Chop chop: Star recipes from Mark Hix's new restaurant

For months, Mark Hix has been working towards the opening of his new restaurant. As the big day approaches, he exclusively reveals some of the menu’s star attractions. Photographs by Jason Lowe

Sunday 23 October 2011 08:22

As regular readers of this column will know, after 17 years working in some of London's finest restaurants, I decided at the end of last year it was time to go it alone. (Well not quite alone, as Ratnesh Bagdai will be joining me as my business partner. Ratnesh worked for eight years with me as finance director at Caprice Holdings, which made him the obvious choice when it came to a creating a workable, hands-on partnership – see box overleaf.) But now, after months of work, I can proudly announce that my new restaurant, Hix Oyster and Chop House, is about to open.

You may wonder, why oysters and chops? Well, London seems to be missing a real meaty restaurant – aside, of course, from my mate Fergus Henderson's St John, just round the corner from the new site in Smithfield, near the City of London. There are so few places you can go to get really good hefty cuts of meat, cooked simply and on the bone, in London. We have the Gaucho Grill, but that's Argentinean meat, and we should be using our home-grown animals. We have enough fresh fish restaurants in the capital to keep us going, but I can see a growing trend for places that offer traditional cuts of meat on the bone.

London dining in the 18th century was all about hearty taverns and chop houses serving simple fare with quick service. Regional and local beers were also served, as was the dark stout porter in healthy-sized pewter mugs. Famous chop houses such as Clifton's in Butcher's Row and Dolly's in Paternoster Row served quality chops and steaks, with linen tablecloths and salt and pepper cruets on the table; things we take for granted today.

The oyster connection was the other thing that made the idea appealing to me, as oysters used to be cheap working-class food in London. They would simply come up the Thames by boat from the East coast. Oysters were then such an affordable luxury that they even used them to enrich stews in order to use less meat. They were a common London street food, and oyster sellers would be a common sight on the streets of the East End. Today, that's sadly not the case, and oysters are not such a cheap commodity – especially our natives, which almost got wiped out at the end of the 19th century due to industrial and domestic waste being dumped in the waterways on the Essex coast, which polluted the oyster beds. Happy to say they are making a full recovery!

Beef shin, porter and oyster pie

Makes four individual pies

Pies like this are great for putting to use so-called secondary cuts such as shin, flank, cheeks, etc. In fact, they are not really secondary cuts at all; to some, they have more flavour than many of the prime cuts. This recipe is for smaller individual pies (about 15cms in diameter), but you can adapt it to make one large pie. Most good butchers would be happy to part with these cuts or you could order them from

900g trimmed beef shin or ox cheek or flank, cut into rough 3cm cubes
200ml porter or Guinness
Vegetable oil, to fry
2tbsp plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
30g butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped thyme leaves
1tsp tomato purée
1 small bay leaf
1.5 litres beef stock
12 oysters, 8 removed from the shell and 4 left in the half shell

For the parsley crust

2tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
1tbsp chopped parsley
A good knob of butter

For the pastry

225g self-raising flour
1tsp salt
85g shredded beef suet
60g butter, chilled and coarsely grated
1 medium egg beaten to glaze

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Heat the vegetable oil in a large, heavy frying pan or saucepan, lightly flour the meat with some of the flour and season with salt and pepper. Fry the meat in 2 or 3 batches over a high heat until nicely browned then put to one side.

Fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes until lightly coloured, then add the remaining flour and tomato purée and stir over a low heat for a minute or so. Slowly add the porter and beef stock, stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming. Add thyme, bay leaf and the pieces of beef, bring back to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer gently with a lid on for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

When the meat is cooked, the sauce should have thickened to a gravy-like consistency. If not, mix a little cornflour to a paste with some water, stir into the sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Let the mixture cool down and use to fill the pie dishes (or single dish) to about 1cm from the top.

To make the pastry, mix the flour and salt with the suet and grated butter. Mix in about 150-175ml water to form a smooth dough and knead it for a minute. Roll the pastry on a floured table to about ¾cm thick and cut out to about 2cm larger all the way round than the pie dishes (or dish) with a slit or hole in the middle for the oyster. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little of the beaten egg and lay the pastry on top, pressing the egg-washed sides against the rim of the dish. Cut a 2cm hole in the centre but leave the pastry attached so you can drop the oysters in when cooked then brush with beaten egg.

Leave to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (fan oven 180C)/ gas mark 6 and cook the pie for 40-50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

To make the parsley crust just melt the butter in a pan and mix the crumbs and parsley in and season. To serve remove the pastry disc and insert a couple of shucked oysters and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Scatter the 4 oysters in the shell with the parsley crust and grill until golden then place over the hole.

