Monday, 2 December 2013

Hedone-ism

Hedone
301-303. Chiswick High Road. London. W4 4HH


It almost feels like I don't belong here at all. Tucked away in an inconspicuous corner of up-and-coming Chiswick, the sleek Scandinavian lines and open plan concept looks startlingly out of place amongst the local family Italian restaurants and chains. That's not to say it's an intimidating place once you get through the door. Despite the eye-catching plaudits from elsewhere (a rare 18/20 from Andy Hayler, number 70 on the world's best list and a Michelin star within a year of opening), the kitchen gives off a serene, aloof aura of calm from the moment the chefs started to filter in right up to their almost meditative wiping of the counter tops at the end of the service. We visited for lunch and went for the tasting menu, which incredibly changes weekly according to the high quality produce they receive.
Salmon Tartlet, Parmesan Sable and Foie Gras with Balsamic Sourdough
First up out of the kitchen was the customary selection of three amuse bouches - Parmesan sable with beetroot, foie gras with balsamic sourdough and salmon tartlet, served on an almost predictably granite slab. Compared to the main dishes proper, I wasn't particularly taken aback by these appetizers (in the same way as, say Roganic), although the salmon tartlet was very nice, I was just excited to see what would be starting off our tasting menu proper.

Rock Oysters with Granny Smith Foam and Shallots
And the first course didn't disappoint. Rock Oysters with Granny Smith and Shallots came out on a blue plate surrounded by what can only be described as a highly evocative collection of pebbles. My dining companion was not big on oysters so chef Mikael whipped up a special umami flan. I have no such qualms with oysters and loved every bit of this dish. The oysters were poached, until they had a unique texture with enough firmness to take away their slither-y texture whilst retaining that powerful taste of the sea that makes them so special. I'm not a convert away from good natives, but the cooking here was superb. As was the decision to pair it up with the gentle sharpness of the granny smith foam as well as the more conventional accompaniment of shallots to cut through their creaminess, which was accented further by the poaching technique.

 Mediterranean Tomatoes with Orleans Mustard, Dill and Yoghurt Sorbet 
The next course was Mediterranean Tomatoes with Orleans Mustard, Dill and Yoghurt Sorbet. I'm usually all for going local with produce as much as possible, but in the case of tomatoes I really don't blame Chef Mikael for going a bit out of the way with sourcing. It was well worth it, gorgeously sweet and slightly tart without too much harsh acidity to kill the natural tomato flavour. Edible flowers usually don't do anything for me at all, but I was refreshed here. They added some really interesting flavours to the dish (rocket and thyme-like amongst others) which justified their addition beyond their undoubtedly pleasing aesthetic quality.

Hand Dived Scallops with Girolles and Red Cabbage
The Hand Dived Scallops with Girolles and Red Cabbage were probably my least favourite course I have to admit. Surprising really as all three of those ingredients are up there as favourites for me. I have to say though the dish overall didn't achieve anything particularly special for me. The quality of the scallops was unquestionably great, but it did not achieve anything I haven't yet seen with scallops.

Roast Duck with Beetroot Cooked Five Ways
The Roast Duck with Beetroot cooked five ways was much better. I've read that this dish is usually done with pigeon, which I would have loved but the duck was a more than ample substitute. I was pleased to see that the breast was cooked with lots of loving care (and most importantly butter) in a pan, without any of that blowtorch searing business. The taste was excellent too, the natural rich flavours boosted by the wonderful offal sauce smeared all over the plate. The beetroot worked wonders in adding acidity to the dish, and cooked five ways (smoked - the best, cured, puréed, pickled and in the sauce) kept the dish interesting despite initially appearing sparsely plated.

Parmesan Ravioli with Onion Consommé
The parmesan ravioli offered us a step down from the rich flavours that had been building up to the roast duck course. Pairing pasta with broth is always a big winner for me, and the onion consommé did its job in boosting the clean, savoury flavours of the liquid parmesan contained in the ravioli. The quality of the parmesan was delightfully preserved in the final dish, a testament to the dedication and care provided by the army of top chefs in the kitchen.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Sorbet with Meringues
As a palate cleanser, we received a Strawberry and Rhubarb sorbet with little meringues scattered throughout. The rhubarb sorbet was phenomenal and the strawberries (bang in season at the time) absolutely fresh. This wasn't anything novel or particularly innovative, just simple, high quality produce with all the expected flavours at their finest. I much preferred this to the similarly intended lemon palate cleanser we had at Restaurant Story.

Warm Chocolate with Powdered Raspberries, Passion Fruit Jelly and Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream
I have to admit I'm usually quite disappointed with desserts at Michelin star type places. So much attention understandably goes into the main courses, I often feel that they are an afterthought. Not at all here. I was a massive fan of the dessert here.

Layers
At the bottom was a passion fruit jelly. So far so good. Then came the chocolate. I'm not sure what chocolate they used, but it was of a very, very high quality (I'm a bit of a chocoholic so I feel I have some authority on saying this here), with a warm temperature and perfectly smooth texture somewhere between ganache and mousse, but even better than either (if that's possible). The sumptuous bittersweet of the chocolate was complemented by a disc of powdered raspberries. The dehydration of the raspberries massively concentrated their sourness. This sourness was then tempered by the vanilla ice cream on top. I really enjoyed this if you hadn't guessed!

Clockwise from bottom-left: Chocolate Tartlette, Financier and Passionfruit macaron
The meal was finished off with some petit fours (Chocolate tartlette, passionfruit macaron and a financier). A nice selection of classic patisseries to allow us to reflect on the meal. Hedone is definitely one of the best meals you can get in London in my opinion. The tasting menu was of a superlative quality all the way through. This was partly due to the high quality of the ingredients, much discussed elsewhere, but also due to the supreme technical skill of the chefs in the kitchen (all a minimum of two Michelin stars each apparently). Their care and attention to detail has allowed for Mikael Jonsson's creativity and innovation to be showcased in its highest possible form. It's expensive, and a tad cold in atmosphere during the lunch hours, but as a pure temple of gastronomy it's certainly up there.


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Photos by Nathalie.

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