'Hix' and 'Selfridges'. Not names I'd expect to see together. Ramsay, Peyton, Stein, Yau, Conran, Galvin, Nobu... perhaps. Many chefs seem more than willing to get into bed with big business and hotel chains, and be lured into launching franchises. But Mark Hix struck me more the Fergus Henderson (of St John) type. This is his fifth self-named restaurant, and word has it he's keen on further expansion. As a restaurant consultant and former Caprice boss, he has quietly stamped his name on dozens of menus across town over the last decade, though premises with his name above the door have so far been his own, until now.
I'd booked well ahead for Sunday lunch at Hix's Restaurant and Champagne Bar in Selfridges, expecting it to be thronged with moneyed shoppers and destination diners, but it was strangely quiet. An awkward moment followed, as the waitress seating us went to great pains to inform (persuade) us that it was normally packed out and buzzy. No matter. It was peaceful and we weren't going to be shifted in a hurry.
The Conran-designed mezzanine dining area floats above the posh handbags, providing ample eye candy for the girls, and a welcome sanctuary from the frenetic shopping floor for all (particularly the guys: I hate seeing men with tails between their legs being dragged around designer stores by their spouse, languid and glassy eyed).
Up pop the familiarly robust Hixy British classics on the menu: 'Hix Cure' salmon, oysters, fish and chips, and fancified 'wild garlic' chicken kiev. The rest of the menu, though, is rather Hix-lite, concentrating on safer Mediterranean dishes (burrata, risotto, pasta). Pressure from store management perhaps, or Hix predicting a less adventurous diner.
For what is - the staff tell me - a walk-in restaurant, this place ain't cheap. Starters average £10, mains range from £14-40, and desserts are all priced at £6.75. Add water, wine, and service, and you've easily spent £50 each.
Tasty, though. All the dishes were well executed, served in typically pared-down Hix style.
Maldon Rock oysters (above), came topped with a zingy tomato granita. The granita wasn't on the menu, so purists may have objected, but Jon's no purist. He loved them.
Onion tart. Just the right temperature, beautifully soft onions, and crispy pastry.
Burrata on toasted sourdough. Oh, I love this cheese, a yielding luscious Puglian buffalo mozzarella, enriched with cream. I last indulged in it at Skye Gyngell's Petersham Nurseries cafe, where it had been paired with salty ham and wet figs. A date-night dish if ever there was one.
Purple sprouting broccoli with Berkswell cheese and pickled walnuts. £9.25! No matter how good it was, that price can't be justified.
Cornish lamb cutlets with 'roasted cucumber salad' and watercress £19.50. The lamb was cooked beautifully, its flesh charred and meltingly tender. But the cucumber was raw. Shame. The lack of any further cooked element to the dish made it a touch too light for my taste.
Steak tartare £15.75, with chips. Gorgeous.
Chicken kiev with wild garlic £16.75. Another winner. (Hands back, Matt.)
Linguine with red sea prawns and chilli £14.50. Creamy, delicate, soothing and polished off happily by my companion, washed down with a glass of refreshing Côteaux de Peyriac.
Pink Fir Apple potatoes £3.95.
Citrus salad with yogurt sorbet £6.75. Sprinkled with caramelized peel, a refreshing dessert with a touch of indulgence.
Treacle sponge pudding with custard £6.75. For the chaps. This was the star pudding, a standout textbook example of perfect sticky syrupy sponge.
Rhubarb and ginger jelly with Jersey cream £6.75. I was mocked for ordering 'baby food', and although the flavours hit all the right notes, I admit something of a firmer texture would have been appreciated - maybe a piece of shortbread, or an oaty biscuit.
I adored this elegant tea gadget. Strainer and drip bowl in one. I never used to take much notice of trinkets, I must be getting old...
For a proper Hix experience, I wouldn't make a bee-line for this outpost. It's well-judged for its location, however, and I would definitely return for champagne and oysters, or an indulgent pudding, if we were feeling flush. There's just something odd about sitting through 3 courses in a windowless department store.
Only bother booking ahead for Saturday lunch.