A former lawyer and food blogger has opened his first restaurant to rave reviews. Emily Manson finds out what's so special about Hedone
A one-time lawyer and former food blogger who has never run a restaurant, let alone a kitchen, is charging nearly £100 a head in a recession, for dinner at his new restaurant in the ‘wrong end' of Chiswick High Road in west London.
A genius or a madman? Judging by the way he's taken the London dining scene by storm and the rave reviews he's received from almost everyone - including Time Out‘s Guy Dimond, who called it "one of the most interesting and accomplished restaurants to have opened in London for a long time" - it could well turn out to be the former.
The furore around Swedish-born Mikael Jonsson's new opening, Hedone, named after the Greek word for pleasure, has been the key driver of all this attention. To say he is doing something different is an understatement.
Jonsson's ‘thing' is sourcing, which he takes to a whole new level. "I'm doing something unique for the UK," he explains. "It's not necessarily unique in France but I'm trying to work with truly artisan produce."
The aim is to get the ‘best ingredients in the world' for his restaurant, he explains: "I want scallops and abalone that are alive; fish packed in a certain way, not buried in ice, as it ruins the flesh; I want lobster that has never been in a tank and recently changed its shell; and meat that's aged to the right level. I'm not worried about how it looks but how it tastes."
Jonsson doesn't expect everyone to like everything he cooks. The amuse bouche, umami flan with seaweed coulis, sets the tone for the menu. Umami means "pleasant savoury taste" in Japanese, and it does have a distinct Japanese flavour.
The milky flan "is kind of like the essence of going to Japan," says Jonsson. It's flavoured with ingredients he has picked up during his travels to the country. Topped with a seaweed coulis, the creamy and salty flavours contrast yet complement each other; the texture is rather like that of a very soft quiche.
His favourite main course since opening is a pigeon dish with smoked potatoes, juniper berries and a sauce made with the bird's offal. "I want to make food I like to eat," he says. "It just tastes really good but you need a fantastic pigeon that's been fed right, then strangled and not gutted, unlike most game sold here, which comes oven-ready."
The raspberry with cinnamon ice-cream, horseradish and aromatic vinegar is an extraordinary dish, where individually the ingredients jar with each other, but when combined, become more than the sum of their parts, creating a unique taste, with every flavour coming through and melding with each other.
The dish evolved over time. Jonsson uses Sri Lankan cinnamon for the ice-cream, specifically for its fruity flavour, and began pairing it with raspberries. The next component was a blend of vinegars: "Three or four different ones," he explains, including Vino Cotto, La Guinelle Vinaigre de Muscat and La Guinelle Vinaigre de Banyuls.
Finally he added the horseradish cream. Jonsson developed a technique to extract the essence of the horseradish taste without the strong peppery flavour and began using it with game dishes. Then he tried it with raspberries. "They just seemed perfect together. I don't know exactly what it is," he admits, adding that "some things work for some people and they find the connection, while others just think it's weird."
But it's not all weird combinations. Jonsson says that on each menu - which changes daily - he tries not to have more than two flavour combinations that would seem odd to customers. "It's easy to do lots of courses with lots of flavour combinations, but that would just be too much."
Sample dishes from the menu
â- Gazpacho chilled dill flower cream
â- Steamed scallops, tender broccoli
â- Confit River Tawe wild salmon, cucumber, fresh almonds
â- Slow-cooked hen's egg, new season's Scottish girolles, peach
â- Barbary duck breast, lobster coral sauce
â- Dorset wild turbot, sea aster, cannellini beans, vaudovan spices
â- Salt Marsh lamb, aubergine, smoked purée, lamb juice
â- Almond blanc manger, apricots
â- Raspberries, cinnamon ice-cream, horseradish, aromatic vinegar
â- Hedone chocolate bar
4 courses £50 5 courses £60 6 courses £70
Hedone 301-303 Chiswick High Road, London W4 4HH
0208 747 0377