Hix, 66-70 Brewer Street, London W1

Even the art on the ceiling doesn't detract from the food on the plates at Mark Hix's new Soho restaurant

I declare an interest. Mark Hix, the chef behind this week's restaurant, writes a food column for our sister publication The Independent Magazine. So I'll start by telling you what's wrong with his new establishment, Hix, in London's Soho.

The menus are printed black on brown and are nigh-on impossible to read under the dim lighting. The dishwasher is in view of several tables and makes an annoying buzz when it finishes a cycle (which it does frequently). And the weird dangling-from-the-ceiling artwork based on Billy Bass and Fray Bentos tins? Hmmm.

I find detailing the provenance of every dish a little tiresome, although this practice is spread far beyond just Hix. Do I need to know that the cider brandy in the Cornish fish soup is supplied by Julian Temperley? The whole roast chicken is from Woolley Park Farm. I can tell from the price – £50 – that it's a quality bird, I don't need to know its postcode. And as for shaved Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire, let's hope it was the cheese and not Mrs Kirkham that was shaved.

But as for what's right with it? Just about everything else. The venue, latterly a Japanese restaurant called Aaya, has been transformed into a clean, calm room with a vaguely Eastern European feel: the floor is a rustic combination of wood and tile, and the bentwood chairs and lightly padded banquettes are the comfortable side of austere.

The table furniture is elegant and the menu – once I've got my eye in – reads similarly smoothly. There's a lot to choose from, 16 mains, but then Hix is an accomplished chef with a wide repertoire. His new venture features some of the "greatest hits" of his Clerkenwell and Lyme Regis restaurants – hanger steaks, roast grouse, meat and oyster pies – with an emphasis on British fare.

Mr M and I start with a couple of oysters each, just because. The Maldon Rocks (£1.95 each) are briny and fresh, but the West Mersea natives (£3.75 each) are properly dazzling. I'd eat another half-dozen, but save myself for my starter proper – partridge on toast with salsify and elderberries (£9.75). Game can be a little dry but the meat is tender as you like, a perfect match for the crisp toast and the intense savoury flavour of the berries. I want to eat it all over again, and resent the single mouthful I give Mr M. He has mixed beets with goat's cheese, water celery and pickled walnuts (£9.25). The veg are a shade too firm for my liking, but the marriage of tastes is winning.

By now the place is filling with guests eager to be first to get into the new buzz restaurant, among them a notoriously alpha-male reviewer. Hix, who until now has been keeping an eye on diners and the dishes coming out of the kitchen, moves in to guide him around the room. I earwig on the artwork explanation – it turns out that the mobiles dotted around the room's ceiling are by Damien Hirst, Gary Webb and Sarah Lucas among others, so even though they look more than a little bonkers, they have... provenance.

The fillet of gurnard with cockles and Morecambe Bay shrimps (£19.25) is wonderfully rich and complex. Mr M informs me that the mutton, kidney and oyster pie is melting with stringy- in-a-good-way mutton and a terrific pastry crust, but why – he asks – don't modern pies have sides?

Our charming waitress, when asked what the advertised potato "specials" are, describes thick slices of potato fried in butter. My idea of heaven, so I look forward to them. It turns out I'd misheard and the spuds are fried in batter (£3.95). They are, shall we say, a little denser than I'd anticipated, but delicious all the same.

The general manager goes misty-eyed about the Bramley apple pie (£6.50), and now I know why. It is not modishly tart, or deconstructed – just an exemplary pudding, with a jug of proper custard.

Yes, it's pricey. Yes, it's got teething problems. But the food is sublime and Hix has the unmistakable hum of right place, right time. Even if that is under a Brit Art mobile of a plastic fish. n


Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

Hix, 66-70 Brewer Street, London W1, tel: 020 7292 3518. Lunch and dinner seven days a week. Price for two, with wine, about £120

Second helpings: More Soho seducers

Yalla Yalla

1 Green's Court, London W1, tel: 020 7287 7663

This sweet, new heart-of-Soho café has been an instant hit with its authentic Beirut-style cooking and baking; it is already invariably full.

Spacca Napoli

101 Dean Street, London W1, tel: 020 7437 9440

If you like noise and chaos, this authentic Soho trattoria (rammed with Italians) is a great place, serving proper Neapolitan pizza (by the metre); service, however, needs work.


17 Beak Street, London W1,tel: 020 7287 0555

In the heart of the West End – but still often a discovery for diners and reporters – this small but lavishly furnished Soho-townhouse offers Thai food that's somewhere between good and excellent.

Reviews extracted from 'Harden's London and UK Restaurant Guides 2010'

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone