Project Ocean is Selfridges’ month-long campaign to raise awareness of global overfishing. A noble cause, and one on which the department store is cleverly cashing in* – offering trendy thrills such as a whale rodeo machine, Katharine Hamnett tote bags reading “no more fish in the sea”, and a pop-up seafood restaurant from Mark Hix, no less.
This week I was treated to an excellent lunch at this temporary Hix Oyster & Fish House, available on the shop’s ground floor mezzanine level until 12th June. Set just above the handbag area, I had been dubious about how the shoppers’ bustle and buttercup yellow lighting beneath would compromise the sustainability message of Project Ocean. Or indeed the purity of seafood with which Mark Hix is associated. But it worked. Like driving a Jeep, sitting in a raised area overlooking the rabble brings out a childish excitement in me. Go prepared for some surrounding gaudery and the mezzanine is strangely peaceful.
Admittedly, I’d never been to any Hix establishment. So obviously we totes couldn’t go without some oysters. We ordered half a dozen Cumbrae Rocks. At £2.25 each the price was pretty standard for London, but the size and quality of them eclipsed even Wright Brothers (which does not feel right to write). I could apply an array of erotic analogies here, but suffice it to say that Hix’s oysters were very big and very wet and therefore very unerotic as they dribbled down my face. (Insert shout-out to the poor PR who had to watch.)
We followed with a pricey (£19.95) starter-sized Dorset Blue Lobster Salad (with asparagus and Jersey Royals) and seafood linguine. I had the former, in which lack of quantity was fully made up for in quality. Not only was it perfectly cooked but came showered with an inspired chervil dressing. I eschewed plonk for a change, so I’m not qualified to comment on that front, but we followed our mains with well-made cappuccinos and a scoop of credit crunch ice cream (crunch quite literally – it’s honeycomb) and a gravy boat of hot chocolate sauce. Only £1.90 a portion. Bargain.
That said, the Hix pop-up ain’t cheap. Our booze-free lunch came in at around £80 – but then you’re paying for the Hix name, for the convenience of in-store shopping, and for the buzz of ordering “Sheringham” mussels and “Burford Brown” eggs. It’s all well-sourced stuff but, more implicitly, the menu flatters the well-travelled foodie.
If you’re going to shop lavishly, you should jolly well eat lavishly too. So for those needing high-end goods before 12th June, stop-in at the Selfridges’ Hix pop-up. For a short while, they’re not oceans apart.
* Despite my scoffs at the “trendification” of ethical causes, I should say that I don’t disapprove of it. It’s of course a good thing that funds go to Africa’s AIDS crisis or that people refrain from using plastic carrier bags, even if Bono-slash-Gap-slash-Anya Hindmarch do make a mint in the process. Allegedly.
Hix Oyster & Fish House at Selfridges runs until 12th June. For more information about Project Ocean, please visit the Selfridges website.