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Hedone in London - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 92.
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Let me start with a little introduction of Hedone - after all it's been more than four years since my last visit. Hedone is the restaurant of chef-patron Mikael Jonsson (b. 1966), who had previously had a successful career as a corporate lawyer in Sweden. In the years before opening his own restaurant he was well-known and respected for his foodblog Gastroville (2005-2011, now defunct). Jonsson did receive some basic chef training but essentially he is a self-taught chef. Hedone opened in 2011 and its super ingredient-driven cuisine quickly found a loyal following. I first visited Hedone in September 2012, when the restaurant had only been open for little more than a year, but already I was very impressed by Mikael Jonsson's cooking (2012 review). There have been a number of developments at Hedone since 2012. A month after my visit the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in the 2013 guide for Great Britain & Ireland. The next year the restaurant entered the World's 50 Best Restaurants Top 100 at number 70, and it's currently (2016 edition) at number 60. Furthermore, Hedone halved the number of covers to 22 in 2015.

So why did it take me so long to return? Well, Mikael Jonsson is very dedicated chef, who's very passionate about his restaurant and he's well-known for his frantic search for finding and serving the best possible produce. He's uncompromising in many ways. For example, in an interview in the December 2014 issue of Restaurant Magazine he was quoted saying "when we first opened we had two women that were offended by the amount of marbling on our beef. There was really nothing else to do then ask them to leave". Some people might applaud him for this, but as I guest I would find this quite intimidating and uninviting. He seems to set very high standards for his guests. This goes beyond take it or leave it, this is take it ..... or leave.

Hedone is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday and for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays, and you can choose between a multi-course tasting menu for £95 or the so-called "Carte Blanche" menu for £125 (2017: £135). I had the Carte Blanche menu. 


First to arrive was a yellow pepper-flavoured crisp with foie gras, pickled red pepper and disc of ham-flavoured jelly. A delicious bite with intense and pure pepper flavours. It was followed by a beetroot cornet with a delicate smoked salmon filling and some nice and airy whipped goat's cheese on top.


Next up was "fish and chips", a piece of moist and tender monkfish, seasoned with a few drops of Chardonnay vinegar and wrapped in crisp blanket of potato. An elegant tartare sauce for dipping was served on the side. A creative and refined take on this familiar combination.


Shortly after, we were served a gently poached oyster, excellently paired with some cucumber sorbet, nasturtium jelly, and a green apple foam. Fantastic oyster, with a slightly firmed up texture, and its natural juiciness and brininess offset nicely by the accompaniments, with the apple foam delivering a lovely creamy finish.


The first course of today's menu was a little glass bowl with a Parmesan custard, a so-called "umami jelly", a gorgeously intense jelly flavoured with Katsuobushi (also known as bonito flakes), shiro (white miso), kombu, and delicately crunchy chia seeds. A terrific dish, the custard having a beautifully balanced intensity and the well-judged use of umami-rich ingredients provided a pleasing and sophisticated umami harmony. 


The umami theme continued in the next course of confit (cherry) tomatoes and semi-dried tomatoes, accompanied by Amontillado sherry ice cream and a creamy almond sauce. Tomatoes, almonds and sherry (vinegar) are three ingredients that have proven to have great affinity with each other, the Spanish Romesco sauce being a glorious example. In this case the combination wasn't really convincing. The almond sauce was fabulous on its own, with a beautiful, milky sweetness and lovely, grassy top notes. It went well with the sweet and umami-rich semi-dried tomatoes, but once combined with the soft confit tomatoes, the flavours canceled each other out.


Devon crab and hazelnut followed. Truly magnificent and impeccably fresh crab, including two fat and succulent pieces of claw meat, pregnant with their natural sweet juices, and served with two generous dollops of hazelnut mayonnaise, crab consommé, diced Granny Smith apple, and a subtle seasoning of dill and horseradish. An excellent dish displaying great purity of crab, the hazelnut mayonnaise matching the nutty sweetness of the crab nicely. However, in the end I found that the mayo was lacking some tanginess and that there was a little too much of it.


Then there was a splendid Scottish scallop, brushed with soy butter and sprinkled with nori dust. Scallops are always prized for their sweetness, but they have another great asset: natural glutamate also known as natural umami (140 mg/100g), here delicately enhanced by the two other umami sources, the soy butter and nori.


The meal continued with a stunning piece of sea bass (from the south coast of England, near Southhampton) served with a green olive sauce, fennel and mustard leaves. Expertly cooked sea bass, with a sublime, moist and buttery texture, complemented perfectly by the olive sauce, that had lovely creamy mouthfeel and a delicious and distinct green olive finish. An outstanding dish with rich and profound flavours, balanced out nicely by the fennel.

 

Sixth course was milk-fed veal sweetbreads, beautifully cooked and with a delicate tender texture, and served with a mildly sharp carrot and Banyuls vinaigrette. Also on the plate was a baby carrot, carrot flowers, apricot puree, a few girolle mushrooms and nasturtium leaves. A perfectly conceived and executed dish with a great choice of ingredients. Lovely variety of fruity, sweet flavours coming from the carrot, apricot and girolles, which combined delightfully with the sweetbreads, and the vinaigrette provided just the right amount acidity to counterbalance the richness of the sweetbreads.


The meat course today was grouse, again beautifully cooked with a consistent colour all the way through, and excellently paired with a light but intense game bird jus, some parsley-pistachio pesto, and juniper-smoked potatoes garnished with some dried black olive crumble. Incredibly flavoursome grouse with glorious red meat, rich yet delicate at the same time, and the flavour marriage of grouse and pesto worked wonderfully well.


Time for dessert. First up was a simple but satisfying dessert of fresh figs served with a nice and sharp elderflower jelly, thyme yoghurt ice cream, and crème fraîche. A happy partnership with well-judged thyme flavours. Even better was the second dessert served in a glass bowl with a layer of sharp yuzu jelly at the bottom, followed by layer of light and airy chocolate (Venezuelan) mousse, a crisp chocolate biscuit and finally some fresh and smooth milk ice cream.




They say perception is reality, but when I returned to Hedone in September 2016, the reality was very different from my perception. I had thought of Hedone as an uninviting restaurant but this lunch was a warm and welcoming experience and Mikael Jonsson was a very friendly host. After we were seated at our table, Jonsson very kindly asked about our preferences and allergies, and whenever my guests or I had questions about the food or wine, he responded very enthusiastically.

Hedone is an ambitious restaurant, with ambitious prices. At a price of £250 for two (£270 in 2017) for the Carte Blanche menu, Hedone puts itself right up there with some of London's most expensive, high-end restaurants, like The Ledbury (£280 for two), Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road £290 for two), Marcus at the Berkeley (£240 for two), to name but a few. Mikael Jonsson is as fanatical as ever about sourcing top produce, carefully selecting his producers, and only top-drawer ingredients make it to the plate. Ordering France's finest ingredients would be the easy way, but Jonsson's quest for local, supremely fresh ingredients, shows true commitment. Today's menu displayed some intelligent and imaginative cooking, with the seabass as the winner of the day, with the sweetbreads as a close second, but at the same time some of the food failed to impress. That said, overall this was an excellent meal, and compared to four years ago, in his best dishes, Mikael Jonsson's cooking has reached a higher level of refinement.






Posted 02-02-2017




 
 
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