Firstly, I have to apologise for neglecting my blogging duties for the past week or so while I’ve been away on holiday. I’m just back from a wonderfully chilled out week in Corfu – which I will share a full post about later in the week – but now I’m back and raring to go with my review of 111 by Nico.
111 by Nico is one of those restaurants I’ve had on my Bucked List for over a year but just never had the chance to try it, but after the amazing experience I had at Six by Nico, I knew I had to stop messing around and get my butt to 111, and just before I jetted off to Greece, I did just that!
The philosophy behind Nico’s first Glasgow restaurant is simply to create a unique dining experience and provide young people the opportunity to learn and share Nico’s passion for cooking. The menu changes regularly and is created using the best fresh, seasonal produce. The kitchen doubles up as Nico’s ‘academy,’ which aims to give young people who have had a difficult start in live the opportunity to gain the skills needed to be a top chef and build a lifelong career. His current head chef, Modou, is a great example of how the academy provided an amazing opportunity and an incredible journey.
Located in Kelvindale, the restaurant looks quite out of place next to an off-licence and a bus stop, but once you step inside, the open kitchen, modern décor and friendly staff tell you immediately this is going to be an indulgent experience. We were seated at our booth of four and given the two menu options: a five-course tasting menu for £30, or their set menu of either two courses for £19 or three for £22. We decided to opt for the set menu, and ordered ourselves the evenings aperitif – a passion fruit prosecco cocktail which was a perfect balance of sharp and sweet. Not long after, we were brought our amuse-bouche, a cold tomato gazpacho that had a real earthy, punchy tomato flavour.
For my starter, I chose the Scallops with agnolotti, sea vegetables, asparagus and rapeseed emulsion and it was one of the most beautiful scallop dishes I’ve had. I find a lot of the time, scallops are paired with the obvious ingredients, like black pudding, pancetta, chorizo – something salty and meaty to balance out their delicate sweetness. In this dish, the saltiness and balance came from the perfect agnolotti filled with crowdie cheese, the smooth rapeseed emulsion, and the buttery sea vegetables. The scallops were cooked to perfection, and because our table was right by the kitchen, we could see each dish being created and plated, which I think adds just an extra touch of magic.
For my main course, I chose the Ayrshire pork belly and cheek, with beetroot sauerkraut, apricot, salami, and broccoli. I know what you’re thinking; that sounds like a strange collection of ingredients, right? I thought so too until I tried them! The pork belly was perfectly cooked, the fat rendered down to leave the soft and tender meat full of flavour. The salami added salt, along with the moreish pork sauce, while the apricot and the beetroot added sweetness. It was fricking yum.
Sam had ordered the gnocchi with wild mushroom, wild garlic and slow cooked egg and it too was incredible. The gnocchi were like little pillows of joy, the egg lovely and rich, and the wild garlic had just the right amount of punch. I think Sam was surprised to enjoy a vegetarian dish as much as he did!
For our dessert, I went for the ‘Exotic Fruit’ while Sam opted for the ‘Cranachan.’ I’ll probably sound super pretentious here, but the artistry with which these desserts were plated was honestly breath-taking. My Exotic Fruit dish was so colourful, consisting of white chocolate arancini, mint aero, passionfruit and mango, with shards of meringue. I was at first a little sceptical as to how the mint would work with all those tropical flavours, but my word it was incredible – a taste explosion! The white chocolate arancini was, essentially, a white chocolate rice pudding that had been breaded and fried like it’s savoury sister, and it added some richness to this super fresh and light dish.
Sam’s Cranachan was equally stunning, consisting of honey cheesecake, sweet oatcake, raspberry sorbet, and raspberry meringue. I have to say, we’re not entirely sure where the whisky element came in, possibly in the sorbet, but even without it, this was another knockout dessert, particularly the honey cheesecake!
After we’d all been suitably stunned by our food, another surprise came in the form of our bill. For four people having three courses and two alcoholic drinks each, our bill came to an incredible £135 – less than £35 each! Based on the quality of food, I was honestly astounded at the value for money we received. This was, honestly, one of the better meals I think I have ever had in Glasgow, and I cannot wait to go back as soon as possible!