HEDONE: MY PLEASURE
To call Mikael Jonsson an ingredient obsessive is to do him a disservice - it’s a bit like saying that footballer Lionel Messi can play a bit.
I’d already crossed paths with him (Mikael not Lionel, stupid) several years ago on a group trip to Anthony’s in Leeds and once my friend Scott - you remember: more Michelin three-stars than I’ve had hot dinners - told me that he was looking to open a restaurant in Chiswick my interest was very, as they say, piqued.
Although I was told he was already a gifted amateur cook, an allergy had prevented him from working in commercial kitchens. The allergy has cleared up so he’s followed his dream and is now cooking in his first place, Hedone. And he seems to be having a hell of a time doing so. Happily, that enthusiasm is catching and the restaurant is already gaining an excellent, wholly warranted, reputation. Not bad for a first-timer, eh?
So how to describe the food? Well the cliché of the best ingredients, cooked simply wouldn’t be far off the mark although that doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s a whole load of technique going here but without the bombast and overwrought style that fine dining restaurants are often prone to.
There’s also little twists that constantly take one by surprise and lift dishes above the norm. Take for instance the small Sablés that I had as an amuse to start one of my meals. Made with Berkswell Cheese they were beautifully crumbly but were lifted by a sprinkling of powdered, oven-dried blackcurrants that tingled on the tongue like space rocks. Or how about a Gazpacho of amazing intensity dotted with specks of dill oil and served with a chilled dill flower cream? or small tiny potatoes that have been smoked over juniper berries.
A meal here often starts with an Umami flan (as in the Iberian custard type) which has typically been made with a duck stock or dashi and topped with various purees: English pea, seaweed or red pepper. Served tiede these are a such a great way to start a meal – luscious mouthfeel and the umami element gets the juices going (oo-err missus). I’m just surprised nowhere else in London does them.
If you're a big fan of over-reduced sauces sluicing around on the plate then the minimal intervention policy here might disappoint. Although there are sauces here they’re correct, to the point, occasionally inventive: a small thick rivulet was made from the guts of a squab pigeon; a sauce with the beef that was light yet intense and deep in flavour; a lustrous Lobster sauce served with Duck or one made from mustard lightly napped over the spuds served with some Turbot collar.
That cut of Turbot – ‘cut’ seems an apt word - looked like some beautiful sub-species of fish and was remarkable for its tasty dense white flesh and gelatinous exterior which made eating the bones akin to demolishing the carcass of a roast chicken (gentle reader, I sucked those bones clean).
Other fish is equally great and handled with care like a fillet of Mackerel – the freshest I’ve had outside of Cornwall – which was just flashed under the grill. Scallops, hand-dived from the South Coast came in a dashi broth and as Sashimi. Or my favourite, just served raw and wriggling, bound in nori.
Superb Beef from Darragh O’Shea was cooked in plenty of Beef fat and served rare. There was the aforementioned Pigeon and the Duck in Lobster sauce. Don’t be disappointed if you visit and some of these are not on the menu – only the best stuff at the time makes the cut and there’ll always be something else which is just as good. It’s that sort of place.
Puddings are equally adept: beautiful Almond Blac-Manger served with (proper) Apricots; Raspberries served with Cinnamon ice cream and a Horseradish cream; a light Peach Tart with lovely pastry and Tonka Bean Ice Cream.
Chocolate soufflé was more mousse-like in texture but was lifted by the quality of the chocolate used and the accompanying Vanilla Ice cream made with one of several varieties of vanilla the chef has found (well of course he has) was a revelation.
Coffee was still a work in progress but has improved with each visit.
There’s just such a clarity and purity to the cooking that even after nine courses with plenty of excellent homemade sourdough bread you can leave without feeling bloated.
All this would count for naught of course without the terrific supporting acts that are the friendly, professional staff. And just in case you thought that this might be some stuffy temple of gastronomy on a recent visit the chef/patron had to rush out to get baby seats for some younger punters who were visiting. Yes, news of Hedone and that Umami dish
has even reached the nurseries of West London.
I have to fess up and say I’m already a little bit in love with Hedone to the extent that I almost considered cancelling a recent trip as it would mean not visiting for a couple of weeks. By comparison most other places seem, well, a bit rubbish. Now if only I could find some magic portal that would whisk me from East London to West I would be happy and my life complete.