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Hedone

301 Chiswick High Road, London, England, W4 4HH, United Kingdom

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To make great food, start with great ingredients. This may seem self-evident, yet it is something which seems to elude many high-end London restaurants, and why I head off to the continent if I want to eat really top of the range food. Hedone is interesting in that its chef and owner, Michael Jonsson, is an ingredients expert rather than a chef by background. After training as a chef many years ago in Sweden he switched career and became a lawyer, but always with a passionate interest in food. The Gastroville blog that he writes is influential, and he has advised some Michelin starred restaurants in Europe on ingredient sourcing.

Now he has switched to the other side of the counter and is behind the stoves of his first restaurant, in modest premises at the unfashionable end of the Chiswick High Road that were previously a Lebanese nightclub. Michael spent over a year travelling the UK searching out artisan suppliers, from producers of flour to unpasteurised butter to shellfish, and supplements the best British ingredients he can find with produce from Europe where necessary. The menu, which has no a la carte option, changes completely on a weekly basis, and often is adjusted daily in the light of what ingredients are best that day, a similar approach to that taken by Astrance in Paris. A ten course tasting menu is currently available at £70, four courses at £50. A three course lunch is £35 on Thursday through Saturdays. For the ultimate experience the carte blanche tasting menu at £95 uses the very finest produce that the kitchen can obtain. Given the high quality of the ingredients here this is actually good value - this price would not buy you a starter in some top Paris restaurants, where similar and in a few cases identical ingredients are being used.

The dining room has exposed brick walls and an open kitchen, with a few seats at a bar looking into the kitchen in addition to the main dining area, and has carefully thought-out lighting illuminating the tables well. There is a downstairs with a private dining room, and this houses the wine cellar. The wine list had around 200 choices, with a lot of French wines but also selections from elsewhere, at fair mark-ups by London standards.   Example wines include Crawford River Riesling Young Vines 2009 at £39 for wine that will set you back £27 in the shops, the lovely Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2008 at £70 for a wine that retails at £34, up to Javillier Corton-Charlemagne 2007 at £179 for a wine that costs around £70 in the shops.   

I have now eaten 48 meals at Hedone, and have not recorded every dish of every meal, though there is now an extensive photo gallery. What distinguishes Hedone is the relentless focus on the highest quality ingredients. An example of this is the beef, supplied by Darragh O’Shea, probably the best butcher in London at the moment. The chef spends time at the butcher selecting just a few of the choicest cuts of beef with a high degree of marbling and has them individually aged to order. The beef that is served in the restaurant has been aged from between 55 and 80 days, and has the kind of texture that you encounter in Japan.

Another example is the bread, where the chef spent training time with perhaps the finest baker in France, Alex Croquet, in order to perfect his technique. Now produced in specialist bread ovens, the sourdough, white and other loaves produced have now reached the stage where they are as good as you will find anywhere. Mr Croquet himself acknowledged that the bread is of a similar standard to his own. This is bread that any three star Michelin restaurant would be pleased to serve. There are many further examples of the degree of effort made here: the puff pastry is made from scratch and not bought, and one particularly good sauce that I tried took the kitchen three days to make, incorporating four separate stages. I could go on, but suffice it to say that this is serious cooking using serious ingredients. The style is deceptively simple with few garnishes, the idea being to let the ingredients speak for themselves. 

Here are notes from a recent meal. 

It is now over two years since Hedone opened. The meal I had today reflected continuity in the sense that the chef’s obsession with top-class ingredients continues unabated, and also development in that the dishes have become more polished since the opening. This is partly because, since gaining its Michelin star, the restaurant has been able to attract more experienced staff.

Ingredient quality could be seen in the stunning sea bass at the meal today, whose flavour was quite remarkable, flawlessly cooked; as good a piece of sea bass as I have eaten. Another example was the peas served with the pigeon. The peas came from Italy and were of exceptional quality, carefully selected pod by pod to be the very sweetest, up there with the best that can be found in the lovely markets of the Mediterranean. No kitchen in London today pays quite such attention to ingredient quality as Hedone.

The technical skill can be seen in the ever-improving bread and the lovely chocolate dessert: chocolate ganache topped with a chocolate disk topped with raspberry powder, with passion fruit and also vanilla ice cream. The sweetness of the chocolate and vanilla had the acidity of the passion fruit and the raspberry as balance, the textures of each element exactly as they should be: a really accomplished dessert. The cooking continues to develop here, and over the dozens of meals that I have eaten here it has been fascinating to watch the progression, the dishes getting steadily better and better.

Here are notes from my first meal here.

The meal started with dazzling goujeres, made with a Swiss cheese called l’Etivaz in this instance.  Their texture was remarkably light and airy, and above all they had plenty of cheese flavour, which many goujeres lack, even in Michelin starred restaurants. These are some of the very best goujeres I have tasted (19/20). Umami flan and English peas consisted of a Spanish style flan i.e. custard, in this case flavoured with chicken stock and a Japanese secret ingredient, given additional flavour by excellent peas. This was a very appealing dish, with a real savoury sense to it, which was of course the idea (strong 17/20). This umami flan is also made at the restaurant in other styles, in one case with red pepper, in another case with seaweed topping.

