Book review: Hix Oyster & Chop House by Mark Hix

I’ve been lucky enough to obtain a review copy of this book, and it really is quite special.

Chef Mark Hix opened his third restaurant, Hix Oyster & Chop House, to critical acclaim in 2008, and now you can buy a cookbook based on some of their most popular dishes. While some of the recipes do call for quite luxurious ingredients, making a meal yourself at home is always going to cost less than eating the same dishes at a top restaurant. This cookbook makes the food more accessible to people on an average budget, or who don’t have an expense account, but who still want to have the occasional foodie treat or celebratory meal.

Food at the Hix Oyster & Chop House tends to be based on British ingredients, usually fairly simply prepared to show them off at their best, and much of it is hearty seasonal food. This is carried through quite strongly into the book, and there are several clearly-written sections about types of fish, oysters, butchery and cheeses interspersed between the recipes. While some of it is very chef-y, it’s also a handy way for home cooks to refresh or build their knowledge, and the high standards and enthusiasm of the author are obvious.

Unusually for a restaurant cookbook, there are chapters devoted to bar snacks and food served on toast. There are also no main courses for vegetarians, although some of the recipes in the starters and side dish chapters could successfully be expanded in quantity. I especially liked the soup and salad chapters, as they looked fresh, uncomplicated and delicious.

Visually, the layout of the book is aesthetically very pleasing, as is the cover design, but I would have liked each recipe to have had a photograph to go with it, and the porous cover could easily be spoiled by splashes of water or food. My only other complaint would be that several unusual ingredients were called for in the book, and these can be hard to source, even for a foodie Londoner or well-stocked home gardener. These would undoubtedly make the dishes more of a treat in the restaurant, but it is a shame that no substitutions were suggested to the home cook.

To sum up: A beautiful collection of recipes and information for lovers of good British food, probably best suited to cooks who have at least a moderate amount of confidence in the kitchen. An ideal gift for a foodie friend.

Hix Oyster & Chop House by Mark Hix is published by Quadrille, and has a recommended retail price of £25.00. It is currently on sale at Amazon for £15.75.

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