Since the meal below, I have returned to Hedone 5 times and have grown to love the restaurant for its uncompromising uniqueness, its advocacy of pure, natural flavours and its truly remarkable ingredients. That said, Hedone is a Marmite and is still not for everyone. I will find time to update this post and explain why my impression has changed.
I went there..
To Hedone. The brainchild of Mikael Jonsson and the rumoured-to-be wicked restaurant of the west. There was always a risk of commuting this far, out of my gastronomic comfort zone. You know, travelling, like it or not, usually heightens one’s expectation that the place one visits should at least be worth a trip..
As for Hedone. It was almost there.
This was my lunch. 5 courses. £50. Optional main course and desserts. The menu is fixed and changes almost daily. You could opt for less courses. In the evening the menu gets longer. 5, 6, 7.. plus freebies. Not a universe apart when it comes to dishes (as we asked for a peek of last night dinner menu).
Started with appetisingly crispy Berkswell Sable. An “Umami” flan with seaweed (nori) coolie. The flan was, say, you imagine Japanese steamed egg yolk, and that’s probably it. Curd-y, lovely flavour from dashi stock, married well with the perfumed nori layer. Bloody good. Yet, it set an odd anticipation for the meal. Was this a restaurant inspired by the Orient? An inventively modern European restaurant? What?
Salmon, Roe, Dill Flower Cream (1) brought us to a different sphere of cooking. Nice. Gorgeous salmon. One of the very, very good ones I’ve eaten. But the presentation of three roughly sawn pieces got a thumb down for me. If I am paying £50 for my courses, I’d die to have my food either presented neatly or turned up an extravagant mess. Subtle acidity from the dill cream worked. Drizzled roe hardly added anything to the dish..
Slow Cooked Hen’s Egg, Apricot Chutney, Cepes (2). The nearly congealed egg was the best component in the dish but why summer cepes? They didn’t seem to have much taste. Sustained acidity from the liquidised, apricot chutney. As my excitement started to plummet, I was served this Grilled Mackerel, Japanese Flavours (3). Delicately, quickly flamed. Superb “grilled” aroma, unctuously oily meat and delectably edible skin. Adding to this perfection was the crunchy lettuce tossed in a mixture of Japanese vinegar and grapefruit juice. Beautifully simple just like the previous dishes, but this time the flavours were made manifest.
I also had Seabass, San Marzano Confit Tomato, Cannellini Beans (4). A “main course” that was smaller than the “salad” course (of Mackerel). The brown and white contrast was discerningly sensual. Not badly done up, apart from the fact that the bass was not thoroughly scaled making the skin crispy for all the wrong reason. Al dente beans (bordering on blandness) given life by this herbed sauce and a robust slap of acidity from the paper shaped confit tomato. So far the play on acidity had been interesting and appetising. But it wasn’t near perfect. My other bib was less successful with his Lamb, Aubergine, Smoked Potatoes, Peas (5). First of all.. the kitchen ran out of aubergines. This rather interesting combo, therefore, lacked its only interesting element and ended up looking very much like a skint Sunday roast without Yorkshire puddings! All elements were nicely cooked (we wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s the best roast). Potatoes had the fumed taste as billed. Did not change the fact ’tis a dish without the X factor.
Raspberries, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Horseradish, Aromatic Vinegar (6) had all the flavours it was tagged and proved a stronger dish than my other bib’s Rum Baba (7). He approved of the flavours but not the texture. This yeast-risen cake should be spongy in a way it sucks up rum. This was just soaked and turned gradually soggy. The sweet Chantilly cream could have been less thick and more aerated. The outside could have been less dry. Pleasant but again it could have been better. All concluded with miniature lemon madeleines which (as we are madeleine whores) were just too sour.
The bill, with a bottle of water and two glasses of wine, came to £130 something. Both of us were underwhelmed. It’s not the price or the distance. What frustrated me most was that despite the marvellous ingredients there was no big flavour leaping through. Subtlety was commendable, and the simplified flavour combination was a breath of fresh air in London’s conservatively sauce-y scene. But..
But .. nothing about my lunch was memorable.
It also did not strike us that there appeared a cooking signature stamped across the dishes. Minimalism and good ingredients. That said, it has been only a few weeks into Hedone’s operation. The place has its unique approach (and a lot of courage) to cooking but it’s not “it” just yet. Is the ever-changing menu that is to be blamed? Is the execution and the precision of cooking? There is a lot of potential but for us it hasn’t been materialised enough for our love.
My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.
301 Chiswick High Road
Tel. 020 8747 0377