Gazpacho with dill seed sorbet was stunning, the tomatoes used in the gazpacho tiny ones from Italy with intense flavour, the gazpacho carefully seasoned and the sorbet also working well, the dill a lovely pairing with the tomato; I have only once had a better gazpacho than this (19/20). The main course was the star – 45 day aged beef from the top butcher O’Sheas of Knightsbridge.  The beef had more marbling than is usual to see in British beef, and indeed was reminiscent of black wagyu beef in Japan; the additional fat meant the beef had tremendous depth of flavour (19/20).  I have only eaten better beef than this a handful of times. The beef was accompanied by excellent juniper-smoked potatoes and cabbage.

A dessert of apricots came with a light almond blancmange, the apricots having striking flavour, the blancmange having smooth texture and providing a balance to the acidity of the fruit (18/20).  A deceptively simple “chocolate bar” melted in the mouth, the airy, light chocolate topping (the chocolate itself from Venezuela) resting on a base of dacquoise made from layers of almond powder, crunchy biscuit and crepe (18/20).

The coffee, a blend supplied by The Monmouth Street Coffee Shop, was excellent.  A bill of £100 a head for eight courses, plus nibbles and good wine was a bargain given the quality of ingredients on display here.  This review is based around a dinner, but in fact I have had four meals at Hedone already in the opening two weeks, as I am aware that to score a brand new restaurant at this level will be controversial, and I wanted to be confident that the level of cooking was consistent. It is.

For example, a further lunch saw a particularly impressive pigeon dish; the pigeon was imported from Paris whole (most UK butchers provide pre-gutted pigeons to restaurants, but this can result in some drying out of the bird), and the meat, cooked rare, had tremendous depth of flavour. This was preceded by two scallop starters: sashimi of scallops was a very simple dish relying on the quality of the main ingredient. The scallops were alive when prepared, and were so fresh that the thin slices of the flesh were still moving when sliced in the kitchen (17/20). The same shellfish were now cooked in their shell with seaweed butter, the scallops still attached to their shell having been alive moments earlier. Again a very simple dish but showcasing lovely fresh, sweet scallops, in this case from Devon (18/20).

I have complained on my blog for some time about the lack of ambition of most London restaurant openings in recent years.  So many chefs seem content to open profitable bistros serving capable but unexciting food based on serviceable ingredients. This is understandable from a financial viewpoint, but is frustrating for a diner looking for world-class dishes, with few London openings aiming for the very highest standards of food possible. Hedone is an exception, bringing a level of quality of ingredients pretty much unknown even in multi-starred London establishments. For this reason alone it is to me the most exciting London restaurant opening for years.

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  • Ian Westcott

    Had great meal here in early May. Thanks for introducing this eatery to me Andy. Agree with Luxeat that it is the only London venue that is seriously pulling me back to London. Gordan Ramsay and Dinner were very enjoyable experiences but not in the same realm as far as cooking excitement and one can go twice for around the same financial pain.

  • Marius

    Hedone was incredible. Marius from Oslo

  • BC

    Wow! Finally got to eat at Hedone last Friday. Absolutely amazing. It reminded me of L'Arpege! I think that's about the best compliment I can pay!

  • Luxeat

    The only address in London I want to keep returning. Michael is immensely talented.

  • Intransigent

    I find Andy's reviews very difficult to square with a recent meal. Some good dishes including the chocolate ganache and fantastic cod but plenty of misses too and the experience falls miles short of what you'd expect from this level of seriousness and this price point. I wonder does the chef cook anymore - on our visit he acted as sommelier and was not even looking at dishes which went out from the pass, which may explain some of the poor execution. I also query the carte blanche menu as I noted the next door tables had an extra meat course and an extra dessert and scallops which when the tables are lined up three in a row feels a bit strange. Overall I would say this is miles behind the Square as London's best food and the variety in the menu - undoubtedly a strength overall - means a hugely variable experience. Still recommended for hardcore foodies, but avoid for any celebration or if looking for an enjoyable evening out.

  • Simon S

    Excellent 7 Course tasting menu at Hedone on the 28th. Oyster was the best I have had, onion and pear demonstrated skill with simple ingredients. Only disappointment was the lamb which was flabby with the (thick) layer of fat undercooked and not reduced at all. Probably the most interesting meal I have had in recent years

  • Gordon Riby

    Agree with your views about this place. Wonderful food. The only downside (and I am being picky) is the absence of a proper cheese board - But that is true of many restaurants in the UK these days...

  • David W

    I've had a really good lunch here, so I would agree with the general sentiment. however, and this is from the man himself, Mr Jonsson has never been an ingredients expert who has advised other restaurants. He claims that this is something made up by the British media which is completely false! I'm sure he will tell you the same if you ask.

