Mark Hix is a pioneer of truly British food, there is no two ways about it. I first came across him watching TV (surprise, surprise) where he was competing in the Great British Menu and he somehow managed to get two of his dishes through to the season finale banquet. I was stunned. Getting one dish through was hard but the country and judges had deemed his Stargazy pie (a pie crafted from crayfish and rabbit) and Perry jelly worthy to be a fair representation of truly British food.
Alongside the Oyster and Chop house in the heart of Farringdon and the Oyster and Fish house in Dorset, Hix Soho is the latest addition in the rise of the Hix empire. Sticking to his "signature British food", it serves a fresh daily menu using fresh British produce from his tried and trusted suppliers. Downstairs is the now infamous bar, with a relaxed feel and drinks provided by a team of excellent mixologists.
All did not start well. Not the restaurants fault, but my own. I was late, had a miserable journey and was grumpy. As soon as I turned up, however, all was good in the world again. My compadres had ordered some Blythburgh pork crackling with apple sauce, and had kindly saved me a few pieces. Nothing cheers me up more than a few pieces of well cooked pork skin and I was eternally grateful.
From kindness can come great cruelty. No sooner had I sat down and perused the menu, than my alleged friends begun to goad me into eating oysters with them. I steadfastly refused and instead opted for the roast partridge. In my eyes, this was an inspired decision. As they sat there cooing at their platter of sea snot, I quietly devoured my perfectly cooked partridge, very happy and looking forward to the next course.
Whilst others went for some fancy fish fingers, I opted for an extremely flavoursome and well cooked roe deer chop, moistened with a glistening light jus. Accompanied by my favourite puree of all (silky smooth celeriac), it also contained a liberal smattering of yellow berries. Apparently these were sea buckthorn berries, and although they provided a dash of colour to the dish, they tasted bitter, threatened to stain my jumper with their yellow juices and were wholly unenjoyable.
If you weren't sure what kind of food Hix sells, then the dessert menu rams it's ethos down your throat. Chester Pie and Yorkshire Parkin stood out as desserts with true British heritage, with home made ice-creams also proving popular. I opted for the insanely colourful Autumn raspberry cheesecake, which arrived like no other cheesecake I had ever had, but appetising nonetheless. In my eyes, all the desserts were overshadowed by the decadent chocolate sauce which accompanied the ice cream. The minute I was given carte blanche to try it, in the words of Greg Wallace, I took my shirt off and dove in. Rich and slightly bitter, this is as close to a perfect chocolate sauce as you will get.
Hix is good but at over £35 a head without drinks, it is easy to see the cost of the meal getting out of hand. I returned at a later date to give the bar downstairs a once over and I am pleased to report that it is stonking. The atmosphere is laid back and comfortable, as are the furnishings, but the cocktails add an air of elegance to the whole place. Heavily influenced by gin and rum, most are served in an array of goblets, with the Criterion Milk punch my clear favourite. Go for food, go for drinks, but just go.
Hix Soho (Website) - 66-70 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9UP