Chop House butter

Makes 300g

This is the British version of the famous Café de Paris butter. Café de Paris butter reads like a shopping list of ingredients and it was probably invented by a chef who wanted to punish a commis chef by making him put every ingredient in the larder into a bowl with some butter.

This is a simpler version that's a work in progress and probably by the time we open the restaurant, it will have changed!

1 red onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed}
1tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
100ml Red wine
1/2tbsp thyme leaves, chopped
1/2tbsp freshly grated horseradish
250g butter, softened
1tbsp Henderson's relish or Worcestershire sauce
1tbsp HP sauce
1tbsp Tewkesbury or English mustard
1tsp Gentleman's Relish
2tbsp chopped parsley
1/2tbsp chopped tarragon

Gently cook the red onions, garlic and pepper in the rapeseed oil for 2-3 minutes then remove from the heat and mix well with all of the other ingredients. Roll in clingfilm or greaseproof in a 3cm diameter cylinder and store in the fridge or freezer until required then just slice it as you need it and serve directly on to steaks and chops or cut off as much as you need and slice it before serving.

Bacon chop with Tewkesbury mustard

Serves 4

I've recently got into delicious bacon chops, especially if they are not too salty. If your butcher can't do bacon chops on the bone, then a thick-cut piece of streaky will do the trick. Good delis and supermarkets stock Tewkesbury mustard. I get mine from Waitrose and it's somewhere between a Dijon and English mustard.

4 bacon chops weighing about 200g each

For the mustard sauce

2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
A good knob of butter
2tsp flour
1tsp tomato purée
100ml dry cider
3tsp (or more) Tewkesbury mustard
250ml beef stock

Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan and gently cook the shallots for 2-3 minutes until lightly coloured. Add the flour and tomato purée and stir well over a low heat for a minute. Gradually add the cider, stirring to avoid lumps forming, and then add the mustard and gradually add the beef stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until the sauce has reduced by about two-thirds and thickened.

Remove the rind from the chop. You can cook and crisp this separately if you wish. Season the chop with pepper only. Cook on a ribbed griddle or in a heavy frying pan for about 5-6 minutes on each side then serve with the sauce. Serve with fresh greens, such as purple sprouting broccoli.

Hanger steak with baked bone marrow

Serves 4

This cut is highly regarded in France where it's known as onglet. In the US it's referred to as hanger steak and you see it on most decent brasserie menus. Over here, however, it rarely gets used as a steak and normally gets thrown into stewing steak or minced – sacrilege!

It's known to some old-school butchers here as butcher's steak, as it used to be a well-kept secret, and as such was the steak that butchers saved for themselves once the beast was butchered. It lies just below the kidneys, near the flank and has a wonderful flavour. You will get only four portions per animal so better ask your butcher well in advance to get his hands on some.

Ask your butcher to cut the bone marrow shaft in half lengthways to about 12-14cm in length with a band saw or normal saw.

4 butcher's steaks weighing about 200g each
1tbsp vegetable oil for brushing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 x 10-12cm lengths of bone marrow, halved
4 small shallots peeled, halved and finely chopped
A couple of good knobs of butter
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
50–60g fresh white breadcrumbs
4tbsp chopped parsley

First prepare the bone marrow: gently cook the shallots and garlic in a little of the butter for 2-3 minutes until soft then remove from the heat. Scoop the bone marrow out of the bones with a spoon then chop into rough pieces and mix with the shallot mixture, breadcrumbs and parsley and season. Spoon the mixture back into the bones, place on a baking tray and bake for about 12-15 minutes until lightly coloured.

Meanwhile bash the steaks a couple times with a meat cleaver or steak hammer; this just breaks down some of the muscles in the steak. Heat a ribbed griddle pan or heavy frying pan. Season the steaks, lightly oil them and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side keeping them on the rare side then leave to rest.

To serve, slice the steaks into 5 or 6 slices and arrange on warmed plates and place the baked bone marrow next to the steak.

Salt-baked celeriac

Serves 2-4

This is a simple dish that Julian Biggs, who used to run Urban Caprice, the catering arm of Caprice Holdings, created for an arty dinner last year. The original recipe had a salt pastry but because of the thick skin of the celeriac it works well just baked on a bed of salt and turned over every so often. It's also a great sharing dish to go in the middle of the table.

1 celeriac weighing about 600-700g
A couple of good knobs of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g or so of salt for baking

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place the salt in a tight-fitting oven-proof dish or pan and put the celeriac on top. Bake for about an hour, turning the celeriac a few times while it's cooking, or until it feels tender when a knife is inserted.

To serve, cut off the top and either mash the middle with butter and seasoning or just make random cuts through the flesh and just add the butter and seasoning and replace the top.

Hix Oyster and Chop House, 36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross Street, London EC1 (020-7017 1930;

Click here to see Mark Hix's exclusive cookery videos

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments