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Friday, April 25, 2008

HIX OYSTER AND CHOP HOUSE












And they wandered in
From the city of St. John (Slight Return)



Of course this is where I should have been yesterday to celebrate St George’s Day. If anything shouts, nay, screams Britain (sorry, England) it’s Mark Hix’s food. It was still in soft opening mode though and I was told things weren’t running quite tickety-boo. They still weren't when I visited on opening day. Disappointingly the cooking at the Hix Oyster and Chop House just doesn’t pass muster.

I was dining out with one of my foodie chums which was good because it enabled us to have a reasonable stab at the menu – even my gargantuan (ok, greedy guts) appetite is rather on the wane these days.

I didn’t think much of the room or its furnishings: the table was wobbly, the chairs were uncomfortable and you couldn’t hang your jacket on the back of them. There were loads of ceiling fans that I just found distracting and didn’t seem to serve any purpose other than ornamental. It all came across like an attempt at a slightly upmarket Café Rouge.

The menu looked a bit cut down from the one I’d seen on the website but it still read well with lots of good things to choose from. Oysters were served as at Brown’s with the shells on and with meat still attached which meant much messing around with blunt knives. Irritating. Serving them on seaweed just seems like an affectation to me – ice is, as they say, best by test. They tasted good although I’ve had better natives earlier in the season. They didn’t quite have the depth and length of flavour of the best examples.

Of the starters I preferred the Rabbit Brawn although my dining companion wondered how many rabbits you’d need to make it – their heads being not particularly large. In any case it was dense and meaty and tasted of bunny but the portion was rather parsimonious for £8.25. The little accompanying salad of peas and pea shoots was a good idea and tasted fresh and lively. I know Mr Hix’s aim is to make the dishes as plain as possible but some toast wouldn’t have gone amiss here.

They must have been burning five pound notes to make the Smoked Salmon. It’s the only explanation I can think of why three smallish slivers of farmed salmon come in at £10.75. The taste of smoke dominated.

Skate Knobs were fish nuggets fried in a Panko-like covering. Served in a loose, sharp, caper mayonnaise they’d been fried as well as could be expected but like a lot of similar dishes they had a sort of Findus-like quality about them. The solid chunks of fish flesh within were tasty though.

From what I’ve read, Mark Hix’s aim is to try and give the place the feel of an American Steakhouse (now where’ve I heard that before). So the focus should definitely be on the meat. Unfortunately, this is where the food was weakest.

A Bacon Chop lacked fat and flavour. It was cooked rare (too much so for my taste). I know pork and shellfish is a tried and trusted combination but in this case the cockles and laverbread seemed like they’d come from another dish.

Onglet looked a bit better but there was a burnt taste to the meat which was not pleasant. My dinner companion also noted that it was a bit overcooked. A marrow bone had been split and filled with what I think was a marrow bone gremolata and then baked. It just tasted of baked breadcrumbs to me. The best part of the main courses were the sides. Chips, Onion Rings and Béarnaise were all good. A table next to us had the Porterhouse which looked a much better bet on the meat front.

Puddings, enthusiastically priced at £6.75, were not impressive - they looked as if they’d just been chucked on the plate. Buttermilk drop scones were a bit tough and served with a sickly-sweet honeycomb ice cream. Amadei Chocolate mousse was just that. I liked the truffles.

Service was ok – there were plenty of staff milling around – but there were a couple of hiccups. They supersized our wine from a £24 bottle to a £44 quid one although to be fair when I pointed it out they deducted the difference. Also, looking at the bill later on I noticed they overcharged us on two of the starters. Only by a couple of quid, but still.

I’ve got my doubts about Mark Hix. I’m sure in person he’s a decent enough chap but the media portrayal of him some sort of vanguard of British food strikes me as PR-generated guff because he’s failed to deliver on my last two outings to gaffs he’s been associated with. Of course, he’s not doing the cooking at The Albermarle or Hix Oyster and Chop House, but he was here the night I went so presumably he had some control over the dishes going out. And what went out was pretty mediocre.

Still, mediocre goes down a bomb in London these days – it’s more about the scene, you see – and given the Chop House’s prime location I’m sure it will do very well commercially. There are enough know-nothing City boys and Meeja types in the area to make it so. Me, I’m not a fan of artifice so I’m going to continue patronise Vinoteca round the corner. By far the best option in the nabe in my humble opinion.

