Ingredients rule the roost and set the agenda in Mikael Jonsson’s Chiswick restaurant, Hedone.
Being way out west, you may think Hedone would only register on locals’ radar, but it seems people are prepared to cross the city for a glimpse of Jonsson’s cooking. You’ll get more than a glimpse though, thanks to the open kitchen in the corner, bordered by a bar for an even more intimate insight. The rest of the room carefully balances casual and high-end, with sparkling glasses and spotless linen tempered by rustic brick walls and simple wooden tables and chairs. A mural of a mythical beast - a kind of cockatrice - dominates one wall and, looking up, the ceiling hasn't escaped the artist’s brush, covered as it is with a pale pattern of symbols and markings.
Attracting foodies from far and wide, Hedone’s clientele are a well-informed, well-healed bunch. The staff also know their stuff, effortlessly but enthusiastically answering questions and managing the service with efficient professional ease. The open room is light and airy and filled with a pleasant level of bustle and chatter.
Ingredients dictate the structure of the menu; it is a showcase for the best produce available on any given day. This may mean there will be less choice than you are used to but rest assured that anything on it will have been sourced with fanatical attention to quality and seasonality.
This fixed, market menu is used in many restaurants across Europe and allows chefs to respond to the freshest and best produce around. How much you eat depends on how many courses you choose and how deep your pockets are. From £50 for four courses to £75 for seven, the food isn’t exactly cheap but you are paying for exceptional quality ingredients that are handled with the utmost care.
For dinner, an amuse-bouche of umami flan and seaweed coulis (a set custard in a cup with an iron rich seaweed) is the epitome of savoury, and a homage to the sibling of sweet, sour, salty and bitter: the elusive fifth flavour. This, as is probably the point, leaves you wanting more…
Steamed scallops with tender broccoli is, on the face of it, as simple as it sounds. But simplicity is actually very hard to achieve and the scallops (which are left slightly translucent) are sublime, their inherent sweetness allowed to shine through with delicate, sensitive cooking. A slow cooked hen’s egg is beautifully soft and its bright yolk floods the surrounding Scottish girolles and peach, adding richness to the earthy and sweet.
A Barbary duck breast comes with a lobster coral sauce, the duck cooked with real precision, perfectly pink and tender. Presentation is bold in its simplicity - often with only two or three things on the plate - and although this can at times look a little stark, the emphasis here is on taste, not looks.
To finish, a chocolate bar, but not the kind you buy in a wrapper on your lunch break. The sheet of Venezuelan chocolate on top is not too sweet, snapping satisfyingly when broken and providing good contrast to the crunchy biscuit underneath – a fittingly, sophisticated end to a great meal.
The wine list is predominantly French but does include some new world bottles. Smaller producers are well represented and the sommelier, who is very helpful at explaining their particular merits, will be able to point out some hidden gems. Prices start upwards of £20 and continue into the hundreds but there are some very good options by the glass, which is very useful if want to match the wine with the food.
The Last Word
Mikael Jonsson is a man obsessed with quality and if you want to benefit from his knowledge and understanding of top-notch ingredients, then this is the place to go.