One suspects Jonsson will never quite feel the restaurant is fully ready, for our impression is that he is a perfectionist of the highest order. After our vastly experienced dining guest told chef Jonsson that the pigeon we had just eaten was the best he'd ever tasted, Jonsson replied that it was good, but not the best, for he was struggling to secure a regular supply of the better pigeon, but this pigeon was okay, good enough (for now). This goes to the heart of the matter of Hedone, for if you don't already know, Hedone is an ingredients led restaurant and while Jonsson can clearly cook, he does so lightly, and therefore the meal, and the restaurant, succeeds or fails on the quality proposition, whether for example the tomato in front of you has more flavour than any other tomato you've ever tasted.
Looking at the reviews and the blog posts from last year, it is however clear that Hedone has evolved considerably since its opening: let's not forget, Jonsson was a lawyer and a food blogger before all this (even though he trained as a chef) and this is his first chef gig and first restaurant, the first year is inevitably the steepest of learning curves. What he's accomplished with Hedone therefore is nothing short of remarkable.
But with all this preamble, we have yet to address the question ourselves: did we like our meal at Hedone? Emphatically yes. After we left the restaurant, when discussing the meal, we asked ourselves how it compared with other London restaurants and surprisingly (??) found many of the benchmarks that seemed most appropriate (eg The Ledbury, Helene Darroze) are London's two star restaurants. Hedone seems considerably more accomplished than almost all of the London one/no star restaurants we have eaten at since starting the blog (Pollen Street Social and Roganic being notable exceptions).
A gazpacho is the first of the listed menu items and here, Jonsson has indeed struck gold, transforming the ordinary to the exceptional as the tomato flavours causes you to remember or discover what tomatoes actually taste like before they tasted of not much at all. Chilled dill and mustard cream provides addition layers. Heston at The Fat Duck serves a red cabbage gazpacho with mustard ice cream; Jonsson's tomato gazpacho is the more memorable of the two.
The scallop he tells us came out the water 'late last night' from Dartmouth, bearing mind this is lunch service, they're maybe only 15 hours out of the water. The focus is on the sweetness of the scallop and Mikael enthusiastically explains the science behind it: the sweetness in seafood is derived from the muscles' energy store of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). When the scallop is taken out of the water, it fasts, so drawing down on this reserve of ATP. The longer the scallop is out the water therefore, the less sweet it becomes, hence journey times for transportation directly impact the flavours on the plate. He also notes that Scottish hand dived scallops when caught are often then placed in cages and put back in the water which he believes also diminishes the flavour.
The perfectly cooked and remarkable razor clam was similarly taken from the water the previous day in Weymouth.
We're dazzled at the achievement of Hedone for this was a meal that can stand toe to toe with that served by any restaurant in the country. If this is what Jonsson can do after just one year, the future for him and Hedone is very bright indeed. It is still possible to get a table with some ease at Hedone now that the initial furore (following AA Gill) has died down but as the guide books sing its praises (and they will), the clientèle builds and the Michelin stars accumulate, we can imagine a future where a reservation at Hedone is pure gold, so save yourself some grief later on and book today.
Chiswick is not the most convenient of places to get to, it took us an hour and a half to get there, but it was worth it. Hedone is not an also ran, it genuinely moves the restaurant concept forward. Not into lists, we've never created a 'restaurant top 10' for the UK, but if we did, Hedone would certainly be in it.
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