire and beer emulsion. (There is also a vegetarian menu.)

The price tag on the Chipper tasting menu, which will be replaced by another, as yet unannounced themed menu in early January, is €45, with wine pairings an optional additional €39.

Interest in the new opening has been keen, with Simeone estimating that the 58-cover restaurant is 90 per cent booked for the launch menu, which will be served at lunch and dinner Friday to Sunday, and dinner only Tuesday to Thursday.

Churning out those artfully arranged plates of food is a youthful kitchen brigade – youth is a recurring motif: Simeone is 32, but the staff are overwhelmingly in their early 20s – led by an Irish head chef, Philly Roe, who comes to the venture from Canteen, at the Marlin Hotel.

Six by Nico: the restaurant has outdoor seating on Molesworth Street
Six by Nico: the restaurant has outdoor seating on Molesworth Street

In contrast to industrywide concerns, staff recruitment wasn’t a major issue, Simeone says. “We’ve been really fortunate with it so far, maybe because it’s a new, exciting concept and it has attracted people. I feel the industry is changing a bit, so we are trying to offer a work-life balance. We try to offer people a 3½-day week.”

Social-media posts promised a competitive salary of €32,000 for those 3½-day weeks, but, for that, chefs will be working 45 hours. The company’s tips policy, according to Simeone, is that 100 per cent goes to staff, with a 50:50 split between kitchen and front of house.

Six by Nico: the Dublin branch can seat 58 people at a time
Six by Nico: the Dublin branch can seat 58 people at a time

Despite Shetland cod being name-checked on the menu, the restaurant will rely on local Irish suppliers, as it does in its UK branches. La Rousse, Sysco, Little Cress and Musgrave are mentioned, along with Kish Fish. “We are getting in Shetland cod, because we really love that as a product, but we are buying it from Kish Fish.” The bar will serve Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale and Mac Ivors Cider.

Simeone, whose father and uncles run fish-and-chip shops in Glasgow, opened his first restaurant in the Scottish city at the age of 22, “and spent five years failing”, before hitting on the concept of competitively priced tasting menus based on constantly changing themes.

Previous menus have been inspired by such diverse sources as the street markets of the Middle East and a journey along Route 66, in the United States. Concepts and menus are fine-tuned by a creative team based in Glasgow, “marketing, design and chefs working together”, Simeone says, and rolled out to branches.

Six by Nico: the restaurant has a full bar as well as offering wine pairings with its tasting menu
Six by Nico: the restaurant has a full bar as well as offering wine pairings with its tasting menu

As well as the Dublin opening, in the former Pain Quotidien premises, the restaurant group also recently launched a new brand in Glasgow, Beat 6, which will donate all of its profits to the Beatson cancer centre, where Simeone’s wife, Valentina, was treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma six years ago. “She went into hospital on a Sunday with a sore back. On Monday they thought it was pancreatitis; next they thought it was kidney stones. On the Wednesday we were told it was cancer, and then on Thursday we were in the Beatson.”

Simeone hopes the new restaurant, which will serve dishes from previous Six by Nico menus, will raise substantial funds for the Beatson Cancer Charity. “We have an optional £1 donation from our customers, plus all the profits, so we are hoping we can raise £600,000-£700,000 a year.”

Six by Nico: the design for the Dublin branch is a new departure for the restaurant group. ‘I wanted to make it fresher and brighter,’ says Nico Simeone
Six by Nico: the design for the Dublin branch is a new departure for the restaurant group. ‘I wanted to make it fresher and brighter,’ says Nico Simeone

The Simeones were initially told they would be unable to have children after Valentina’s treatment. “She went into remission in October, and then in January she fell pregnant. Since then we’ve had three children.”

Along with his family commitments in Glasgow, and his work across the UK, Simeone says he will be a regular visitor to Dublin. “I always try to touch every restaurant at least once every 10 days.”

Despite the last-minute delay to getting final sign-off on the open kitchen, he is confident that his Dublin opening will go to plan. “We’ve done it a lot, so we are used to it, and the Chipper menu is always the one we launch with. I actually think it’s the best menu, because every time we launch in a new city we compete with ourselves and think, How can we make this better? It’s the best menu because it has the most development.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.