To say thanks for looking after me and my furry baby (the dog) for the last couple of weeks I treated my olds to a meal at 111 by Nico. I had heard great things about this place and it was also recommended to me by the guys at the Glasgow Restaurant Festival. It is a little place that only opened last year by Nico Simeone and forms part of a wider project Nico’s academy which aims to provide skills and experience to young people who have had a difficult start in life increasing their opportunities for the future. I cannot express enough how brilliant I think this kind of work is. I am very lucky to have come from a working class family and had the privilege of both supportive parents and a supportive state school that gave me the chance to go to university and get a decent job. I know how lucky I am, even though most days I want to quit. I also know that if I did I would have a whole world of options. Sadly so many young people don’t have those opportunities. This can be for a whole host of different reasons, and sometimes all they need is a chance and for someone to believe in them. I think Nico is unbelievably awesome for doing this!
The restaurant is a little place, a bit out of the way of the bulk of the west end restaurants in Kelvindale. We were booked in on Saturday night. It was packed when we arrived. So packed that there wasn’t a single free table in the restaurant. It had a lovely bustling busy atmosphere with the right level of music in the background. We said we had a reservation but I was acutely aware that there were no free tables. The maître d’ looked at his computer with an “oh crap” look on his face and we were told the table was “nearly ready.” My mum and I sat down on the two stools by the door expecting a wait while one of the other tables finished up. There wasn’t a third for my dad who insisted on letting us have them. He’s a gent.
As we sat we saw that a table that were seated who were, it seems, told to move so that we could be seated. Now I am aware that they were probably told on their booking that the table needed to be vacated for a certain time. I have had the same myself when booking in early at a place like this, but this left a bit of an awkward situation. The table that we asked to move was a much larger party. They still all had drinks in their hands and I overheard they hadn’t settled the bill. They came over and one of the women in the party said to us “I think we have had to move cos we had your table so its free now for you to sit down.” Basically she wanted me (who had actually stood up at this point) and my parents to move so that they could drink their drinks in the little area by the door. Admittedly there wasn’t really anywhere for them to go, but our table wasn’t actually ready, they were clearing and splitting up tables that were pushed together for this larger party. There was no room in the restaurant itself for the three of us to have stood looming waiting for out table to be ready and anyway my mum has a really bad ankle and wouldn’t have been able to stand there without being in pain. I said that we would rather just wait. So there were a few awkward minutes where we were squished together in a very small area by the door with this group who obviously resented us being there.
The maître d’ came over and told us our table was ready and apologised for our short wait. I’m not sure what I would have preferred in this situation. As it’s such a small place you can’t help but be confined to the small area by the door with the people you have just turfed out of a table. I don’t know if I would have preferred him to have let politely informed the table that the next party were here and could they drink up and pay and given them a few more minutes rather than making them stand as soon as he went over. I don’t know. I wonder what everyone else thinks. It certainly made the start of our experience awkward, but maybe that’s cos I’m too polite and stress about these things and would rather have been the one left to wait. I am also the type of person that stresses about being done if I have been told the table needs to be free for a certain time. I will be like “Come on guys! We need to be gone soon!”
Anyway…… Once we were sat this was soon forgotten. We perused the menu. I had offered to treat them to the £30 five course menu with the matching wine for another £30. My mum fancied the choices on the £19 for two and £22 for three course menu better though and I think they were also aware that I’m constantly stressing about money and they didn’t want me spending too much. But I wanted to treat them, they had done a lot for me. The à la carte it was then. I went for the squid and tiger prawn starter (£3 supplement) and the stone bass for my main. We discussed wine options as we weren’t having the matching wine and we decided that rather than having a glass of bubbly to start we would order a glass of white to start and have our usual red with the meal. My parents both got a small glass of the Domaine Gaujal Picpoul de Pinet (£4.75) but I decided to splash out on a small glass of Sancerre (Francois Millet) at £8.50 cos I really like Sancerre (as I tend to go for sauvignon blancs) but they are expensive and are rarely available by the glass. It was totally worth it! Very drinkable, light and sharp and just sweet enough for me. My mum preferred hers as she thought it was sweeter.
