hix restaurant & champagne bar
I hadn’t intended on kicking off the weekend at a department store restaurant, but a quick whizz around Selfridges late Friday afternoon had resulted in a few bulky purchases and rather than lugging them elsewhere we decided to keep things simple and just grab dinner at the Hix Restaurant & Champagne Bar (located on the mezzanine floor where the former Gallery restaurant and Moët Bar resided).
Rightly or wrongly, expectations were low, so when we got there at 7pm to a mostly empty restaurant and an unmanned reception desk I wasn’t altogether surprised. After a few minutes wait (little did we know that waiting will become a reoccurring theme throughout the evening), one of the waitresses finally clocked us and led us to a table by the balcony, overlooking the handbag section. It was odd dining to the hustle and bustle of shoppers below, but at least it served as a distraction from the tastefully furnished but deadly still dining room (understandable really – who’d want to dine somewhere where they’d get kicked out of at 9pm on a Friday night?).
To help liven things up a little we ordered a round of cocktails and a serving of Blythburgh Pork Crackling to start. The crackling was served with a sweet apple sauce and was suitably crunchy, but extremely salty. This was not helped by the fact that we had to devour half the bowl sans-cocktails; we actually had to stop ourselves from snacking halfway so we would have some left to pair with our aperitifs.
10 minutes into our wait for drinks we were told they had run out of the special Cassis gin in the Summer Beefeater Cup, so B decided to go with my selection – the famous Hix Fix. Considering that there were only 2 other tables at this point, why it took them this long to relay that to us was anyone’s guess. A further 10 minutes elapsed before our cocktails reached us, and despite being mildly irritated at the amount of time they took to get to us, we quite enjoyed the kir royale of sorts – a concoction of Somerset Cherries in Cider Eau de Vie topped with Champagne.
Things started looking up with the arrival of starters. B’s Herb-baked Manx Queenies were an absolute joy – perfect bite-sized morsels drenched in well-seasoned garlic butter and scattered with tasty bits of wild boar bacon. The tiny plump queen scallops were packed with flavour and very moreish indeed.
My choice of De Beauvoir Smoked Salmon was served with Corrigan’s Soda Bread. I picked the simple starter after remembering that I had enjoyed the ‘Hix Cure’ salmon when I last visited the Hix Oyster and Chop House, and it didn’t disappoint – meaty slices of smoked salmon infused with robust complex oak flavours, delicious eaten with the nutty buttered bread.
Unfortunately the mains brought us crashing back down to earth with a thud. B was told that the Grilled Lobster was unavailable so he substituted it with the Herefordshire Steak Sandwich, and the waitress took pains to advise us that this is served medium rare by default. However the steak presented to us was well-done beyond belief – hard, dry and leathery (akin to jerky) and tasted suspiciously like it had been cooked then reheated. The bread was nicely grilled and shoe string fries passable (although they tasted more like crisps) but there was no saving the cremated meat that required lashings of ketchup to get down. We both could not think of a time we had a worse piece of beef.
The sandwich may have been bad, but at least B had something to eat (although he may beg to differ). I sat for (yet another) 10 minutes watching him wrestle with his steak before my main arrived on a tray bearing something that looked a whole lot like the lobster they claimed to have sold out of. The confused waiter set my pasta down, then quickly picked it back up and walked off, before returning again (after an animated discussion with a fellow waiter) and placing it in front of me with a mumbled apology. Turns out there was some mis-communication between the kitchen and front-of-house and there had actually been one lobster left.
The Linguine with Red Sea Prawns and Chilli was pleasant enough but to be honest I was so annoyed and hungry by now that I was just wolfing down the buttery strands (as you can see from the photo I even forgot to take a shot before digging in). If I were to be critical the pasta was probably a bit past al dente, but I liked the shellfish-enriched butter and hint of spice. The restaurant manager did come over and apologised profusely for the mix-up, promising to “work something out” (this turned out to be 20% off our total bill) which improved my mood slightly.
Luckily the desserts were fantastic, and I couldn’t help but smile as I gazed at the pretty Elderflower and Summer Fruit Jelly with Ice Cream. The jelly was delightfully wobbly and a spoonful of the delicately perfumed jelly, sweet ripe berries and vanilla-rich ice cream was pure heaven.
The Bakewell Pudding with Almond Ice Cream was also divine – beautifully flaky pastry with a layer of sticky jam and a deep frangipane filling. It’s one of my all-time favourite puds, and I’ve always favoured the one at Scott’s, but this one was definitely at least on par with the one served there.
It’s a real shame that the service was slow and inattentive (we had to call them over at least twice to order, plus they completely forgot the wine I had ordered). If it wasn’t for the front-of-house’s incompetence I may consider returning in the future – after all, both the starters and puds were stellar. But the patchy service, coupled with a total lack of atmosphere, an uncomfortably warm dining room and that diabolical steak sandwich (my mind still boggles as to how they could have gotten it SO wrong) means a repeat visit is doubtful.
If you are looking for a quick meal while shopping this might do the trick for you, otherwise I suggest you splash your cash at one of the numerous worthier offerings in the neighbourhood.
Hix Restaurant & Champagne Bar
400 Oxford Street
London, W1A 1AB
t: 020 7499 5400