Thursday, 4 February 2010


66-70 Brewer Street
London W1F 9TR

020 7292 3518

"Nice of them to provide a cloth to dry the dishes when we can't pay the bill" said my Scottish friend seeing the HIX napkin neatly folded on our place setting (see photo). This restaurant is all very in your face, happening , of the moment. We are sitting "at the bar" on comfortable stools with backs early on Thursday evening. The place is already jumping, more than three quarters full, and it is only 7pm. We are sitting just under a Damien Hirst mobile of mini fish in formaldehyde. Its impossible not to feel very me too in this uber cool environment. You really haven't discovered anything. It is also impossible not to feel shades of deja vue because this place has lots of form. The design team did The Wolseley, the Ivy (the facade has similar leaded windows) etc. Mark Hix of Hix's Oyster and Chop House is ex Le Caprice and Ivy. Kevin Gratton the head chef is ex Le Caprice and Scotts. I find myself wondering who all these people are, the punters in the restaurant, who are organised enough to book this particular slice of chic London. If you go to the website and try to secure a booking you are offered times like 5.30pm or 10.30pm ten days out, all more convenient times scored through in light gray.

Lets start at the beginning. We meet first in Mark's bar in the basement. It too has a long deep zinc bar with rolled edge. There are sofas and rugs and low lighting in hip modern style. There are just two empty places to sit left at the bar and it is only 6pm. The barman is mixing cocktails with showtime panache. The hugely long drinks list offers Mark's Libations using fresh british ingredients. I feel I better have one of these and order a 'Spitfires over Kent'. It is composed of homemade Beefeater sloe gin and fresh lemon juice and maraschino liqueur and creme de violette. It comes in a small glass and looks like the left over dregs of over stewed tea or as my Scottish friend puts it "what's left in the bottle of sherry your grandmother offers you". It actually tastes slightly bitter, strange and delicious.

Mark Hix is renowned for British food, fresh local ingredients, seasonal. The main courses are heavy with hunks of fish and meat: john dory, pollock, deer pie, woodcock, partridge, steak. Potted shrimps, prawn cocktail and smoked salmon feature amongst the starters. Nothing textbook Michelin about this. Solid simple school of Caprice, Ivy etc. but there are stranger combinations. I have wild rabbit offal with jerusalem artichokes and rosemary £7.00 as a starter. The jerusalem artichokes are pureed , the offal sitting above in a thick gravy. It is rich gamey delicious. After I have roast woodcock and celeriac mash with a side order of steamed spinach. It is simple but excellent, the meat juicy tender which is difficult to achieve in a restaurant. It is however not cheap at £24.00; most of the mains are £18 and up. Well you are paying for all this uber chic. Rather inappropriately for such a gamey, fishy place my Scottish friend is vegetarian but impressively Hix provides a separate vegetarian menu. She pronounces her main course dominated by a "buttery lump of potato", but her mixed beet salad has beautifully fresh ingredients. Not the most imaginative vegetarian cooking she thinks, but its really not what you go to Hix for. We have a half litre of Argentine Pulenta Estate Malbec which compliments my gamey meal perfectly. The service has been immaculately friendly and professional throughout or as my Scottish friend put it "amazingly not up your own arse for an expensive place".

You are paying quite a bit here for the theatre and stage set. The dining room has the high ceilings of a traditional Paris brasserie. The artworks by Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas etc lend it modern London edge. The sound pings around a bit but it buzzes with drama, energy. The food is very good in that hearty good fare not too mucked about Caprice, Ivy, Wolseley way. The ingredients are very fresh and good. I don't however think that Hix is so far from his origins in the aforementioned camp to be doing anything radically different, but everything I had is as good and the rabbit offal rather better than anything I've had in those establishments. If you want to take visitors to London somewhere to show off both hip London and that 'British food' really can be quite good you can't do much better than here.

Hix on Urbanspoon

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