** Nick’s of Portland St closed in December 2016 **
** Reviews on Tripadvisor seem to back up our review – decent food let down by indifferent front of house **
I remember the eponymous Nick from Peer’s in Aber – a nice enough place, down that alley off Baker Street that seems more suitable for Backyard BBQ now.
He’s been a successful restaurateur for a long time now, and the menu here is like a Greatest Hits compilation rather than a coherent, unified design.
The new premises on Portland Road are small, but much more attractive than his earlier locations.
Initial impressions weren’t great – the place wasn’t busy, but no one came to greet us so we sat & waited for a few minutes.
Once spotted we asked for menus, and were given a food one, but had to forage a drinks one from another table.
Food is clearly cooked fresh to order, and the place smelled divine.
Bethan is still trying to get her drinking under control after the incident in Rummers, so she chose from their promising Mocktails range.
I vetoed the “Sparkling Virgin Cosmo” and allowed her the “Apple & Elderflower Mojito”.
This was very sweet from the elderflower, and very apple-y. I’d have liked a bit more muddled mint – £4.50 for a fruit squash is a bit steep – but it was refreshing and tasty on a hot lunchtime.
Wines looked good value, but not much available by the glass. Boring beers.
Pricing seems fair, with most items under £10, although we noticed another table’s burger’s came without chips! Is this Albania?
The menu is eclectic, borrowing from various global cuisines. There are plenty of vegetarian and fish options (a nice change in mostly meat-centric Aber) with some tempting combinations such as salmon cooked in oyster broth.
Bethan had the Hake With a Herb and Parmesan Crust (£8.95)
This was delightful.
The fish was soft and tasty, the breadcrumb crust was full of flavour too. For a moment, I wondered if battering fish might be wrong!
The potatoes had been sautéed with sesame seeds, and the salad was crisp and fresh.
Very pleasing, and one of the best-value meals in Aber.
My Thai Red Chicken Curry and Fried Chicken, Egg, Spinach & Prawn Jasmine Rice (£14.95) has to be the longest menu item I’ve ever read.
Have a look at it, and then compare it with Bethan’s fish, and see if you have the same thought we had.
The hake was £8.95 – why is this similarly-sized dish 67% more money?
Chicken and prawns aren’t more expensive than a piece of hake.
I accept that some of the extra £6 has gone on the flavourings and techniques.
That was a sophisticated red curry sauce. Hot, yes, but plenty of interesting flavour too.
I couldn’t tell which bits were “Red Chicken Curry” and which bits “Fried Chicken”, mind. All the chicken was good quality & well cooked.
The little bits of omelette were nice but maybe not quite necessary, and I’m not sure there was any spinach. Prawns are bland and can’t stand up to a hot sauce. The giant piece of lemongrass is more decoration than ingredient.
It was a powerful, tasty dish, and I enjoyed it.
But I had a nagging feeling it wasn’t worth the top price.
We enjoyed our meal, but £28.85 felt a lot.
It is a family-owned and family-run business, with Nick’s daughter working as a waitress.
But it feels a little under-professional.
That isn’t really a proper receipt.
We didn’t feel warmly greeted, no checking how your food is, and no salt & pepper on the table.
There have been mutterings that service is a little slow, but that is partly down to everything being cooked fresh to order.
Mom & Pop restaurants are popular in the US and on the continent, and somehow seem more charming.
I think Nick is popular with his regulars – he came out and chatted happily with one couple for over ten minutes – which made our own lack of welcome seem all the more pronounced.
There were some Chinese tourists in at the same time, and they spent ages working through their money.
On presenting a £50 note, the waitress asked them “Have you got a ten and a five?”, throwing them into a panic of emptying bags & wallets.
It’s tough enough being in a foreign country with its foreign language without people making it harder.
I would urge anyone to visit (though be careful – they don’t open until 6.30 in the evenings) as it is well worth a try, and I can see it being many people’s favourite.
I don’t believe there is anyone who could go here and not see something they’d like to eat, and I’m sure they’d enjoy it too.
Don’t spend more than £10 for a main course.
A little more polish would make this a great neighbourhood restaurant.
Nick’s Kitchen & Restaurant
2A Portland Road
Nick’s Facebook Page