Hedone, London 2013
Is it possible to earn a Michelin star, only a year after first setting foot in a professional kitchen? Mikael Jönsson of Hedone in London proved that it is! He opened Hedone in 2011, and was awarded a star in 2013. But the most interesting bit is that Mikael has no formal chef education. He previously worked as a lawyer, but had a very big interest in food (and ran a foodblog of his restaurant visits...). Inspirational to say the least. His restaurant has garnered positive reviews from notoriously hard to please reviewers, and Hedone has since become a "destination restaurant". We knew we had to plan a visit here and while in London for a weekend we had the pleasure of doing so.
Hedone is located in Chiswick, which is a 30 minute tube ride from central London. Though, even after following directions and gps positions, we had a hard time actually finding the restaurant. The map displayed at Hedones website is very vague, and maps-positions didn't point us correctly. We asked people in the neighbourhood, but no-one had heard or seen the restaurant (we even asked a police-officer working on the same street). After walking up and down the street several times, and being a bit stressed by the fact that we weren't going to make the booking-slot, we finally found it. This restaurant sure doesn't display itself (after Talking to Mikael, he intended the restaurant to not be noticeable, as it is a restaurant you should know about before visiting).
Feeling a bit "stressed" we were greeted by the hostess which ensured us that there were no problems regarding our late arrival (apparently we weren't the first ones that had a hard time finding :) The restaurant has a lovely "vibe" and it wasn't hard to imagine this restaurant being a frequent visit for many people. It's a small space, but they've managed to make the most out of it. There's an open kitchen located to one corner of the restaurant (and a bar at the front of it). The brick walls creates a sort of "coziness" to the place (together with very "yellow lighting").
Mikael is very ingredient focused, and notoriously works on finding the absolute best producers of each ingredient. This also makes the menu ever-changing with what's best right now. We started off with poached cornish rock oysters. Beautifully presented and with the perfect note of Granny Smith apples. These oysters really tasted delicious, and it was clear from the start that fantastic produce was being utilised here, we were already very excited for the following courses.
The service at Hedone is very friendly and down to earth. The sommelier truly takes his time to explain why the wine was chosen for the dish, and most importantly, why did it taste the way it did together? We truly enjoyed the small tales for each wine and thought it was the best sommelier handling we had experienced so far.
The next course of Cévennes onions showcased excellent craftsmanship. The dish was really delicate. There were many nuances of interesting flavours— but nothing that would hit you over the head. Instead it told you in a very subtle way from the chef that "I know what I'm doing".
We saw Mikael running up and down the stairs to the basement during the dinner. This is where they have a special room for larger groups of diners. Tonight a group had flown in from Asia to eat specifically at Hedone. It was evident that Mikael had a lot on his plate tonight— but we could feel how proud he was that Hedone had become a true "destination restaurant", and we could clearly see why.
The liquid parmesan ravioli-dish that followed was sensational. If the previous dish showcased true craftsmanship, this dish banged out on flavour. Parmesan overload— in the best possible way. Together with the perfect pasta, onion consommé, pancetta and horseradish it was a perfectly balanced dish that made both of us smile when we ate it (and we wanted to lick the plates clean).
Mikael likes cooking gamey animals. And the gamey "leg and foot with claws" is almost synonymous with Hedone these days. We had both Challans duckling and Scottish grouse. The condiments were bold in flavours (blackcurrant, foie gras, chestnut, figs) and were a clear step away from the previous "build up courses". Sadly, the duckling was very raw (blood even dripped out on the plate as it was being cut). Luckily we don't mind rare meat, but we were pretty sure this wasn't as intended.
A nice touch was when the pastry chef herself presents the deserts-- taking proud ownership of the courses. The last of the deserts were however very rich, with a lot of chocolate and we had a hard time finishing it all (even though it was delicious and very comforting).
This meal truly showcased excellent produce, prepared by a very skilful hand, and in a setting that clearly speaks "come and eat here often— not just once!". Mikael generously talked to us for a while after our meal (even if he had a full time running up and down the stairs while cooking for the rest of the dining room). It's clear that this is his passion, and it wasn't hard to see how proud he was of what he had accomplished with Hedone.
Hedone strikes on several good notes. It has hit a perfect balance of what's needed to make a standout restaurant-- without overcomplicating things. The combination of skilful and passionate cooking in a casual setting is truly a recipe for success.