Trying to book somewhere in London for a special dinner is harder than you may think. With two weeks' notice sensibly timed tables at Kitty Fishers, Berners Tavern, City Social, Sky Garden - the brasserie and the restaurant - were all no-go's for a Friday night. We put ourselves in the safe hands of Mark Hix and settled on his New York style chicken and steak haven, Hix City. With neon signage from Tracey Emin and a definite contemporary cool, Hix is no stuffy City boy steakerie and we immediately love it.
The list of starters is so good that we require more choosing time, so order some of Mark's 'Snax' to tide us over. There is a giant Yorkshire pudding with 'whipped chicken livers' (some very good and very light chicken liver pate in layman's terms) and some tremendous triangles of pork crackling with apple sauce, just shy of £4 apiece.
We eventually managed to choose our starters: birthday girl Alex and I shared a much-recommended crab rosti and a prawn cocktail which was as good as you would expect from Mark Hix. There are prawn cocktails and then there are prawn cocktails, aren't there? I have no shame in ordering this 70's rightful classic whenever the mood takes me and insist on having it as our starter every Christmas lunch. The crab rosti was equally good and completely evocative of summer, seasides and all the sunshiney fun on the horizon.
The boys ordered oysters (standard) and the shellfish soup and reported them both to be excellent. Apparently the soup could have benefited from some accompanying bread, and I must admit I was surprised at the lack of rouille crouton which is usually a given with a fish soup. He was forced instead to use the remaining Yorkshire pudding to mop up the pastis laced dregs. The oysters were pretty steep at just shy of £16 for half a dozen rocks too.
With gems such as griddled lobster (£19.95 for half, very reasonable) and fillet of cod with brown shrimps (a weakness of mine), choosing mains was tough and I felt we should really order one of the chicken or steaks, considering where we were. Our waiter was only too happy to assist:
Top left to right: porterhouse, bone in 1kg rib eye.
Bottom left to right: bone in 500g rib eye, chateaubriand, sirloin.
We ordered the 1kg bone in rib eye as it's mine and Rich's absolute favourite cut. We asked for it rare and the waiter suggested it would be better medium due to the sheer size of it, allowing the properly yellowed fat to melt away. To allow for our love of still-mooing meat, he steered us towards the porterhouse (fillet and sirloin separated by what is commonly known as the T-bone) which would deal with being cooked rare a lot better, apparently. The two sharers were £75 each and we ordered some creamed spinach to go with it (they come with chips).
The huge stoniking rib eye arrived with an awe-inspiring amount of char on it, and once carved showed itself to be beautifully cooked. The texture was incredible and you could taste the quality of the meat in the deep sweet savouriness. It was easily up there with those I've had at Hawksmoor and Goodman's and occasionally at MASH.
The Porterhouse paled in comparison:
To be fair, I'm not a fan of sirloin or even fillet - I find the former granular and uninspiring and fillet really misses the marbling. I'll always choose flavour, and for me that's a rib eye. However, others around the table loved it and of course the cooking and the meat itself was exceptional, it's just personal preference. The four of us polished the whole lot off with gusto.
Unbelievably we finished off the meal with a salted caramel fondue. It is intended for two to share, but if you've just eaten 2kg of steak then between four is fine! The doughnuts were addictive.
The bill was an eye watering £375 for four, and this time we couldn't even blame it on the wine as we had just two bottles of a mid-priced Beaujolais. Those steaks come with a hefty old price tag, but that's the City for you. It is possible to eat here a lot more frugally, but then it wouldn't be a birthday would it? I liked Hixter very much and it has renewed my resolve to book Hix Soho in the near future, instead of trying to walk in on a Friday night and being told to come back at 10.30.