Category: Haute Cuisine (££££)
I’m swiftly approaching my unborn’s ETA and I am trying to cram as many meals in as possible before I will be confined to the nursery with a crying child in my arms. At the moment, baby and food are fighting for space in my ever-expanding abdomen, and, sorry baby, at my recent meal at Hedone, the food won. This dinner will probably stay with me during many a future sleepless night, will be recalled with nostalgia while changing nappies and may well lighten the darkness of postnatal depression. What an amazing meal this was!
Mikael Jonsson, the Swede who opened Hedone just over a year ago and achieved his first Michelin star with this restaurant, is a tremendously gifted and accomplished chef. I admire how he delivers great flavours almost effortlessly, without pretence. There is nothing superfluous on the plate, nothing that doesn’t serve the purpose of enhancing the culinary experience. His cooking is inventive and very clever, and is also approachable. By this I mean that his food is not some kind of experiment that a diner might or might not get (as you find in a lot of high-end restaurants), but simply tastes very good.
Mikael is quite a character with buckets of Nordic charm and a dry sense of humour. We were seated at the bar, facing the small kitchen area where a multitude of chefs prepared each course before our very eyes. Mikael, in addition to explaining every dish to us (such a shame about my hormone-induced pregnancy brain, I have forgotten almost everything he told us…), expanded in great detail on the ingredients that he uses in his cooking – this is hardly surprising, considering that his CV includes not only a law degree but also a professional qualification as ‘ingredient expert’ advising high-end restaurants on ingredient sourcing.
I had a more or less faultless meal at Hedone. Apart from the pleasant company in the form of the The Skinny Bib, a Hedone fan from almost the first hour, and of course exquisite food, I encountered flawless service, pleasant atmosphere and – for what was offered – reasonable pricing. My only complaint is the location, Chiswick is just so dreadfully far away!
The Canapes of little dehydrated blinis topped with smoked eel and tiny parcels filed with foie gras and red bell pepper jelly were a delightful start of the meal. It was very tempting to eat too much of the still warm and fragrant, crispy brown bread which was the best bread I have had for ages. The bread is baked by the boss himself and doesn’t contain any yeast. What makes it rise is just the process of natural fermentation. The bread alone may be worth a visit to Hedone! But try not to over-gorge on it, as hard as that may be, as there are more tasty morsels to come…
Beautifully presented and delicious were the Poached Oysters on green apple foam, which needed to be eaten as a whole. Mikael reminisced about a customer who took the ‘to be eaten as a whole’ too seriously and, after having devoured the oyster, tucked into the decorative crystal salt it was served on.
My least favourite dish was the Sweet Onion, but this probably has to do with the fact that I just don’t like sweet onion very much. It was served with shavings of ripe pear and truffles.
A revelation however was the duck egg with perfectly oozing yolk, wood mushrooms and truffle shavings.
Posh Fish and Chips were next. The tender Turbot whose surprisingly meaty texture was emphasised by beef jus, was presented on a potato skin reduction. Flavours were subtle and intriguing and did indeed remind of fish and chips.
The Cuttlefish Tagliatelle were again a very clever piece of cooking. The cuttlefish’ body was made into pasta shaped stripes of immaculate softness and the accompanying coarse ’ragu’ consisted of the cuttlefish’ tentacles and offal with nothing going to waste. I thought it was lovely.
Connoisseurs of traditional French recipes (I am not one of them I fear) may know the Hare à la Royale (Lievre a la Royale), invented for a French monarch who couldn’t chew very well . The royal chefs therefore created a dish tender enough to be eaten with a spoon only. At Hedone, the mini hare loin was cooked to pink perfection and I loved the way the slow cooked, pulled hare leg meat was served on creamy foie gras mousse. This all was brought together by a blood-thickened hare jus. While all of these components were absolutely divine, my favourite morsel from the plate was the little raviolo, filled with what could be called mushroom soup – with a liquid filling intensely tasting of wild mushrooms, bursting into your mouth when disrupting the thin pasta layer. For those dim sum lovers among you, the raviolo recalls a French take on Xiaolongbao (Shanghai style soup dumplings).
The main course and in many ways the highlight of an already stellar meal was the Capon. A capon is poor, boy chicken who has been castrated in his youth and the subsequent lack of testosterone serves to tenderise the meat and intensify its flavour. For the last 3 weeks of his life, he’s stuffed with fatty foods. This may now not be the most ethical of all dishes, but — boy! — it tasted wonderful. The meat was unlike any other chicken I have ever tasted, moist and rich and much more flavourful than a normal chicken. The viscous capon jus (cooked for 3 days to extract all the flavours) was mind-blowing and the oystery salsify and truffle shavings, which certainly would have overpowered a normal chicken, were a perfect fit for the capon.
I was stuffed, but after peeking at the delights being prepared by an attractive sous chef, there was no way I could miss out on the desserts. Caramelised Pineapple was good but not quite reaching the same level as the dishes we had before. While I enjoyed the fresh taste of the sweet and sour pineapple with the vanilla ice cream (I think), I didn’t quite get the white chocolate disk. Far better was the sophisticated Mille Feuille with green apple and vanilla – a very satisfying combination of flavours and textures.
My favourite, though (and, truth be told, I could even have indeed eaten another one), was the Chocolate Bar. The lightest chocolate mousse, covered in a thin layer of dark cocoa powder on a crisp waver, was the essence of chocolatey indulgence. This piece of heaven was punctuated yet at the same time complemented by the tangy passion fruit sorbet. Honestly, this was a dessert to die for!
I did manage the Petite Fours too, you will be pleased to hear (the baby in the meantime fighting for space quite vigorously, he will be a little gourmet the moment he opens his eyes!). Lovely crunchy vanilla macaroons with soft, gooey centre filled with mango mousse and Canelés which were better than any I had in Bordeaux. A delightful finish to this magnificent meal were the juniper flavoured salty caramel truffles.
The tasting menu is ( a well invested) £75, and if you order à la carte, 4 courses are £40 and 5 courses are £50 which is very good value for money. Even better value is the 2 or 3 course express lunch for £19 and £25, respectively. So even if you are broke, this is no excuse for missing out on Hedone as this is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and satisfying restaurants to be found on London’s culinary map at the moment.
If I haven’t convinced you, check out London Tastin‘, Andy Hayler, Chez Alexandra and The Critical Couple.