Harden's survey result
“Needing to recover its imagination”: Mark Hix needs somehow to reboot his Soho HQ. On the plus side, it’s potentially a “lovely” venue – a vaguely Manhattan-esque room, with an attractive cellar cocktail bar – and service is typically “welcoming” (if not always on-the-ball). On the downside, its fish-heavy menu remains far too expensive, and “there seems to be little thought about how to produce something interesting with the ingredients at hand”.
Fans of Mark Hix’s West End flagship hail its “excellent modern British food” and “terrific ambience and premier Soho location”, particularly recommending it for a “lunchtime business meeting”. But overall it inspires remarkably little feedback these days, far too much of it to the effect that it’s too costly and can be “very disappointing”.
Mark Hix’s flagship Soho venture inspires limited feedback nowadays, and continues to disappoint as much as it delights, although “it’s not so much bad as underwhelming”. Top Tip – “there’s a great buzz about the basement bar”.
For 30 years we've been curating reviews of the UK's most notable restaurant. In a typical year, diners submit over 50,000 reviews to create the most authoritative restaurant guide in the UK. Each year, the guide is re-written from scratch based on this survey (although for the 2021 edition, reviews are little changed from 2020 as no survey could run for that year).
Have you eaten at Hix?
|Wine per bottle||£35.00|
Mark Hix's very central new restaurant - on the former Soho site of Aaya (RIP), two minutes from Piccadilly Circus - offers his trademark English food, produced to a very high quality; given the rather unforgiving nature of the brightly-lit space, however, the food and wine prices struck us as rather high.
Even with his own name over the door, Mark Hix always give us the impression of being caught opening his restaurants 'on the hop'. It was a real problem with his Farringdon launch last year. So when, on our early-days visit to his new Soho venture, menus were not available until 20 minutes into the lunch service, we thought: here we go again. Wrongly, fortunately, as things immediately began to look up.
Once it had got under way, the service - if not the slickest we'd ever seen - was not bad at all, certainly if you make allowances for 'early days'.
The food was never less than good either. As at all Hix places, you get a hot mini-loaf to start, which manages to be bland and moreish at the same time - what was it Mummy always used to say about not filling up on bread first?
With the arrival of the food 'proper', though, the kitchen quickly stepped up a gear. Fish soup - Ã l'anglaise, with no accoutrements - was excellent, as intense a bowl of fishy flavour as you could hope for. Fish and chips, with what Lord Mandelson would call guacamole, was similarly pretty much perfect, the crispiness of the batter providing a wonderful foil to the expertly cooked pollack within, and the chips not bad either. After all the bread, though, pudding defeated your solo luncher, so we had a sorbet. Also very good, as was the coffee.
There is, as you may have guessed, a 'but' (or rather two). The first is whatever the menu - or more particularly wine list - equivalent of 'sticker shock' is called.
Call us cheapskates, but we think that a fair choice of wines by the glass (175ml) should come in somewhere round the fiver mark, whereas rather too many for comfort here come in around a tenner (and sometimes even more).
The menu pricing seems similarly ambitious. Our bare-minimum-basic lunch for one came to £37, but a standard dinner would easily tip £65 a head: you're beginning to enter the realm where you hope not just for decent food and service, but also something special on the ambience front.
Which leads us to our second 'but': we couldn't find this reworking of the Aaya premises at all atmospheric. The oriental individuality of the earlier restaurant has been swept away, and replaced by' well, what?
Like his ex-Caprice group colleague Russell Norman (of Polpo, a couple of blocks away), Mr Hix seems to be having something of a New York moment: coffered ceilings (composed of a series of embossed tiles) are quickly becoming the must-have Soho design feature of the moment. But such a ceiling is not, of itself, a design. It needs to be part of a scheme (as it is at Polpo), and, if there is a scheme here at Hix, the only striking element of it for us was the big overhead globe lights. These provide substantially all the lighting - of rather a crude sort - of what's essentially a rather bare and empty space.
Surely, if one is going to pursue the unadorned route to interior design nirvana (which is fine by us), subtle illumination is the key to getting it right? But even the long bar here has hardly anything which could really be described as 'feature' lighting, leading to an overall feeling of eating in something akin to a very smart and brightly-lit works canteen.
The clubby, lower-lit basement struck us as rather more congenial.
66-70 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9UP
|Monday||11:30 am‑9:30 pm|
|Tuesday||11:30 am‑10:30 pm|
|Wednesday||11:30 am‑10:30 pm|
|Thursday||11:30 am‑10:30 pm|
|Friday||11:30 am‑11:30 pm|
|Saturday||11:30 am‑11:30 pm|
|Sunday||11:30 am‑9 pm|