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree - we went at the weekend (may 24). Service teething problems seemed to be sorted out (it was on the slow side but we like that). Food was OK but for the price I expected better, and the chips were way overdone, and just tasted of fat. I had whole brill which was underdone round the liver. The wine at £26 (Macon chardonnay) was distinctly average. Having read Hix's weekly columns I expected better. We'll go to Vinoteca (or maybe St John, I do love my meat!) next time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 11:36:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Blimey and there was me thinking I was the only dissenting voice on this place.

The fact is that Mr Hix doesn't do the cooking there and from what I've seen and heard doesn't even man the pass. I've had a very poor meal at the (actual) chef's previous restaurant which seems to echo my experience at the Chop House.

Let's face it many of the reviews seemed to be based on the fact that MH is a jolly nice chap and in many cases the whole meal was comped. Everyone of us has a price.

My other theory is that if you're in with Marky boy then your path to Ivy Private Club Membership will be that much smoother. This is, I admit a bit of a conspiracy theory and probably means I should get out a bit more and go to restaurants a bit less.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 3:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who are you lot then, bored bloggers, failed food critics, oh and by the way he hasnt got anything to do with the Rivi (you need to read more news papers than blogging)since last December I think it was. Need a job ? or did he fire you in a previous life

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 12:07:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Usually, if a punter disagreed with me I suspect they would just say so. They might then go on to say what dishes they enjoyed on their visit to HOACH.

You, on the other hand, seem to have taken my poor experience very personally. I can only conclude that you have some interest in or connection with HOACH, in which case your time and effort would be better spent getting the restaurant to sort out its problems instead of wasting time prowling the internet and raging against imagined slights.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 11:28:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I'm a friend of one of the managers and I would have thought that as a supposed restaurant/food critic you, of all people, should know that in the first week or two of a new opening there are bound to be teething problems, and that applies to any restaurant. So reviewing a restaurant during that time is not really going to give a true reflection of it.
Your 'review' was more a personal attack on Mark rather than a restaurant critique, so you clearly do have issues which I think is quite unprofessional and pathetic. You don't even know what you are talking about because he has nothing to do with the restaurants you mention. We're in 2008 now - suggest you do your research. Not sure how having a drink at the bar in Rivington 'confirms' that he is still involved with the place either. It does bug me when people get their facts wrong.
And yes, I do have better things to do that write on this site. I only came across it in google. Never heard of you to be honest.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 11:11:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 11:35:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I aqm sure my beloved HP can answer for himself

but, for my part

1) The "just opened" gambit is a maguffin, soft opening or no. A bad meal is a bad meal

2) "unprofessional" I wasn't aware we were getting paid for this. where do I send my expenses? Just spending our own money of food and writing about our meals. In this case, for HP, a bad one.

3) glad to see you have better things to do than revisit this site, oh let me check stat counter, lots of times.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 11:38:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only reason I have revisited this site is to see what other nonsense you have put on here. Which has been this week only so I'd check your stats if I were you. I have read the comments people have put on the Rivington review too. Can you not see from their comments people think you are ridiculous.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 4:30:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

no, they are saying they had a good meal. which is fine and a perfectly valid response as opposed to some whiny little "squeal my friend works there and I hate you all" approach

But now you have made your point hopefully you can go away and neither of us need worry about it any more. As you say, you have so many more interesting things to be doing

Thursday, July 31, 2008 4:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Three Courser said...

Ooh I do love a good mash-up. I commented on the Rivi site and then followed the internal search here wondering if there was any more pistols at dawn - and there are! This is much better than sweating heavily over a spreadsheet. DH: Sorry about Saf mistake - reading too quick, thought I'd got into another review. I've been to this Hix joint as well and very much liked it. Vinoteca seems a bit full of earnest intellectuals for me. Does that make me one of those vacuous city boys the review talks of - I do hope so as I like the look of pinstripe holding in the pork scratching midriff.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 4:58:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Now, this is much more my sort of comment.

There's no problem calling us if you have had a different experience from ours. HIx seems about 50/50 good/bad based on this board and others we have talked to.

I have never found Vinoteca overly earnest, but have not been there since the wondeful Carol Craddock left and she was anything but.

At least we can all agree on pork scratchings

S

Thursday, July 31, 2008 5:04:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thursday, July 31, 2008 5:04:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Unlike a lot of 'professional' reviewers you can always trust us, Dos Hermanos, to write as we (truthfully) find.

Still, as my friend D.Screechy so aptly puts it : Sorry fi mawga dog, mawga dog wi tun round bite you

Right as usual D...

Thursday, July 31, 2008 11:18:00 pm  

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