  • Alastair Bathgate

    Best restaurant I've ever eaten in - thanks for taking me. I've written up some notes on my site.

  • Name unavailable

    I had a pleasant meal on my own last week at Hedone. I agree the ingredient quality is high and is the strong sellIng point. In general however I felt there were some high points - exceptional oyster appetiser, fantastic turbot. I felt there were some inconsistencies. The Pigeon main dish was teetering on raw with a peculiar saucing of pistachio and parsley. Rose floating island had an artificial feel and taste. Bread was good, service was friendly. Tables are too small and too close together and overall the room lacks the comfort the price requires. I know it is one of your favourites but I still have to be convinced.

  • Name unavailable

    I concur! We had a wonderful dinner there last friday, and the thought behind each dish, its ingredients and preparation shows a dedication to quality and detail that is enviable. We also had the squab pigeon prepared two ways, ever so deep in flavour, rare, and tender. Normally I'm not an extreme fan of morels, but here I'm coming back for more. To quote a former governor of California: "I'll be back!"

  • Name unavailable

    A great experience. By far the best in Chiswick and by far the best meal I have had this year. It was our 26th wedding lunch [great train robbers got less!].we had the tasting menu with wines which expanded to 8 courses with cheese. Not cheap and certainly not to be rushed. We started at 12.30 and did not leave till 5pm but a great day. There was no work done afterwards!! We met Andy too and hopes he tries [and reviews] the Albertine in Wood Lane W12 which was new to him. Can fully understand why he rates Hedone so much- think his reviews are great. It is all very well deserved praise for Hedone. Keep it up. Looking forward to another visit.

  • Name unavailable

    I found the foams here outstanding. Much innovation made the meal memorable. Definitely worth a trip on the tube to Chiswick. My only reservation is that I did not find the quality of the fish (turbot and Dover sole) to be top notch. Perhaps a different fish supplier is in order.

  • Rohan

    I enjoyed visiting this place and had a lovely night out. But I didn't share the view that this was head and shoulders above many other decent restaurants in London. The beef came in two pieces - one was slightly more done and was rather flavourless and tough (so much so with the non-serrated knife really wasn't up to the job). The other piece was much better, slightly more tender with much flavour but still nothing to compare with a bone in sirloin steak at hawksmoor a couple of weeks before had more taste. This came with a small pile of what I thought was horseradish mash but there was again little flavour and some perfectly acceptable endive. A simple main course deer dish did live up to the billing with incredible flavour in the meat (no sauce and some buttered carrots with meat). Other dishes varied from lovely (egg, apricot and mushrooms, mushroom balls) to average (the onion was saved by a lovely butter sauce and lobster was unremarkable). It would be helpful to know if they've added a table as the space felt very tight against the back wall with tables needing to be moved to let diners squeeze in? Additionally service was really good until the place got packed out when the sommelier and wine service got overwhelmed. Glad they've got ambition but against very high expectations this is a work in progress as alluded to by the chef.

  • Alan Armstrong

    My research has not been as thorough as yours Andy, but I have been twice in the last week just to make sure! The second time was even better than the first! The beef last night was just amazing; on the first visit I really enjoyed the apricot dessert in particular. Great wine pairings and charming, friendly and enthusiastic service from the young French staff. Deserves to do well. We're so lucky with this and La T in Chiswick!

  • Matthew Grant

    I can only echo Andy's review, the quality of ingredients here is fantastic and they really shine through. When other restaurnts claim they serve the best seasonal produce they will easily be proved wrong by eating here, if only other places would take as much care to source their ingredients and then serve them in such a precise and sympathetic way. the most ambitious restaurant to open in London for years.

  • Peter Jobson

    i haven't been to this restaurant so can make no specific comment. however your frustration that "so many chefs seem content to open profitable bistros serving capable but unexciting food based on serviceable ingredients" is enraging. the restaurant industry does not exist to tickle the fancy of jaundiced food critics; it is a business, we need to make money to pay our mortgage, feed our families and other such mundanities. obviously you don't see yourself as a critic of business plans but it is overly one-eyed to make pronouncements on a restaurant offering while failing to consider whether the price you are paying is in fact being subsidised by (never to be recovered) lending from a bank or the deep pockets of a benefactor who made his/her money in another industry. you are not alone of course; was the salivating praise of El bulli ever ever tempered by the acknowledgement that this was a loss-making business for the whole of the last decade? the restaurant industry may be a whole lot more pleasing to you if this ability to duck the requirement to turn a profit was universal. i wish hedone well.

  • Kieron

    I can only agree with Andy’s comments. This place really is amazing. I have eaten the Umami flan, Gazpacho with dill seed sorbet and the pigeon dishes plus a few others but it was those three that really shone for me, and the reason I am going back Friday. It will not be long till its full every day. Oh and for the price amazing!

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