Harden's survey result
The first of Mark Hix’s London ventures – this white-tiles-and-marble chophouse near Smithfield has often somewhat divided reporters. Fans see it as “the go-to place for modern British seasonal classics, from steaks to the fish of the day”; sceptics judge it “very noisy and busy, with average food, and trading on its reputation”.
“Buried off Smithfield on the way to the tube”, Mark Hix’s original solo operation put in a strong all-round performance this year. “Business-friendly, but without compromising on quality” – “the inventive and seasonal British menu is worthwhile and there is always a decent bit of steak”. Top Tip: 4pm-7pm is Happy Hour for oysters.
Mark Hix’s original solo operation, near Smithfield, excels at “the simple things” – specifically “everyday and special-occasion steaks (sometimes with a Hix-ian twist)”. On the debit side, “some of the specials don’t work too well”, “the waiting staff are pleasant but inefficient”, and it’s a bit “pricey”.
Fans of Mark Hix’s original solo venue, near Smithfield, applaud its “solid trencherman’s menu” – “one of the few places I can take Americans and not be embarrassed by the size of the steaks and chops compared with the US!” Those not on expenses though, can find the food “pricey”, “only just above average”, and “a little tired and redundant in a post-Hawksmoor world”.
|Wine per bottle||£25.00|
Hix Oyster & Chop House EC1
A plain Smithfield establishment on the former Rudland & Stubbs (RIP) site, bearing the name of a former Caprice group executive chef; our early-days sampling of the meat-heavy English menu showed signs of promise, but the performance overall struck us as complacent.
OK. So, for years, you've been a chef of some eminence (if perhaps not quite a household name), but always cooking for other people (the Caprice group). You've pumped out a cookbook a year in recent times, and write a newspaper column. You've become something of a hero of the English culinary renaissance. And you finally decide it's time to go it alone. The moment has come to launch an establishment with your own name above the door.
Where do you spend the weekend before the launch? In the kitchen, fine-tuning the menu? In the dining room anxiously ensuring everything is ready to receive the punters? Or perhaps on a stepladder outside, making sure they've got your name up right? Er, no. If you're Mark Hix, you spend it at a conference in New Orleans.
This single fact tells you almost everything you need to know about the priorities of the modern chef/media persona. It doesn't matter that you're on the very brink of opening your first solo restaurant, bearing your very own name - what's most important is to be off hob-nobbing with other foodie luminaries.
Now, if Mr Hix's Smithfield restaurant had actually been ready to open, firing on all cylinders, on the appointed day, such commentary would be irrelevant. But, even towards the end of the first week, its performance was still very ragged indeed. The table layout was still being tinkered with, service was still very slow (and notably disjointed), and deliveries (such as that all-important ironing board) were still being received through the front door.
Mr Hix's contribution? Well, obviously, he was swanning around the dining room, lapping up the adulation from his mates in the trade for the undoubted success he clearly presumes this will be. So far as we could see, such friends got 'comped' (ie their bills torn up). As the early-days feeling of the enterprise so clearly called for the sort of first-week/soft-opening discount which is pretty common nowadays, we therefore awaited the arrival of our own reckoning with particular interest.
No luck: full prices already, undeservedly, being charged. And it's not as if some of the prices couldn't stand a bit of pruning. A £6.75 pudding, for example, comprised a 'scone' (pancake), a small ball of ice cream and some honey. And, if you're running a (full-price) Oyster & Chop house, shouldn't you already have your sourcing sorted out, to the extent that you can offer a 'choice' of more than two types of oyster?
The actual quality of what we consumed was actually pretty good, but - though meat was impressive - there was little remarkable about our meal. A pennywort 'salad' was composed of items presented together, rather than having been brought together, and an incidental dish of bubble 'n' squeak was totally without interest.
So, from us, rather a guarded welcome for Mr Hix's newcomer. Let's just hope it settles in to be as good as he clearly expects it's going to be.
36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross St, London, EC1M 6BN
|Number of Diners:|
|Monday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Tuesday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Friday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Saturday||12 pm-11 pm|
|Sunday||12 pm-10 pm|