16 Great Guilford Street
Tel: 020 7921 9508
In a quiet street just off the main drag between Southwark and London Bridge stations is Mark Hix’s new venture. Three months old and the place swings. It has party and fun written all over it. And the food is mainly superb too.
M and I called in on a Friday evening to find out what all the fuss was about. We arrived early so thought it would be sensible to have a drink in Mark’s Bar first. This is something Mark has done elsewhere, installing a groovy bar beneath his restaurants. It’s all dark corners and comfy seats. There’s an old school billiards table and a bar that allows you to sit in vintage leather chairs and the bar staff are about two feet below you in a pit. This saves getting up on a stool and creates an interesting dynamic.
Cocktails are good with a nice selection of alcohol free offerings as well a plethora of spirits. It has cool music playing from a jukebox and is everything the stylish sophisticated diner would ask for before or after a bite to eat. It also looks bang on trend with exposed brickwork and concrete ceilings.
The restaurant was busy, as you’d expect on a Friday. The space is larger than you’d imagine with a sight of the kitchen at work across one wall. The wooden floors and lofty ceiling make it a busy sounding place with lots of ambience. Mark Hix told me that it has been very busy from the start. That evening as well as a full restaurant they had private diners in a private room available for hire as well.
The menu is not overly simple and certainly leads you to main event: meat. We had a few starters chicken lollipops that have a spicy sauce and have a name that I can’t write here, as it’s just too rude but it did seem to make Jessica our waitress smile. I asked her about it, she said, “It always makes me laugh that the customers have to say it”. This is an example of Marl’s ribald sense of humour at work! They are worth ordering, as they tasted great. Autumn squash with goat’s curd and chilli could have had a bit more of a spice hit for me but the curd was really on form and made each mouthful a bit of a dream to eat. The star of the starters though was shaved Chestnut Farm cauliflower with Berkswell and hazelnuts. I don’t know quite what it was but the crispy raw cauliflower with a creamy mild emulsion worked very well.
Before the mains they start to prepare the table by removing anything unnecessary from it to make way for a giant chunk of beef. We were shown the cuts of meat in their raw form to help us decide between rib, porterhouse, sirloin etc. This is a process that the Americans do (as they generally have larger cuts than we do) and I think it’s a good idea. You know exactly what you’re going to get. The Glenarm beef on show and subsequently cooked was simply amazing. It is aged in a humidity-controlled cave with salt walls that somehow bring out greater flavour. It’s hung for up to 40 days.
We chose 1kg of rib on the bone for 2-3 to share. It cost £65 and considering the shear size of it I feel it was good value as it tasted brilliant. The staff, are very knowledgeable about the meat so do ask if you’re not sure. There is also Swainson House Farm chicken on the menu and a few sides. This is where I felt things could have been a bit better. The broccoli and mushrooms were fine and the onion rings the crispiest I have ever crunched (they are served with a bottle of vinegar to enhance their taste) but the fries were a disappointment. Thin and weak with little character, I was hoping for large thick cut with hard crispy outers. The larger chip is certainly better for a giant cut of meat like the rib on the bone. It takes some time to get through it and the fries we had were cold in no time.
It is quite a commitment to order this cut but we enjoyed it very much. The béarnaise that came with it was also excellent. Mark has selected a good choice of wines with something for everybody. I opted for a medium priced bottle of Malbec from Mendoza. It slipped down very well with the beef.
Dessert seemed a complete folly but we were lured from the stable by reading these words ‘Salted caramel fondue with marshmallows and doughnuts’. This is another sharing dish and between M and myself this ticked every box going for desserts. As with all things Hix it is not for the weak or fragile.
A candle powered fondue bowl arrived with the most delicious liquid nectar in the form of salted caramel that I have ever tasted. It’s really sweet and the doughnuts (freshly made) are crispy with a sugar coating, the marshmallows are soft and boy is it good. It is hard to describe but imagine the best, salted fudge you have ever had then warm it up and you’ve got it. A complete must for all dessert addicts out there.
While all this sounds very grown up (and it is) there is light at the end of the tunnel (or bar) in the form of daytime eating for families. While not banished to daytime I’d recommend it with children, as it can be a bit noisy in the evening. And here’s a good thing, if you have critters aged 10 and under they eat free between 4 – 6pm Mon to Fri and noon – 6pm at weekends. How’s that for a bargain? There’s a calves’ menu (see what Mark did there?) children can choose from such delights as a mini chateau steak and chips, soft-boiled brown eggs with soldiers or De Beauvoir smoked salmon with ‘Hix cure’ and Corrigan’s soda bread. The food is refreshingly grown up for children, it’s really good to see a decent choice available and not the usual dumbed down options of banal frozen food that are so prevalent in restaurants elsewhere.
Hixster Bankside or should that be Hipster Bankside really is all things to all people: a cool hide out for a Friday night, perfect for lunch with friends in the week and brunch central for all the family at the weekend. Just get those chips sorted and I’d say it was perfect.