Mark Hix joins the Groucho: Celebrated chef returns to London as club’s ‘director of food and beverage’

Guess who’s back: Mark Hix inside the famous club  (Sim Canetty-Clarke)
Guess who’s back: Mark Hix inside the famous club (Sim Canetty-Clarke)

Celebrated chef Mark Hix, who lost his London restaurant empire to the pandemic in early 2020, has returned to the capital as the director of food and beverage at the Groucho club. His role begins with immediate effect.

The position means he is responsible for the entire food and drink offering at the private Soho club, which is famous for tales of excess and for the occasional errant behaviour of its celebrity guests. Hix himself has long frequented the club.

The Groucho was bought this summer by ArtFarm, which is overseen by Ewan Venters, who is the chief executive of ArtFarm’s parent company, Hauser and Wirth. Venters and Hix are known to be close, with Venters telling the Standard in August that he and Hix would often visit together when they’d first met, some 15 years or so ago.

Mark Hix said of the announcement: “The chance to work at the Groucho was irresistible to me. I have worked with Ewan on several projects previously, and this club is part of the fabric of my life. The Groucho represents everything that’s great in a members’ club — it is welcoming, familiar and eclectic. You can walk in on your own and suddenly find yourself having the most interesting conversation with a like-minded soul you’ve never met before. It manages to be both cosy and glamorous.”

While the club presently isn’t particularly celebrated for its restaurant, Hix says he will look to simply evolve what already exists. He said: “I would like to bring my influence to bear on what is already a very strong offering. I shall be concentrating on British food at best, supplementing simple club food that everyone can relate to, like our famous shepherd’s pie, with some of my signature dishes. Likewise, the drinks menu will showcase some of our fabulous British spirits producers.”

Venters added: “I am thrilled to welcome Mark back to his spiritual home. He has been a member of the Groucho for more than 30 years, and he understands the special nature of this club. Mark is one of my food heroes. He was almost single-handedly responsible for putting modern British cooking on the map, and I am sure our members, their guests and those hiring our unique event spaces will welcome his trademark flourishes on the menu.”

The announcement is the first major one regarding the Groucho that ArtFarm have made since taking over; the group have been in the press rather a lot recently, after opening both the Audley and Mount Street Restaurant in Mayfair this autumn.

The news comes as Hix, who in 2017 was awarded an MBE for his services to the hospitality industry, recovers from a difficult couple of years. His HIX restaurant group closed in 2020, with him writing in the Standard as the time that he “felt like a father leaving a family.” While he moved back to Dorset, where he is from, it was only a mixed success; his pub the Fox Inn closed after only 18 months trading. The move to the Groucho looks, then, to be happy one.