Hedone, London

301 Chiswick High Road, London

2011’s foodie pilgrimage. This was London’s most important restaurant opening and has been covered ad-nausem already. Important because it’s about an ingredient obsessive following his passion to its logical conclusion and showing the restaurant trade how it should be done. The only down-side is that it looks easy and will inevitably lead to a lot of heartbreak as other food obsessives follow suit. I believe it was Anthony Bourdain who said that if you love food, the last thing you should do is open a restaurant because your heart can too easily rule your head. Hedone is probably an exception and it should be an inspiration to many.

It was the first place I booked on my visit to London. Chiswick is a pain to get to, but it had to be done. It also gave me the chance to catch up with a good friend who appreciates the finer things in life. I was glad the opportunity to spend some quality time with him again.

I was only going to have the one chance to dine here and so we chose the tasting menu. It was never going to satisfy my curiosity. It’s the sort of restaurant where it pays to be a regular and have what’s been sourced that day. As well as the nagging sense of not being able to try it all, the tasting menu followed a trajectory that threatened to derail the meal.

We start with ‘jammie dodgers’ – cheese sable & red pepper

Bread is simple, solid & excellent. No funny business.

The amuse: Seaweed Umami Flan – Sweat and earthy. Very good.

The first course: poached oyster in watercress jelly

It was excellent, evoking the south coast. Yet the presentation made the dish hugely underwhelming, making the tiny serving look miserly on such a huge plate. It was actually embarrassing since I’d talked my friend into dining here (i.e. You’ve cycled from Highbury so that you can have 90s nouveau cuisine portions). Great concept, but another oyster can’t hurt and please change the plating.

This continued with the next dish.

A substitution: crab with cauliflower and lemon grass cream

Terrific ingredients, but miniscule on such on huge plate. The combinations essentially worked with the cauliflower balancing the dish. There’s no doubting the quality.

My friend stuck with the Cévennes Onion with Pear Shavings. This is the kind of dish that drives normal people nuts. “You charge me how much for half an onion? Has the world gone crazy etc.” It was worth it: sweet, buttery and refreshing. It speaks volumes how distanced we’ve become from tasting great quality ingredients that dishes like these can be served & appreciated. It’s something that will certainly continue as food production becomes more mechanized. A tomato worth it’s weight in gold, who knows….

For me the meal really got going with turbot, cockles & cavalo nero.

A dish to showcase the king of fishes designed to capture the essence of the sea, with the liquor providing a touch of saltiness. It sounds wanky, but it’s what it evokes. The turbot had an iridescent shine and was amazingly fresh, treated with the lightest of hands.

Then it all got a bit serious:

Silka Deer Royale with foie gras, ceps & cep ravioli.

It was a badass dish, very rich. Hardcore French cookery at its best. The sauce was amazingly dense – a combination of bones, blood and maybe a hint of vinegar. Bizarrely it tasted almost chocolately. (speaks volumes of my frame of reference). Even though the venison, foie gras, and mushrooms were terrifically indulgent, it’s the saucing that will be remembered for its incredible depth. Loved it. Truly memorable.

Another knock-out main – pigeon, salsa verde, smoked potatoes & offal sauce:

Well aged with a pleasing funk. Pigeon was beautiful. Again the saucing was incredible, elevating the dish to a level of quality and interest not often found in normal London dining. A shout out to the smoked potatoes. Glorious.

The previous dishes had turned the meal around, soothed the initial sense of disappointment and we looked forward to desserts.

First dessert – pineapple carpaccio

More of a palate cleanser. It did nothing to excite. We had expected more, but it was certainly a fine rendition of one…Moving swiftly on.

Final dessert – Chocolate Bar

As mentioned all the rage in restaurants at the moment – chocolate upon chocolate. It was excellent and brought the meal to a pleasurable end.

My main disappointment with this meal is based around the frustration that I live in Sydney. With many restaurants the tasting menu gives you all need to know about it – it’s philosophy, it’s renowned techniques and signature dishes. It doesn’t really change. Hedone is seemingly different. It is one of a few restaurants that will reward frequency of visits to aid (re)discovery of the best ingredients and classical food that is for many only found in the darkest and most expensive reaches of France.

It’s not a place for tasting menus – it’s for proper sized portions of the best sourced food. My meal was not perfect, but it’s easy to see how with more visits it could be.

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