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

16/20

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.

Benja

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'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on