Every Wednesday Mark Hix and executive chef Kevin Gratton sit down together to go through potential new dishes on the ever-changing seasonal menu at Hix, Soho. This is a heartening sign that, despite his growing empire, he still is involved with day-to-day running of his restaurants and cares about the quality and diversity of the dishes being served. Before going solo Mark Hix ran the kitchens at Le Caprice and The Ivy where he developed his unique style centred around reinterpreting the classics. This style is instantly recognisable in the dishes we sampled during our visit.
We begin our evening with a ‘Hix Fix’, Mark’s British take on a Buck’s Fizz. This cocktail is one of their biggest sellers and after our first sip we understand why! The sweetness of the Morello cherries is offset with the crispness of the sparkling English, and the Somerset Eau De Vie (cider-flavoured brandy) that the cherries are steeped in comes through in the aftertaste. These were washed down with a set of Lindisfarne rock oysters, perfectly plump, soft and chewy with round flavours of the sea.
The menu is a fishy affair, which is music to my eyes, and we order an array of it for both courses. I start with a De Beauvoir smoked salmon cured in a “Hix” marinade and served with a side of soda bread. The quality of the salmon was undeniable, it melted in my mouth and was perfectly accompanied by the rich bread, which added a complimentary texture. My guest had the spider crab cakes with chilli and spring onion. Often when ordering dishes like this I find a ball of potato masquerading as the crab cake. Not this time – these cakes were all crab, no fodder. Biting through the lightly fried coating revealed an abundance of fresh crab flakes, perfect for dipping into accompanying spicy sriracha mayo.
On to the main courses… Mark’s next ode to the sea came in the form of halibut with chanterelle mushrooms and sea aster. You could taste the freshness of the fish; it must’ve come in from the shore merely hours earlier. A second dish of grilled lemon sole served with hollandaise AND a salsa verde (for those too greedy to decide!) was divine and cooked to perfection. Lightly charred on the outside but flaky and soft in the middle. It wouldn’t be a proper fish dinner with a side of chips, and thank goodness we ordered them as they were sent from the gods. Crispy as you like on the outside, with a pillowy soft in the centre. We love a retro side dish so the option of adding in creamed spinach was too good to resist, and we gobbled this up with glee.
Too full for dessert we plump for our favourite liquid pudding – espresso martinis. Having been sat at the bar for our meal, we’d quickly befriended the bartender (the best person in a restaurant to make acquaintances with in my view) who kindly gave us a full measure or two.