Stars in his Eyes
Soho, Mayfair, Lyme Regis, Selfridges and, of course, Smithfield. Chef Mark Hix has a finger in a lot of pies — a fitting analogy, perhaps, for the man who’s known for his innovative take on the traditional Cornish Stargazy Pie, which he served up four years ago on BBC2’s The Great British Menu.
It’s a bit of an empire, really. Besides restaurants in all these places, which he scoots between, he’s got an events-catering business (he’s running the restaurant again at the Frieze art fair this year), an online shop selling goodies from his numerous foodie collaborations, and a regular column in The Independent. Perhaps it’s a reaction to having been high up in someone else’s empire (he worked for Caprice Holdings for 17 years)? “Basically, I should have done it years ago,” he states, plainly. “It’s nice being your own man and having the freedom to do what you want.”
It all started in Clerkenwell. In 2008, he took over the old-timer seafood restaurant Rudland & Stubbs in Greenhill Rents (“a scruffy back alley” off Cowcross Street), quickly turning it — without having to do much of a refit, he admits — into the Hix Oyster & Chop House. “I wanted to hark back to old-fashioned chop houses… Big chunks of meat, on the bone.” Other than the concept, however, there’s nothing old-fashioned about the place. The menu is so up to date, it changes daily and the interior is pure pared-back chic: wooden floors, a marble bar, brick-shaped tiles, lots of white linen.
Once it opened, there was just one visible hangover from the past, though. “Literally on our first day, this 70-year-old guy just walked in, straight past reception, and sat down at the bar. I thought it was rather odd, so I went over to chat to him. He said, ‘This is my seat, I’ve been coming here for 20 years and I’m really glad you’re here.’ Roy stayed a regular of ours until the day he died.”
It would seem logical for Hix to source his big chunks of meat on the bone from Smithfield Market, but instead he prefers to use the people he knows, small, independent suppliers. In some instances, he’s even his own supplier; when he’s down in Dorset visiting his restaurant in Lyme Regis, he likes to fish and forage. And, in London, he smokes his own salmon (oak and apple flavour) — he used to do this at home when he lived up the road in De Beauvoir, now he does it on the roof of Selfridges.
How he’s got the time to also be working on two potential new restaurant projects, whoever knows. Making you feel lazy? Don’t even think about what roast to cook this Sunday. Instead, head down to the Chop House for the Sunday Lunch Club, which has just relaunched this month: “It’s basically a no-choice menu. You get a selection of starters to share, then roast beef or roast chicken, and that’s it. It’s a fixed price and everyone eats at the same time.” Sounds like my kind of club.
The Sunday Lunch Club costs from £24.50 per head. Frieze runs 13-16 October. For more information about all Hix happenings, visit www.restaurantsetcltd.co.uk.