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Matthew Grant

Hedone

102 posts in this topic

After much anticipation generated mostly by this thread, I finally got to eat at Hedone last week. I went with the missus and another couple and had the 5 course lunch. We all found the the setup there really wonderful, it's a great space and the front of house are very warm and welcoming. Sadly for us we felt the food let the side down in it's inconsistency.

It started off well with the Berkswell Sablée, the smell of that hot cheese cooking is guaranteed to get the juices going. The taste of it was just as good, the sharp and rich Berkswell accented by the sharp blackcurrant. We were then served a little extra course of lightly smoked salmon with a beetroot foam. The roughly hewn chunk of salmon was for me a little insipid and the beetroot although vibrant in colour was again strangely insipid. It was just as well it was an extra because it was underwhelming. But then the first proper course of Grelots Onions picked it up a little. They were sweet and juicy, lightly treated it was a bold statement of simplicity.

Next, the hen egg with girolles was probably my favourite dish of the day. The mushrooms were amazingly fresh like they'd been plucked from the woods minutes beforehand and carried in a hot pan of butter straight to our table. There was a vinegar component to the dish that also starred, is this Banyuls vinegar? We asked the lovely French waitress but she was surprisingly coy about it.

The fish dish is where it fell down for me, the Mackerel with Japanese flavours. A nice bit of fish but of the four orders on our table mine was the most underdone. As you can see the centre was raw, a pretty basic cooking error that I mentioned to the server as he was taking it away. The frisee lettuce also was a little on the tough side, not all that crisp and like my dining companion said at the time "meh, it's frisee lettuce!". I'm puzzled by the Japanese flavours of the dish, this was presumably the dressing on the leaves. It just reminded me of the cheap table dressing you get in Tonkatsu chains in Japan for your shredded cabbage.

I'd like to digress and mention the bread, the hefty crusted sourdough was a delight. I'm distrustful of airy light sourdoughs that rise a lot, but this one definitely wasn't one of those. This one had risen maybe an inch and a half and was dense with bread flavour. The crust is substantial, at first I was reticent and feared for my gums. But it gave way wonderfully, the chewy crumb was perfect.

Our table of four choose two of each of the next course, Sea Bass with Fennel and Sika Deer with Smoked Potato & Apple, so I got to try them both. As I'd actually ordered the bass, I tried this dish first and my setting was a fish knife and fork. It's a another very simple dish, a portion of fish and some fennel, two elements that's all. The bass is as good as I've ever tasted, and just makes me want to live by the sea but the fennel was awful. I could not go through it with my fish knife, was I supposed to pick it up with my fingers? My wife had to cut it up for me into bitesize pieces with her meat knife much to everyone's amusement. But then when I actually got to chew on a piece it was as anticipated tough and completely devoid of any sweet fennel flavour. So for all the excellent work of the fish this two element dish was completely let down by the veg. The Sika deer was a hit all round our table, none of us had eaten venison that good. At once both rich and lean, bursting with meaty almost beefy flavour. The little smoked potatoes were a good accompaniment, the sauce light and unobtrusive.

To finish, my wife ordered the Peach Millefeuille and I the Hedone chocolate bar. Both were on the not so polished looking end of French style desserts but were delicious nonetheless. My chocolate bar had a subtle orange flavour and nice chewy consistency, I think helped by a layer of dacquoise on the bottom.

So all in all, there were some outstanding highs - the bass, girolles, sika deer and the bread, the BREAD! But some proper ropey lows too - Mackerel and Frisee was a disaster for me. I love fennel but the fennel that was served to me was bad. I can just imagine a lovely soft bulb of fennel, juicy and heavy with it's aniseedy liquor pairing up perfectly with that heavenly bass. Bitterly denied! Based purely on the food I'd come back but not in the hurry that everyone else seems to be in. Maybe in a year or two.

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Another fantastic meal on Saturday, Cevennes Onion, turbot with cockles and Cavelo Nero, raw duck foie gras with raw cepes (a fantastic example of prime ingredients needing very little doing to them) Incredible salt marsh lamb, and if its possible even better quality pigeon than the last time.

