Although I work literally around the corner from the Hix Oyster & Chophouse, I have never set foot inside – so I was rather pleased when an invitation to a dinner hosted by Clarence Court eggs at Hix Soho plopped into my inbox. Mark Hix, formerly of Caprice Holdings (which owns The Ivy and J Sheekey), is the author of a number of seasonal British cookbooks and somewhat of a champion of excellent British produce, so it is not really surprising that Clarence court eggs, producers of “fabulous eggs from fabulous birds”, decided to team up with him to create a menu to showcase their eggs. Clarence Court produces their eggs from rare breed hens on farms around the country. Their hens are fed a natural non-GM vegetarian diet, including maize which produces more deeply-coloured yolks. The birds range freely from dawn till dusk and different flocks are allowed to mix – all of which makes for much happier birds. But does it make for tastier eggs? We were about to find out.
Through an unholy alliance of work and Tube delays, I arrived at Hix a little late and hardly had time to clock the buzzing dining room or the modern art collection before being led to the private dining room (I did note, however, that door staff were nice and not at all snooty – a rarity in Soho!). As all the other invited bloggers (including Their Royal Lovelinesses Gail, Cara, Sarah, MiMi and Kavey) were already seated, I plonked myself down in the only available chair – which happened to be next to Mark Hix who was explaining why he uses only Clarence Court eggs in his restaurants. The first part of the evening was all about comparing Clarence Court Brown Burford eggs; Happy Eggs; and regular free-range barn eggs – I had already missed the plain boiled egg taste test but did enjoy the scrambled egg taste test, where the Clarence Court scramble immediately announced itself by its far deeper orange colour and superior creaminess – hands down the winner.
And then it was on to our meal proper – although the menu had been put together especially for our dinner, all items were available on the regular Hix menu. We started with torn pieces of smoked haddock and soft-boiled quail eggs with a scattering of chickweed (£8.75). I was not sure about the chickweed. It tasted… well, kind of earthy to me, which is not a taste I like much. But the little quail eggs were just heavenly and a wonderful match for the salty haddock. All it perhaps needed was a hint of creaminess – maybe a blob of homemade aioli or similar. But all in all a lovely dish.
The mains were probably my favourite as we were treated to a hefty escalope of breaded Blytheburgh pork topped with capers, anchovies and a fried egg (£18.75). This was a take on the classic Veal Holstein and is a combination of flavours that I find irresistible. Although breaded escalopes can often be dry, the perfectly runny yolk prevented that from happening here, and I absolutely loved the little salt-bomb capers and anchovies. (I seem to recall that there was a brisk trade in capers and anchovies at our end of the table as anchovy-haters palmed theirs off on anchovy-lovers!)
The surprise of the evening for me was the dessert. Possets are so very English, starting their lives in Mediaeval England as a curdled milk drink made with wine or ale; and ending up sometime around the 19th century as a creamy dessert of cream, sugar, eggs and citrus. They even feature in Shakespeare as Lady MacBeth drugs King Duncan’s guards with a poisoned posset. Our definitely-not-poisoned sea buckthorn berry posset (£6.75) did not use the usual citrus to give it its tang, but the far more unusual sea buckthorn berries. The berries not only provided a sharp tang to counteract the richness of the creamy posset, but also lent their vivid orange colour to the layer of jelly that topped the dish. Simply fabulous.
It was a lovely evening that proved the deliciousness of the eggs and made me want to come back to Hix to sample more of their menu – and take another look at their art!
And best of all, at the end of the evening we were also given goodie bags to take home – mine contained Burford Browns, Braddock Whites, and a pack of quail’s eggs. Nick largely ate the Burford browns, but I managed to rescue the duck eggs and turn them into my one-pan breakfast fry-up where they lent a luxurious creaminess. Even in the simplest of dishes, the eggs just tasted… better; more eggy if that makes sense. Maybe it is true that tastes as happy does!
Thanks Clarence Court and Hix for a lovely evening.
70 Brewer St
Westminster, London W1F 9
Tel. 00 44 20 7292 3518