Thursday, 17 December 2009

Hix, Soho

This is Hix's third establishment. The two I've visited - the Hix Oyster and Chop House in Farringdon, and Hix in Soho - have both been designed wisely, and front of house and kitchen never fail to impress. Assuming the canny business sense comes from the man himself, I wouldn't be surprised to see another open before too long, but hope this doesn't impact negatively on the 'Hix' name. Too many ventures, born of a chef's passion and zeal, end up watered-down corporate entities, as we all know (Leon, Canteen, Gordon Ramsay's empire...).
So, it was comforting to see Mark Hix present and correct on a wintry Tuesday night, propping up the bar with Fergus Henderson and Mitch Tonks for company. This new Soho spot has had no end of positive write-ups over the past few months, for its simple food, first-rate ingredients, and happy buzz. Everyone loves him, even hard-to-please AA Gill.

The dining space on the ground floor is very pleasing. Off a narrow street, you enter through an enormous imposing wooden door, and are greeted in a corridor from which you can turn left to enter the restaurant, or descend to the basement bar. The restaurant itself is a large barn-like space, with low well-spaced seating (no one made to face a wall), the furnishings simple yet comfortable.

The menu is a hymn to the best of our isle's seasonal produce, from field to shore. If providence is your thing, you'll be amply rewarded here: West Mersea oysters, Cornish sprats, Sheringham mussels, Orkney lobster, Aberdeenshire beef, Woolley Park Farm chicken...

Unfortunately, being pregnant meant most of the menu was off limits. Where I would have gone for oysters, black pudding and apple (Heaven and earth), and Barkham blue cheese, I instead was limited to: De Beauvoir smoked salmon 'Hix Cure' with Corrigan's soda bread (£12), Blythburgh pork chop with celeriac mash and Bramley apple sauce (£19), and Sea buckthorn berry posset (£6). Fortunately, none were a disappointment.

The generously thick-cut salmon is reverentially plated up with none of the usual accompaniments, save two slices of Corrigan's famous rich, treacly soda bread. Simple intoxicating flavours. I usually avoid pork chops, so often dry and dull, but as you'll see from the picture below, Hix knows his chops. Cut on the bone, thick, with lashings of fat and seared flesh, every succulent mouthful oozed porky goodness. Suffolk's Blythburgh pigs live a good life, and it shows. You can buy their pork products online.
My companions each had the Fillets of red gurnard with cockles (replaced by potted shrimps) and wild chervil (£18). The cockles would have worked beautifully, we all agreed, but the potted shrimps were just too rich, and the whole dish was swimming in butter.
Our two hours were up. Rather than kicking us out into the cold, the staff cleared a sofa in the basement bar so we could finish our meal in comfort. Full of mismatched leather sofas, metal tables, a pool table Hix won on eBay, and colourful rugs, the scene is anything but pretentious. The barman made a beautiful non-alcoholic cocktail for me (pineapple, mint, lime and ginger) and served it in a special goblet as we lingered over dessert: one of the two possets, covered with a tart berry posset...
and the Barkham blue with Hix Oyster Ale cake, which was just a touch too dry.

Although there were a few lapses in concentration, resulting in a lack of culinary finesse from time to time, the produce is first-rate and the menu impressive. A fine example of how far British food has come in the last 10 years. Hail Hix!

Hix on Urbanspoon

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