I’ve been meaning to go to Hedone for a long time, in fact, I have reserved a table there no less than 3 times and had to cancel every time. This was fourth time lucky.
One of the reasons I kept having to cancel was that Hedone is based in Chiswick, which, while rather nice for the people of Chiswick is a long way from E2. This was destination dining, so, when I had a Friday off work, I thought I would take the chance to get over there.
As we were travelling all this way, there was little discussion before opting for the tasting menu, and what better time for a treatsy lunch than a Friday afternoon? In fact the taster is a rather reasonable £55, a lot cheaper than most, although the wine list is pretty punchy, nothing under £40, so you are looking at about a ton all in all.
Hedone is a restaurant that is a temple to food geekdom; set up by the original food blogger, Mikael Jonsson, who was blogging way before twitter, in fact he used to post on message boards back in the day and was pretty well known. I have to say I take my hat off to anyone who has the gumption to go from a food lover to actually running a kitchen, and now one with a Michelin star no less. From what I had read the thing that Mikael prizes more than anything is sourcing, if it’s not up to his incredibly high standards then it’s not going on the menu, and you can tell from everything that comes out of the kitchen.
Things started off with a few amuse bouches; one a rather delightful visual pun on a jammy dodger that turned out to be crab and apricot biscuit, which was lovely, and then a slightly less successful foam concoction that I can’t remember as well.
First course proper was a delicately poached oyster with apple foam, that was as good as any oyster I’ve had anywhere. I’m not sure whether I could tell you how poaching changes the oyster but it was delicious nonetheless. As my better half doesn’t eat oysters she was served up the (in)famous onion and pear shavings, which some have said is sourcing taken a little too far, I mean onion and pear, really? I thought it was pretty tasty myself and loved the simplicity.
Next was a duck egg omelette, again, this doesn’t sound like much and I was interested to see what they would do for it. To be honest I was less sold on this than the onions. While I’m sure it was the finest duck egg, and the most delicious girolles, I just found the whole dish a bit bland and boring. Not bad exactly, just devoid of anything memorable or exciting.
The next dish was cod, which tasted like it had been given the sous vide treatment, soft and smooth. It was served with (more) foam and beef stock. The cod was an incredible texture but again the whole dish was lacking a bit of oooomph. It only came to life when mixed with the delicious beef stock, and I couldn’t help but feeling it was lacking emotion.
Things really started to pick up with the next course; cuttlefish done a couple of ways, even to point of making the fish looked like pasta. It looked amazing and tasted even better, rich, dark and cooked beautifully. I’m not the biggest fan of cuttlefish but this was great.
With the next dish we really felt that Hedone was hitting it’s stride. You hardly ever see hare on a menu, it’s a notoriously hard beast to cook and an even harder one to source, but when it’s done right, man oh man is it good. Rich, luxurious, I wanted this to last forever but I think I would have exploded eventually.
And finally the main event: I went for the grouse, probably one of my favourite things to eat this time of year. This was cooked to perfection and looked amazing, a generous helping of breast and leg with figs and berries, I thought it was fantastic. However, it has to be said that the one I had at Upstairs earlier this year slightly shades it. The others round the table went for the Silka deer and were very happy indeed.
The two desserts were of a similarly high standard: Lemon sorbet with meringue were typically “lemony” , but the star of the show was the passion fruit sorbet and chocolate fondant. Sweet Jesus this was good; tangy fruit and deep, dark chocolate is a mixture I’ve had before, but this was as good as it gets.
So, after a slow start, Hedone showed why so many people have been raving about it, a few of these dishes were really special and stupidly decadent but I couldn’t help feeling that the whole thing was lacking a little bit of character and emotion. Don’t get me wrong the food here is pretty amazing in parts but in these recessionary times I’m getting used to food that is a bit more rough and ready and has a bit more character. I’m glad I made the trip out there though, and if you’re in the mood for something a bit special then I would happily recommend it. I do wonder how it would be doing if it set up in Fitrovia rather than Chiswick, I can imagine that we might have had another Dabbous on our hands.