*This restaurant has now closed*
It’s cosy, warm and beautifully decorated with smoky mirrors, wood and red leather in a classic, old-school way, when you can almost expect Ernest Hemingway to pop in for a Martini.
The barman fixes me a classic Mark’s Bar cocktail – Hix Fix – Morello cherry in Somerset apple eau de vie topped with Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2004 (£13.50).
My friend, who is still on a post-holiday detox and is stoically resisting the temptation of booze, orders a non-alcoholic Shirley Temple (Luscombe hot ginger beer with Mark’s grenadine and a touch of lime juice, £4.50).
We are both very happy with our drink choices, but nothing is better in cold weather than a hearty meal, so we make our way upstairs to Hixter, Mark Hix’s second chicken and steak restaurant, that follows the success of Tramshed.
Despite the cold and rain, and absolutely empty streets outside, the restaurant is 100% full. Hixter is located in the Old East India Company Warehouse and is spacious with exposed brick walls, red leather seats and decorated with the artwork of famous British artists such as Tim Noble, Sue Webster and Peter Newman.
You aren’t going to see a Cock and Bull suspended above diners in a formaldehyde tank here, but huge and bright smilies do cheer us up.
We begin with a starter of a giant Yorkshire pudding served with whipped chicken livers (£3.95). It is so good, that my decision to limit the intake of carbs goes straight out of the window.
De Beauvoir smoked salmon ‘Hix cure’ with Corrigan’s soda bread (£5.25) is delicious too, the smoky smell of salmon reminding us of camp fires in summer. The waiter tells us that Mark smokes the fish himself in the garden of his Hackney home.
I combine the Yorkshire pudding and salmon with a refreshing glass of Côtes Du Ventoux ‘La Ferme Julien’, Famille Perrin, Rhone, France 2012 (£6.75).
We are in meat heaven it seems, with everyone around us devouring kilos of steaks and whole roast chickens, served heads down, legs up in the air and with whole feet intact, that I must admit look slightly unappetising.
My guest and I decide to follow the example of our fellow eaters and order 700g of herb-roasted Chateaubriand with chips and Bearnaise sauce for £75 to share. The price is steep, may be too steep, but the steak is huge and delicious.
I’m in desperate need for more wine to help the digestion and feel very grateful when presented with a glass of the Rioja Crianza ‘La Montesa’, Palacios Remondo, Spain 2010 (£11.75) followed by Château Larose Trintaudon, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France 2009 (£14.75).
After all, we are in London’s Square Mile and befitting our surroundings, we talk about hedge funds and private equity and I try to understand the basics of investment banking.
The more red wine that is poured, the better I think I can tell the difference between various funds, but it’s the Peruvian Gold chocolate mousse (£6.50) that puts some final touches to our dinner. We admit that we did eat a little too much, but console ourselves that it’s truly necessary to be able to survive the winter.
Read our guide to the best restaurants in The City.