Hix Soho

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A mobile of Fray Bentos pies gently twirls in the white high-ceilinged room as David Hasslehoff tucks into his hanger steak with baked bone marrow. A fluorescent finger part-designed by Sue Webster points the way to “Mark’s Bar” downstairs where Nicky Clarke, James Nesbitt, Joe Warwick and Monica Brown rub shoulders on mahogany leather sofas. They’re all sipping outrageously sippable negronis crafted by that mixological wizard Nick Strangeway. Mummified fish, that Damien Hirst has trapped in formaldehyde dangle from the ceiling of the Martin Brudnizki designed interior. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a private members’ club, or an art gallery perhaps. This is in fact Mark Hix’s latest venture on Brewer Street, and it’s bloody brilliant.

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It’s the third time I’ve been here in the past week and the place only officially opens to the public on Saturday. But when I drop in on Wednesday evening, the place is saturated with friends and family. Tonight it’s Friday and everything is half price, because they’re still not open, but nonetheless, it’s packed to the rafters. The menu reads a like a love letter to food, think Manx queenies (scallops) with wild boar bacon and herbs, ox cheek with mixed beets, horseradish and chickweed or pheasant, chanterelle and chestnut soup. And those are just the starters. Mark advises on a selection and we are soon tucking in to a luxurious Cornish fish soup, heaving with gurnard and red mullet and replete with Julian Temperley’s cider brandy. Even the bread and butter is spot on, a big rustic hug of warmth. Our cod’s cheeks, tongues and throats with girolles arrives and it is astonishingly tasty. It somehow manages to combine incredible delicacy with a meaty clout; the whole dish embroidered with a silky spring onion-flecked sauce. I shamelessly lick the plate clean.

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We have “heaven and earth” which turns out to be a gigantic fluffy meatball of black pudding with apples and potatoes, it breaks open in a fug of steamy herbal goodness. Wild duck with salsify and elderberries is pure sex on toast, and my lamb and oyster pie is easily the best I’ve ever had. The salt marsh mutton, kidney and oysters combine to magnificent effect, the meat sits dense and tender in its intensely lamby gravy, under a flaky, buttery lid. It immediately falls apart upon contact with the spoon, the oysters dripping with Neptunian juices and the plump kidneys making the whole dish rock. I am temporarily possessed by the ghost of the former restaurant that occupied this site, Aaya, and find myself wanting to down the gravy from the bottom of my pie dish ramen style. The deep fried Pollack with chips and mushy peas is crisp, greaseless and spankingly fresh. It’s served with a boat of home made tartare sauce and a bottle of Sarson’s vinegar. I love that. It’s the tiny touches like this that make it feel personal and not like just another stuffy restaurant.

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We drink Les Foulards Rouges, Soif du Mal, which is 70% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 100% delicious. It’s rough and cloudy with some incredible strains of apple and pear. Stuffed to eruption point, we order pudding. The stomach is begging me to stop but my tastebuds are demanding that I press on to culinary Moscow. The lemon trifle is lush, creamy and light, the limoncello notes sashay over the tongue. Defeated, we head downstairs where people are chilling out, drinking gorgeous cocktails and generally having a ball.

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It’s here that we pick up on one very major problem with this place and it’s a rather serious predicament that I very much doubt they are ever going to be able to iron out. In fact, I can predict that this fault will only gradually worsen… You see, the thing is, there’s a definite hex about Hix, and once you’re in there, I’m afraid it’s very, very difficult, if not impossible to ever leave.….just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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17 comments

  1. God – it all sounds pretty incredible. Did you not have a chat with The Hoff?

  2. As always, great post.
    I haven’t managed to eat in the Smithfield’s Chop and Oyster House restaurant yet and now there’s another Hix Outpost to add to the must visit list?

    Going to have to pull my finger out it seems and get out eating. Sounds amazing.
    Lucky you Reg for visiting three times in a week!

  3. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… hanging with the Hoff and the Hix… good stuff!
    Food sounds great!

  4. Great review.

    We really do need good restaurants in Soho there are so few.

    Look forward to trying the new Hix outpost.

  5. It sounds fantastic. I also love the Sarsons touch. I cannot abide a stuffy restaurant, it doesn’t matter how good the food is. Who doesn’t want vinegar with fish and chips?

  6. Yum! Another place in Soho to add to my list. I’ve only been to Hix Oyster & Chop House, though I did have the privilege recently of standing next to a nervous Mark during the Guild of Food Writers awards. He won and I didn’t, but I didn’t introduce myself in the end!

  7. Jan

    This looks right up my street. Great unstuffy food in a relaxed setting. You describe it all beautifully.

  8. Nom nom! Love Hixy’s style – that bread looks fantastic, such a pared back approach to running a restaurant, especially in deepest darkest Soho. Did they have Stargazy pie on the menu? ;)

  9. FieldGirl

    Sounds like the typical experience of someone who’s “in” with Hix? I’d go if I thought I would receive anything like the same experience; my visit to Hix in Smithfields inclines me to think it would be a huge disappointment.

  10. Wow!
    My mouth is watering – I will make sure that my stomach is suitably empty before I go. We have just managed to bag ourselves a table for a couple of weeks’ time and I can hardly contain my excitement. How Mr Hix can render something so simple so delicious is beyond me. Sheer alchemy!

  11. gastrogeek

    Jan – thank you so much :)

    Sig – I don’t remember seeing it, but will have a check for you…

    FieldGirl – I’m very sorry to hear that, you poor thing.

    SarWW – Alchemy indeed! I can’t wait to hear about it.

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