301-303 Chiswick High Road
Tel. 020 8747 0377
Food type: Modern European
Nearest tube: Gunnersbury/ Chiswick Park
This is the first time I would be blogging about Hedone despite this being my third visit to the restaurant. In all honesty, I should be visiting more often given how good the cooking is here and how impressive the produce is on display. However, getting a table here is tricky, particularly after the dining room has undergone some renovation which resulted in a reduction in the number of seats in the restaurant which would allow them to deliver more complex dishes. The other problem is its location in Chiswick which is a bit of a pain to get to one way or another. Although I live in Surrey and it is a fairly short drive to get to the restaurant, I do like to have a drink with my meal.
These days the restaurant does not have an ala carte menu. You simply choose between a shorter tasting menu (£85) or a longer carte blanche menu (£125). At lunch (only Fridays and Saturdays), the restaurant also offers a cheaper £45 lunch menu. Given that on this occasion, we were visiting the restaurant on the behest of my sister who had travelled from Singapore, it was a no brainer that we were going for the carte blanche menu which would allow Mikael to show off more of his cooking. As it would have it, Mikael’s sommelier had just left so he ended up looking after us with our wine that night.
We began our meal with a couple of canapés. First was a meringue topped with foie gras parfait and paris mushrooms – the meringue was airy, light and literally disintegrated on the palate whilst the foie gras had plenty of intense liver flavour balanced by the acidity from the spiced gel. The second bite was a cone of vitello tonatto which showed an impressive amount of skill with the creation of the cone. The starch based cone would simply melt on the tongue yet remained structurally sound to hold the filling inside. The last bite was the most memorable of the lot – monkfish ‘fish & chip’. A symmetrical rectangle of monkfish had been gently poached and stuffed inside a crust of potato along with a dipping sauce of mushy peas. The monkfish had been timed perfectly, which is a feat in itself, given how many times I have been served overcooked monkfish in high-end restaurants and the entire composition of the dish really reminded you of fish and chips at a chippy.
I was initially very disappointed when Mikael informed me that his signature dish of liquid parmesan ravioli had been removed from his menu. However in its place was an equally good dish of parmesan custard with an umami jelly made from dashi and kombu, thickened naturally with chia seeds. This was an East meets West dish showcasing different sources of umami. As the opening dish to a long tasting menu, it was perfect in preparing the palate for the rest of the menu.
Next we were served a poached oyster with sorrel. The oysters had been gently set by the poaching process and paired with a herbaceous sorrel granita. The cooking process had done two things – firmed up the oyster to give it a meatier texture, eschewing the slippery texture in its au naturel state, but at the same time locking it all its natural briny flavours.
The following course was a brilliant showcase of what Hedone is about. Scallops with a sea urchin sauce, featured raw, sashimi slices of scallops which had been prepared a la minute. These scallops were so fresh that when brought to the table and given a tap with the back of the fork, they were indeed still twitching. Alongside the scallops was a beautiful sauce made from sea urchin and coffee. Yup, you read that right. Coffee. I would not have, in a million years thought about that combination, yet strangely it worked. I think what helped tie everything together was the little blobs of mandarin gel which provided much-needed acidity to balance all the elements together.
Up next was some bread. Nowadays, I hardly bother talking about bread simply because the quality of bread served in restaurants in London is often depressing. Here however, Mikael and his team make simply the best bread you can get in England, rivalling many Parisian bakeries. The basement of the restaurant has now been converted to a bakery and they supply various other restaurants in London. Now, there were two choices of bread on offer – white and brown sourdough which were both excellent.
We continued on the fish theme with some juicy crab claws from Dorset served with apple, hazelnut and an intense crab broth. Yet again, the meaty crab claws were perfectly timed such that it flaked apart effortlessly but retaining its sweet, juicy characteristics. The star of the show however was the crab broth made from the shells which had a lovely depth of flavour. By adding some hazelnut cream to the dish, it helped add another layer of complexity to the dish.
This being spring, albeit the weather doesn’t feel remotely like it is, we were served the obligatory seasonal asparagus. Mikael informs us that these were from Wye Valley, but these extremely fat asparagus are reserved only for restaurants. The asparagus were served in different guises only highlighted by little bursts of pistachio cream. This is confident cooking at its best. A chef who is fully aware of the quality of produce in front of him and as such does the bare minimum to highlight its beauty.
Next we moved on to lobster which was served mi-cuit with a bisque sauce, sea vegetables and some of the lobster coral. This is a dish I had eaten on my previous visit here bar a few tweaks here and there and once again the dish was faultless. It is hard to dislike lobster when it is cooked so perfectly that it just melts in your mouth. Many 3 star restaurants would struggle to get the cooking of their lobster this perfect.
We were now into our meat course, yet despite the amount of food we were served, the pacing of the meal was excellent and we were by no means full. First was a beautiful roasted breast of pigeon, with its skin crisp and meat perfectly pink, served with some chard and baby sandy carrot (carotte des sables) with a glossy, rich pigeon jus. As much as I love pigeon, I often find it disappointing because the skin is often of the not crisp but flabby variety or the meat is slightly overcooked. Yet Mikael has achieved pigeon perfection with the fat rendered down properly from the skin and yet the meat is symmetrically pink throughout.
The final meat course was a stunner and one I will remember for quite some time – lamb with artichokes. As simple as this dish sounds, the lamb had a wonderful depth of flavour, with an excellent balance of meat to fat ratio. On the side, were artichokes, pan roasted and raw shavings dusted with seaweed to give an additional burst of umami. Seriously though, you will find it hard to find lamb of such quality anywhere else in England, and this dish really highlights once again that when you have produce this good, you do not need to do much else with the dish.
After a detour with a plate of cheese, we began our dessert sequence. First off was a plate of variation of Gariguette strawberries. I have tried a similar dish with raspberries and this time around the technique had been refined such that the strawberry sugar tuile had a glass like appearance to it. Once again, the natural flavour of the strawberries shown through.
The final dessert was a simple millefeuille with non-melting vanilla ice cream and aged balsamic drizzled at the table. I am a big fan of millefeuille and it is probably my favourite dessert on any menu. To say that I was blown away with Hedone’s version of a millefeuille was an understatement. Mikael informs me that it took him a lot of trial and error over a 6 month period to come up with a recipe for the puff pastry which he was happy with. His version here is unlike no other being ethereally light, it is as if you were eating plumes of cloud. This dessert is pure class that could have come out of any 3* restaurant in the world.
The cooking at Hedone has matured and grown since it first opened in 2011. The food here is produce driven and relies on the very best quality seasonal ingredients which receives minimalistic intervention. For some people, that kind of cooking may not seem exciting enough. To each their own I suppose. Take for example the lamb dish that I have been waxing lyrical about. A humble plate of food with well sourced, excellent tasting lamb with grilled and raw shave artichokes may not show a crazy amount of technical skill yet it does not require a great level of complication to deliver maximum flavour. I would happily take this tasty plate of food any day over the overworked drivel that is served up at Story. However, there is still plenty of skill on show when called for like with both desserts we tried on this visit. For the quality of produce and level of cooking on display, Hedone is a steal. It is a travesty that Michelin deem this restaurant only worthy of one star when the cooking here is clearly at the higher end of two star.