Sometimes I think luxury is a joke played on the rich by the not-so rich. In my mind, people on the 20p tax rate have a focus group, and design things to sell to the rich, and laugh. And I think this explains sandals with mink T-bars, most watches and now Hix, a restaurant under a hotel in Belgravia. Hix looks like a Travelodge. I do not say that to be mean, or because I can. It occupies a dim half-basement under a hotel. You may not have visited a Travelodge, but I have, and the restaurant is always a half-basement under a hotel, with shouting children and a buffet. So it is exactly like a Travelodge, with the children removed. But it is in Belgravia, where everyone has been removed; the only humans I saw on the way to Hix were the police outside the Syrian embassy, poised to remove yet more people from Belgravia, should they try anything dodgy. These streets are hollowed out, echoing, dead; there is something wrong with them.
Mark Hix is well liked in restaurant world, but the bar is low — it means he has never had a psychotic episode or endorsed a stock cube. He has five well-reviewed restaurants in Soho, Farringdon, Mayfair, Selfridges, and Lyme Regis; this gloomy outpost is the sixth. It feels oddly squeezed into its space, like a woman folding herself into a coffin, and it is watched over by an enormous and terrifying sculpture of a fish. Fish are bad enough in the sea where you do not have to deal with them, but this one is expanded, glossed and deified; the effect is of a tiny fish-worshipping kingdom that serves burgers.
We are in a brown booth, in the company of the English kind of rich, rather than the other, foreign kind. (The other kind knows better, and is at Cut.) The men, on the whole, look like off-cuts of Jacob Rees-Mogg, all pinstripes and paranoia and shrieking denial. In the next booth are the Linleys (Serena and David) and the Taylors (Helen and Tim). They are rather done up in good hair and fine suits so they look Italian; but the Hanoverians have always liked Italy. I am not too polite to eavesdrop but I am too deaf — I think I hear the word ‘salad’, but I never was much of a news reporter. They seem happy, though, and I am glad. I do not mind the minor royals, because I do not have to look at pictures of them, skiing and laughing and tossing their hair, and have it called ‘news’. These ones don’t toss their hair anyway. They sit neatly, if smugly, and take small polite bites.
The food, I am afraid, is horrible. I do try to give food a chance, but if it won’t help itself — well — these are difficult times. The salad is in tiny bits. Salad can never rise above its circumstances; that is why it is the victim of the food world, and this one belongs on remand. My companion’s burger is cold, and covered with a bright yellow slab of cheese. And while my shepherd’s pie tastes OK, it is sitting on pastry, which is outrageous; shepherd’s pie, of all foods, can look after itself. The croquettes are tired rolls of desperate potatoes, which deserved — and presumably wanted — more.
Pudding. Hoping for a late resurrection we order chocolate fondue with marshmallows. Can such a slutty showstopper fail to see us through? Yes. The marshmallows — and I know I sound crazy but this is my job, to attack marshmallows — are the wrong consistency. They are too fragile. So the fondue, which I like because it tastes of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, melts the poor marshmallow in the manner of a James Ellroy murder organised by Walt Disney. This is a restaurant too far; my focus group is howling with laughter. Next week — tax havens.
Hix Belgravia, Pont Street, London SW1X 9EJ, tel: 020 3189 4850.