We were given our amuse bouche a broccoli velour with rapeseed oil. A lovely earthy creamy soup with a strong broccoli flavour and well seasoned. My mum wanted to lick the bowl. I decided to be a little more lady like and scooped out what was stuck to the sides with my finger. Ok, not very ladylike.
Our starters quickly arrived with my dish looking amazing. Sadly, I leaped so quickly to get a photo of my parents dishes (so they could get stuck in without waiting for me) that the waitress had arrived with the sauce before I could sit and appreciate the look of mine, or get a photo before it was poured. The squid and prawn were doused in a shellfish bisque which was incredibly strong and moreish without being “fishy”. The single tiger prawn was yummy and the squid was absolutely perfectly cooked. No sign of rubberiness. It all went really well with the pieces of pasta and the few olives adding flavour but not taking over the dish.
Dad was presented with his smoked ham hough with apple and fennel covered by a bowl. On removing this the most amazing smoked flavour hit you. It reminded me of campfires and was a lovely little bit of theatre to the dish. It looked good. I didn’t get to try a bit and the most I could get from my dad was “It was an awful lot of show for what it was I was nice but still a ham hock.” Sigh, this stuff is wasted on my dad.
Mum had the smoked mackerel with asparagus veloute, quail egg and horseradish. I was interested in how this would be done as it was very similar in description to the dish I had at the Sticky Walnut the week before. It was however very different. The mackerel was more of a mousse which was light, creamy and fresh and my mum thoroughly enjoyed it. She also adored the veloute.
We picked the Tempranillo (Joven La Mancha Gladium £18) as it is a lighter red to go with our mains as we had a mixture of both duck and fish. This was as lovely as I normally find a Tempranillo, light and fruity and you can’t complain as it was the second cheapest on the menu.
I had the stone bass with cauliflower, coconut, curry oil and brown shrimp. Brilliant presentation and it smelled amazing as it was brought to the table with the scent of curry spices hitting me. In flavour there was only a hint of curry to the sauce as not to overpower the fish. It was creamy and delicious, if was like an advert for umami. The fish light and perfect, it had such a crispy salty skin that I ate it for once (I usually leave the skin as I can find them slimy). There were added flavours with capers and a hit of sweet with golden raisins. I loved this. I scraped every last bit off the plate and then scraped some more.
My mum had the duck (£3 supplement) with artichoke, leek, sprouting broccoli and red wine. The leek was crispy on the top and added texture and looked great. She enjoyed it and I got a little taste of the meat that was succulent. My dad had the grey mullet with mussels, chorizo, fennel and saffron. Again I didn’t get much feedback from him, nor did I get to steal any, but he finished it. He did comment that one of the things was a bit salty. I don’t know if this was the fennel?? Anyway, as I said, it didn’t stop him as he devoured the lot.
On to puddings and this was just me and my mum. I had the Chocolate with salted caramel, hazelnut and rhubarb. It was kind of a square of chocolate with salted caramel sauces and pieces of rhubarb. It seem to have arrived just out of the fridge and so as it was cold and difficult to taste the chocolate flavour at first. All I could taste was the salted caramel sauce, which was lovely. But as it warmed to room temperature the chocolate taste got stronger. The sweet yet tart pieces of rhubarb added a nice extra dimension.
Mum had the pear with cheesecake, lime and crumble. This was another deconstructed cheesecake, which had a almond/marzipan like flavour and was fresh and zesty and very nice for a spring day. Again it was polished off.
The desserts were nice, but neither were amazing. Maybe it is because I was comparing to the wonderful show stopping dessert i had had a few days before. These were certainly on a par with most other fine dining places in Glasgow so they were good. But my mum said as we left because she thought the standard of 111 by Nico was so high “Which was better here or the Sticky Walnut?” and I had to say the latter. But I did still really enjoy my meal and would recommend.
On another note our waitress was lovely. We were a little annoying asking questions about things and she was very polite and patient although they were very busy. She is doing a great job. I also loved how the bill was called “The Damage” on the card.
Would like to go back here again and try the taster menu with the wine. But so many places and so little time!
Foodie x x
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