We ventured into Soho, London's hub 0f eating and nightlife, to find some of the best restaurants that the area has to offer. From Tommi's Burger Joint to Mark Hix's eponymous restaurant HIX, Soho's provides some of the finer eateries and boasts some of the best restaurants in the capital.
Mark Hix opened his first restaurant in 2008, the Farringdon outpost HIX Oyster and Chop House, before opening a further six restaurants across the capital after his initial venture was met with critical acclaim. Ask someone which restaurant they'd most like to eat in within the confines of Soho and chances are they will say HIX. Sitting right in the heart of London's West End, it is often called the jewel of Soho, and is a great location for a bite to eat prior to or post-theatre.
HIX Soho is a jewel in the crown of a vast empire. Mark Hix is one of the country's most celebrated and respected chefs and he has a unique approach to food, which is only too evident if you venture down to one of his restaurants. He takes old recipes that you probably wouldn't think to eat anymore, and completely reinterprets them to suit a modern taste. His food is now so unique that some suggest that you can tell it is his from the taste alone.
His himself was the head chef at Le Caprice and The Ivy and he has brought his skills and experiences straight into his own restaurants. HIX Soho epitomises the restauranteurs expertise and is the best place to go to really get a taste of what he is trying to achieve. The menu is heavily fish-based, and reworks the menu that was on offer at his original venture over in Farringdon.
We recommend kicking off your dining experience with a pre-dinner cocktail. Underneath HIX sits Mark's Bar, a cocktail dedicated basement bar with some of the most interesting concoctions in town. Think Highgate Sacred gin, vermouth & rosehip with apple or a Dorset Donkey: Black Cow pure milk vodka, blueberries, morello cherry liqueur, citrus, honey, sage & ginger ale. While you prepare yourself for a dining experience like no other, we suggest enjoying some of the 'snap' on the menu. This include Leigh-On-Sea cockle popcorn and Evesham radishes with mayonnaise and celery salt. Nothing too heavy, just right and perfect to get your tastebuds going.
Once you've had a drink or two and enjoyed some light bites, venture upstairs to the restaurant (we recommend booking in advance as the popular joint can fill up pretty quickly). Once there you'll be able to enjoy a dimly lit atmosphere with specialist pieces of art work by Hix's long term friend Damien Hirst. He commissioned unique and quirky, mobile art installations to be featured across the restaurant. Fish in glass bricks suspend in the air while Fray Bentos-esque tins by Sarah Lucas are scattered across the restaurant.
We suggest kicking off your meal with a selection of starters and sharing them with whoever you go with. For this we suggest three, as they aren't on the huge side (saying that the dressed crab would easily fill you up as a main). Our favourite dishes were unsurprisingly mainly fish-based as this is what the restaurant does superbly.
We shared a selection of Lindisfarne oysters (we went for these as the Maitre De suggested they had the best 'crunch') while enjoying De Beauvoir smoked salmon (the thickest slices of smoked salmon we'd ever had), Portland dressed crab and Isle Of Uiste razor clams with broad beans and Trealy Farm chorizo. Sounds like a lot, but once shared out you'll happily be ready to move onto your mains.
For the mains, we suggest sharing once again. If you're not likely to return to HIX as it is of the slightly more expensive roster when it comes to restaurants, we definitely think it's essential that you get a bit of each dish and this means sharing. We found that two mains between two were perfect to share and again we went for the fish dishes.
Roast Isle of Mull scallops with garlic scapes were an absolute must (remember to go for the large dish though as even this only had four - although they were huge and came served with the creamiest mash you'll ever have) and a steamed fillet of Isle of Gigha halibut was without a doubt one of the leanest and tastiest pieces of fish we've ever encountered. Topped with girolles and marsh samphire, it was a taste explosion like no other.
Once you've finished your main, we wouldn't pass on the offer of the dessert menu. In true Mark Hix style the desserts on the menu are old school classics with a slight twist. Think Eton mess, honeycomb ice cream and Pimms jelly with cucumber. Wash these down with further cocktails - we recommend moving on to the 'heaven and earth' cocktails. These are basically cocktails that consist of something from underground and something from above the ground. Think nectarine and elderflower with black Cow vodka, or radish and cherry with No. 3 James Street gin. Perfect end to one of the most well-thought out meals with regards to taste and flavours.
What To Wear
As one of the nicer restaurants in London HIX gathers a somewhat more prestigious clientele. While there is no specific dress code, we don't recommend turning up in shorts and flip flops, no matter what the weather is outside. Instead go for a pair of chinos and a nice shirt, simple enough to not be too smart but still on the right side of formal.
Tommi's Burger Joint
Burger places in London aren't exactly in the decline, and the sheer amount of choice can be overwhelming (especially when you're in that starving but indecisive state). But if there's one place you really shouldn't miss, it's Tommi's Burger Joint. Tommi's already have two other London restaurants - one in Marylebone and one on King's Road, but far from feeling like a chain, the Burger Joint has a much more independent, pop-up feel to it.
The outside of the Berwick Street haunt isn't the most assuming place in the world, but as we arrive, the row of customers in the window with the most mouth-watering burgers in hand definitely convinced us otherwise. Heading into the burger joint, you're met with essentially a glorified wooden shack, covered in neon piping, hand drawn doodles and rustic chalk board menus.
There's a real laid-back vibe going on - it's like heading to your favourite pop-up food market, except with the benefits of seating and a roof over your head. With a view straight into the tiny kitchenette, it's very much a case of what you see is what you get with Tommi's - and what you get is lovingly looked after, great quality burgers. Now that feels a lot more personal than your average chain.
You'd also be forgiven for assuming that Tommi's is an American affair, but another factor that separates the Burger Joint from the rest is their heritage. Founder Tómas Tómason (an undeniably great name) first opened his restaurant in Iceland in 1981, then eventually six more across the country. They now boast branches in Berlin and Copenhagen as well as London, so we're sure we'll see more from Tommi soon.
And it's no wonder the chain is spreading worldwide, as the burgers themselves are definitely worth talking about. All the meat is reliably sourced from a family butchers in Barons Court, so you know you're getting the good stuff from the word go. Head chef Siggi Gunnlaugsson even divides his time between all three London branches to make sure all their burgers are of the highest standards. And we can't disagree.
The menu itself is a fuss-free affair, with a choice of a classic, chicken, steak or veggie burger on offer with an impressive choice of extras to jazz things up. We went for a classic and chicken burger, piled high with avocado, crispy bacon and satisfyingly oozing cheese, all drizzled with garlic mayo. If that doesn't tickle your taste buds, then nothing will. Their selection of homemade dips also deserves a shout out, with an array of chipotle mayos, bearnaise and special cocktail sauce. Washed down with an impressively chocolate-y milkshake made for more than happy customers, trust us.
So if you're not slightly salivating by this point, what might just grab your attention is Tommi's more than reasonable prices. The Burger Joint does a 'offer of the century' deal - a burger, fries and a drink all for a mere £10.90. And with portion sizes this big (we couldn't finish our portions of sweet potato fries, and believe us we tried) you can't go far wrong.
What To Wear
Just like the burgers, this is a no-frills affair, so quite literally anything goes. Whether your popping in on your lunch break or for a cheat-day dinner, casual is definitely the way forward. We should probably advise you to go for some elasticated trousers, as your waistline will have definitely increased by the time you leave Tommi's, but a decent pair of jeans will serve you equally as well. Maybe steer clear of fresh white T-shirts to avoid the inevitable burger spillages, or make sure you bring a jacket to cover the multitude of sins that might occur.