A self-taught Swedish chef working at the outer limits of haute cuisine
Claim to fame: International destination dining; customers travel far to eat here
Reason to go: The kitchen’s mastery of seafood and sublime, subtle flavor pairings
To look out for: The west London location makes it a handy stopover en route to or from Heathrow – if you have can spare three hours for dinner
When former food blogger Mikael Jonsson opened his ambitious restaurant in a low-rent suburb of west London in 2011, many admired his determination and focus, but few predicted the success of the Swede’s venture. Hedone, however, became such a hit that it halved its table capacity and reduced the number of sittings to concentrate on further raising standards. Jonsson’s not alone in this endeavor: judging by the intricate, tiny dishes streaming from the kitchen, he and his business partner/manager Aurelie Jean-Marie-Flore must have an army of elves working for them.
There’s no printed menu; dishes just arrive. Maybe a dozen of them, all part of the ‘seven course’ £85 dinner menu. So pay close attention when they’re described or you’ll miss the details.
The appetizers might include a miniscule cornet with a dice of seared tuna, topped with a lemon mayo; or a tiny yellow pepper crisp topped with foie gras and a San Daniele jelly. These quickly establish the kitchen’s creativity and technical expertise.
Parmesan custard is an innovative take on the Japanese dish chawanmushi, it’s topped with chia seeds in what they describe as ‘umami jelly’. Sound challenging? Not at all, the chia seeds are brilliantly masked by their savory jelly while the silky custard below provides comforting backup. The ingenuity is again displayed in a small seafood dish of crab claw meat in a crab consommé with a dainty dollop of hazelnut cream. The crab has an irresistible salt-and-saline flavor, given fuller dimensions by the addition of diced green apple and dill oil. Seafood and fish is one of Jonsson’s fortes; rather than serve turbot fresh, he ages it for a few days at low temperature to soften the texture and allow stronger, more complex flavors to develop. The result is perfectly tender fish that tastes better than fresh, it’s masterfully seared on one side, served with a slick of green olive paste and a refreshing little fennel salad.
Duck foie gras is treated equally well; steamed then grilled, presented on a paste of miso, black garlic and cashew. The flavor contrast owes much to Asia, but the chic presentation is European, with a frisée garnish and a mini-scoop of date and lemon paste to contrast sweetness to the sour.
The desserts adopt a mostly European canon. There could be a perfect canelé; citrus flavors piped onto a thin pastry base; yuzu jelly over a chocolate mousse; a violet and blueberry fruit pastille.
The wine list is supervised by Jean-Marie-Flore since Hedone dispensed with its sommelier. The choices lean towards European and conservative – or reliable, depending on your perspective.