Mark Hix: My West Country
Supreme restauranteur, chef, food writer and dashing country gent Mark Hix is proper West Country. Born and bred in West Bay, on the outskirts of Bridport, his foodie interest started when he plumped for domestic science instead of metalwork at school. He trained in catering at Weymouth College (where he now collaborates on the Hix Academy which trains chefs and restaurant staff for an illustrious career in the industry). Hix’s London career is well documented from Head Chef at the tender age of 22 to Chef Director of Le Caprice Holdings overseeing 9 restaurants including the infamous The Ivy, Le Caprice, J.Sheekey and Scotts. So it was only a matter of time before he created his own empire, first with his Oyster and Chop House in Smithfield, swiftly followed by a second in his homeland of Dorset. He now has 8 restaurants and a townhouse in Lyme and every one of them is a winner. But I think the Lyme Regis restaurant holds a special place in his heart. It certainly does in mine. It’s one of my go to places for any and every type of celebration or just because. Overlooking the harbour it has a view that reaches around the Jurassic coast and the best spot for eating the freshest British seafood. Hix is committed to provenance and responsible sourcing with the emphasis on local ingredients and this is reflected in everything he does. I meet Mark in his kitchen at his coastal ‘shack’ 10 minutes along the coast from Lyme. A house as stylish and understated as the man himself. With a fresh mint tea, we pull up stools to a kitchen island where he hosts private cookery demonstrations. A simple tableau of bread and butter on a wooden board, fishing bag hanging from a row of pegs, wellies at the door, raging logburner and a cooking pot bubbling away on the stove complete the look. We talk about his deep love of the West Country.
Below Mark Hix photographed by Jason Joyce
What do you love about Lyme Regis and the Dorset coast? Lyme Regis is one of my favourite places in the world. It has not been spoilt by the usual seaside additions like fast food joints and lots of caravan parks. I love the architecture. But the best place for me to be is on my boat out on the sea looking back at the coastline and Lyme town. Where is the best place for a campfire beach party? I don’t tend to hang out on the beach unless I am foraging. What is your favourite Dorset view? That has to be the one from my restaurant looking over the Cobb and along the coastline towards West Bay. And I have a very similar view from my house too. Nothing better than waking up here after time spent in London.
Below: Hix Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis
Describe your perfect West Country weekend. Ok this is really difficult. I think it would have to involve good weather so I could get out on my boat, spend the day fishing, check my lobster pots and then head home with a great catch. Light the outdoor wood oven, bung in some lobsters and invite lots of mates around! Which West Country food and drink producers do you rate at the moment? I work with so many brilliant local producers but one of my constant favourites is Julian Temperley from the Cider Brandy Company. And Black Cow Vodka… What would you do if you weren’t doing what you do now? Have often thought about that. Design is pretty central to everything I do so would definitely want to be doing something around this. Maybe an interior designer.