HIX Mayfair: Back to the bad old days (June 2015)

Restaurants in hotels used to be sorry affairs, almost an after-thought for the lonely and/ or unadventurous traveller rather than a destination in its own right. Brown’s Hotel in plush Mayfair epitomises a posh and rather traditional hotel of the conventional sort, but having British star Mark Hix as the restaurateur here marks a bold move, a clear effort on the part of the management to make its hotel ‘cool’ too. Sadly, our recent lunch here was more reminiscent of the bad old days rather than perhaps the slightly more on-trend experience sought by Brown’s. The dining room itself is beautiful, large and spacious, and covered with original artwork from a cast of British artists from the last fifty years spanning Bridget Riley to Tracey Emin. As one might guess, in every respect there is a clear nod here to things British. This was evident in both the food and the service. As I have written in previous reviews of other establishments, bad service trumps ok food every time and here was no different. We’re not talking Fawlty Towers bad, but highly disappointing nonetheless. The place seemed over-populated with staff, but none of them seemed to be doing anything, or at least nothing useful. Service when it came was gauche and over-bearing. We also had an inordinate wait for our dishes (both starters and mains), which came with neither explanation nor apology. Such was the delay that I had to leave straight after my main (in order to catch a plane), so I have no idea whether things deteriorated further or to what extent ‘optional service’ was added to our bill. Even had the service been amazing, the food was no more than average and certainly over-priced for what it was. My dressed Portland crab starter was a classic example: competently enough executed, but by no means worth the £17 price tag. Onto the mains, and, again, price and portion size were the main cause of complaint. My venison was fairly bland and contained none of the gamey succulence one would expect. At just four small pieces clocking in at £26, one could certainly not describe this as a value option. Elsewhere, one of my comrades opted for the cut of the day, roast beef served straight from the joint off a trolley. His portion could comfortably have fed at least two of us and yet cost less than the venison. Overall, it’s a real pity: Mark Hix a great chef and Brown’s is a beautiful building, but there are places nearby that offer a far better all-round experience. No need to return.