I was invited to HIX At The Albemarle and this review is not anonymous.
Love Leluu, The Skinny Bib and I met up for a belated birthday dinner and as it happened to be the end of the month we gladly took advantage of an invitation to sample the food at HIX at the Albemarle.
It was a first HIX for all 3 of us and we were intrigued. Mark Hix, the established London chef and restaurateur, started his small restaurant emporium 4 years ago and has since established himself as one of the ambassadors of British food. Of course he cannot be everywhere at once, so the head chef at Hix at the Albemarle is Lee Streeton, while Mark Hix still act as the “Director of Food” (whatever this may mean).
HIX at the Albemarle is located in London’s supposedly oldest hotel, Brown’s Hotel, a site where history was made. Rudyard Kipling completed his most famous novel, The Jungle Book, there; Alexander Bell made his first successful phone call from Brown’s Hotel and if you are an Agatha Christie fan you know that Miss Marple liked to stay at Bertram’s Hotel, which was modelled after Brown’s Hotel.
The enormous dining room with its wood panelling feels elegant and old-fashioned, if a bit subdued, particularly as on a Tuesday evening the place was not even 25% full. Walls are covered with modern art of prominent British artist, such as a piece by Tracy Enim (which we didn’t like at all) and by Bridget Riley.
The food was technically perfectly executed, but it certainly lacked the oomph. Nice, comforting food but nothing that would distinguish it from similar places and absolutely nothing to justify the exorbitant pricing.
My biggest issue with HIX at the Albermarle was the menu. It was the hugest menu I have ever seen in a high end place. In fact its extent competes with that of cheap Chinatown Cantonese restaurants, if you know what I mean.
If I was in charge of HIX, the first thing I’d do is cut down the menu by 80% and have a couple of daily specials. How can you have fresh ingredients for 14 starters, 7 fish dishes, 4 seasonal asparagus dishes, and 8 meat dishes? Particularly when the restaurant is not exactly heaving? A smaller menu would have totally changed my impression of HIX.
Possibly the best of the starters was the Skinny Bib’s duckâ€™s egg with Wye Valley asparagus (Â£12.5), with nicely oozing egg yolk and asparagus spears used as soldiers. The asparagus was cooked a bit too long for my taste. but was flavoursome and a good representation of the asparagus season. My Shaved asparagus, fennel and radish salad (Â£9.25) was fresh but utterly undistinguished and lacking flavour. I assure you, I have made better asparagus salads at home. I only got a small bite of the Woolley Park Farm quail (Â£11.50), not enough to judge it really, but Love Leluu happily ate it.
Also with the mains, The Skinny Bib with his Dorset scallops with braised oxtail (Â£27.50) was the clear winner. The combination of the nicely cooked scallops with the tender oxtail in a rich sauce worked surprisingly well and was the most exciting dish of the evening. Not much excitement with my Pan-fried fillet of Cornish cod (Â£22.75). I chose it because it was advertised to come with laverbread (which is the poor man’s nori) and I, since I was forced to live in Wales for a few months last year, still am very intrigued by this unusual ingredient. Sadly, the laverbread was mixed into a potato mash and its salty taste of the sea got almost completely lost. The fish was cooked well and there was nothing wrong with the dish as such, apart from the boredom that took hold of me while eating it.
Love Leluu, who chose the Torbay lemon sole pan-fried (Â£29.50) enjoyed the fish but was disappointed that it came with nothing on the side, not even a slice of lemon or parsley leave for decoration. For almost 30 pounds one could expect some extras really.
We shared a Coxâ€™s apple crumble (for two, Â£13.50) which I did not particularly enjoy. The apples were tart and flavourful, but the crumble top was too doughy and the vanilla custard served on the side was underwhelming.
The British farmhouse cheese board (for two Â£16.75) consisted of 3 good cheeses, but can I please draw your attention to the presentation: the 3 different cheeses are heaped almost on top of each other, so when I tried the goat’s cheese, half of it was contaminated by the much stronger blue cheese. Seriously, that’s a very poor way to serve cheese! Particularly considering this enormous cheese board…
I had a lovely evening due to the exceptional company but I would not go back to HIX at the Albemarle for the food. I love old-fashioned cuisine once in a while and don’t always need experiments, but I want to be wowed, experience great flavour and taste the touch of a chef who doesn’t play too safe.
We met an ancient guy from Jersey on the way out who told us this is his favourite restaurant in London and he only goes there when he comes to London twice a year. I can see HIX at the Albemarle appealing to this clientÃ¨le. To fill the dining room however, the current performance is just not good enough.
- Food: 6/10
- Service: 8/10
- Ambiance: 7/10
- Value for Money: 4/10
- Chances of returning: only when the menu is reduced by 80%!
- Verdict: Decent but uninspired food – considering you can get mind-blowing dishes for less money at many other restaurants in London, it’s just not worth it.