Ticking off my Wishlist – a Visit to Hedone, Chiswick:
I eat out a lot; restaurants that stay on my wishlist for any time tend to be expensive, out of the way or have a frighteningly long wait list for a table. Hedone may be close to Chiswick Park tube, but it’s not an area I visit often and having migrated south to Kennington, it’s now a little difficult to reach. Nevertheless, it’s been on my wishlist for over a year. Not only do I respect and admire the writings of Andy Hayler, who has long championed Hedone on his blog, I have a fascination with the initiative behind the place. Working first as a Chef, Swede Mikael Jonsson became a lawyer, keeping up his interest in food by writing a blog, before returning full time, opening Hedone, a restaurant where sourcing of fine ingredients is the essence of the menu. His passion for perfection has been rewarded and he now has a Michelin star and ranks 63rd in the San Pelligrino World’s Best Restaurant list.
An invitation to recommend a restaurant in London with a Scandinavian connection and an offer of a small contribution to the bill seemed like the ideal opportunity to visit Hedone. Of course, we would have loved to indulge in the Carte Blanche option, where the kitchen offers up its best for £95 per person, but I had a dinner that evening too, so we confined ourselves to the four-course lunch which is priced at £45. There’s a mid-point tasting menu on offer too from £65.
The restaurant is welcoming in a way that takes thought and imagination. While for the most part, the food is Modern European with little signs of Swedish influence, the same is not true of the decor. Stylish teak chairs and tables, a bar where you can sit and dine looking into the open kitchen, beautiful minimalist menus and tableware. I’d taken a friend who majored in Scandinavian Studies at University. She loved it, as did I.
Loving the decor and ambience is enough of an excuse to order a glass of house champagne, which we did and thoroughly enjoyed. Little dishes started to appear – canapes to accompany the champagne.
First a tiny morsel of foie gras on a red pepper crisp topped with a spiced jelly. I’ve eaten foie gras with gingerbread before in Sarlat and the effect here was a more delicate and refined take on a very traditional way of serving foie gras with spices.
Then a tiny cornetto of vitello tonnato served in a pretty wooden box filled with wild rice (and salt?)
Both delicious light mouthfuls that worked well with sips of champagne.
Our amuse bouche was what we thought was described as a ‘frozen stilton mousse’ served with pickled cucumber and cucumber jelly. It was delicious, though the mousse was warm and we were left wondering if we’d misheard. If I have any question about service it was that the lady who was bringing plates to the table was very softly spoken and it was hard, from where I was sitting, to hear exactly what she was saying about the food. The detail here is one of the things which makes it special and for that reason, I would have preferred a slightly more substantial menu with notes on sourcing.
Flame grilled Dorset mackerel was served with Brussels tops seaweed and smoked eel. Beautiful presentation, the star of this for me was, just as it should be, the mackerel. Well flavoured, firm flesh that was complemented by the seaweed and smoked eel ‘jus’ and by some very carefully blanched brussel sprout leaves.
Our pasta course was liquid Parmesan ravioli with a sweet onion consomme, a mild horseradish foam and tiny morsels of guanciale. I believe this is one of the signature dishes at Hedone now, for good reason. The perfectly al-dente ravioli explodes in your mouth to release a rich Parmesan liquid. This is the sort of cookery that I couldn’t imagine recreating in any form at home. Next time, I’m going to sit at the bar and watch, just to make sure, though.
The Sommelier had scratched his head a little when we asked for one glass of wine each to pair with both the ravioli and the pheasant. He came up trumps, though, with a glass of pinot noir, 2010 Olivier Jouan Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Vieilles Vignes that was light enough not to overwhelm our food but still satisfied my craving for red wine. In any restaurant, let alone a relatively small local restaurant with just 50 covers or so, it’s a rarity to find a Sommelier who can work that kind of magic.
In fact, the pheasant hen, plumply cushioned in fat and served with sweet Cevennes onion and pear shavings, would have worked just as well with a white wine. I do enjoy wine pairings and had I not been going on that evening to a whisky dinner I’d have tried the optional pairings at £35. I loved the sweet caramelised onions too. Having visited the part of the Cevennes where these onions are cultivated, on rocky stepped slopes, I remember learning how this AOP produce had revitalised a rural economy. Served here with this dish, I understand how that might be possible and why this is a premium product.
Dessert was tonka bean parfait served with exotic fruits. The beans served as a parfait added very subtle flavours of vanilla, coconut, clove and liquorice. The presentation was again immaculate and I loved the sweet/sour fruit accompaniment.
Coffee appeared with complimentary petit fours in the form of a macaron and a crisp-shelled sweet full of fruit juice.
Overall we both loved our lunch. I was impressed to see Mikael Jonsson in the kitchen or close by throughout service; there’s an attention to detail here that is often missing even in two and three star Michelin restaurants. I hope I’ll be able to return and indulge myself with the Carte Blanche menu and matched wines. It will, I know, be a very special occasion.
301-303 Chiswick High Road,
Tel: 020 8747 0377