Just got back from a gloriously satisfying and marvellously impromptu visit to Mark Hix's new Soho restaurant.
"We'll never get a table," I said to my spontaneous dining partner, "but let’s just walk past and check it out on the off-chance anyway".
We peered past a heavy metal door into the reception and lo and behold there was a table for two with our name on it.
The upstairs dining room looks very much like an old-skool Conran restaurant although a cooler version with a scattering of art deco details and one-off art pieces from London's art fash pack including the likes of Emin and Hirst.
Wooden tables are dotted about, a little too close for intimate chats, and the room is backed by a large bar running the length of the restaurant featuring a back-lit crusteca section complete with seashells. Over on the right, there's a row of booth seating and a semi-private dining room.
Onto the menu: Hix's thing is British dining with a big hearty focus on red meat. This was perfectly evident by the fact that nearly every table of suited and booted guys (and there were a few) had a great hunk of hanger steak hanging off of it.
Being a lady however, the starter of cod's tongue and girolles caught my eye.
"Does cod actually have tongue?" I sheepishly asked the waitress.
"Yes it does."
"They must be rather small then?"
"Well the dish actually contains some cheek glands as well as the actual tongue." Mmm, that's sold it for me. No really, I ordered it.
The cod's tongue was served grilled and breaded mixed with some perfectly chestnut-coloured mushrooms and slices of spring onion. It was a bit too salty for my high blood pressured liking and if I'm honest I couldn't taste any difference in cod tongue to any other parts of cod flesh, but it was tasty all the same.
But the starring starter was my partner's De Beauvoir smoked salmon 'Hix cure'. A generous portion of six slices of the thickest and most tantalizingly-smoky smoked salmon I have ever tasted.
For my main course I had a seasonal salad of roasted squash with pickled walnut and goat's cheese (actually a starter on the menu) and my dining buddy opted for steak, which appeared to go down very well.
After our meal, we popped down to the basement bar for a nightcap. True to the rumours of being London's most sociable restaurateur, Hix was propped up by the bar entertaining friends including Peter Blake whilst sipping on a pink cocktail.
The bar is a funky den of purposely mis-matched furniture, distressed mirrored walls, an embossed tin ceiling and soft, sexy lighting. Shelves of homemade jars of of an alcoholic nature sit happily on the back of the bar, fermenting into tempting liqueurs, mixers and aperitifs.
The cocktail menu is a drinks history novel and thirst quencher all rolled into one, brimming with British berry-infused concoctions and fruit punches. Not surprisingly, the man behind the drinks is Nick Strangeway the fabulous mixologist from Hawksmoor.