So far finding consistently good produce doesn't seem to be a problem, I'm looking forward to the changing seasons. Truly fantastic, just the sort of dining my tastes are leaning towards these days.

How this place finished second to Pollen Street Social in the Timeout food awards is beyond me, an illustration of what a PR company can do for you? :hmmm:


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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I have to say I'm not entirely on board with the Hedone bandwagon. Although I enjoyed my meal - the sourcing was undeniably brilliant - I was left a little befuddled by the lack of technique, was the simplicity deliberate or a necessity due to the size of the kitchen and the small complement of chefs? If I had to guess I'd say it's probably a little bit of both.

Call me old-skool, but I take great produce as a given in restaurants with this level of aspiration; sometimes it is nice to see the cooking skills of the kitchen shine through, elevating the produce as a result. I'm starting to think this current trend (so not just Hedone here) of, 'I'm a ballsy chef because I haven't tarted around with the ingredients' is becoming a bit of a cliche already. There's more than a whiff of the emperors new clothes about it all.

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For me I don't think I would have appreciated this meal a few years ago due to the simplicity of it but my tastes have changed and I'm sick of non descript dishes with average produce. The simplicity thing is a choice, I'm pretty sure Mikael could turn out 3* style haute cuisine if he chose but certainly for the moment at least, he prefers to let the ingredients shine and serve them with complimentary flavours.

What other restaurants in London have produce as consistently high as Hedone? The thing I like about it is that they truly are serving the best produce in what appears to be a simple manner. Things like the jus have sometimes gone through a 3 stage cooking process so it may not be as simple as we would like to believe. This is unlike a multitude of other restaurants who are simply getting their produce locally (no guarantee of quality) or from the usual suppliers to the rest of the trade yet claiming to be serving the best of British.

How many chefs do you know getting up at 6am every day to select the fish he wants from his supplier? how about buying 6.5kg Turbots so fresh they haven't even got rigormortis and need a couple of days in the fridge before they are ready for eating. What about fully feathered/furred game? How about sending produce back to suppliers because it doesn't meet the standards Mikael demands? This isn't a PR stunt, it is Mikaels high standards, higher than anyone else I know.


Edited by Matthew Grant (log)

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Interesting Matthew. We had high expectations because of this level of sourcing. Which made certain decisions quite baffling when we tried it - for example the frisee lettuce served with the mackerel (see Prawncrackers' photos) could have been sourced at our local Tesco. And the fennel was tough as old boots. And how hard is it to cut a piece of salmon with a sharp knife?

Sorry this sounds like I'm carping, we enjoyed our meal and plenty of the ingredients were absolutely great. But I don't think the case for Hedone as "best restaurant in London" is at all clear-cut.

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Some interesting comments on this thread recently, and I have since had time to reconsider our visit back in July and make comparison with them.

Although we enjoyed the meal, I did not leave the restaurant on cloud nine, longing to inform the wider world of my experience. Hence the delay in the write up.

Its all very simplistic, with utter reliance on the product. Which is all well and good if all of the produce is of tip top order. But that does not always seem to be the case. So consistancy is an issue.

Some of the presentation leaves a lot to be desired, and quite frankly looks amateurish.

Comparing our meal to the one we had at say Roganic, does not inspire me to return to Chiswick, but I would dash back to Marylebone.

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Just to nuance the spectrum of opinions even more, I think Mikael does well in focusing on sourcing spectacular produce and keeping it simple, because his (or his associates') cooking is not sure-footed. I've had just a single experience but we've seen other examples in this thread.

That said, the flavours were such a joy that I wouldn't hesitate for a minute, given the choice, to return to Chiswick in preference to Roganic, which was interesting but also imperfect, showy and evanescent (one of the few times I disagree with David - and with almost everybody else :biggrin: ).

Hope next time Mikael can spare a lamb for us...

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I haven't been, and don't see London in my near future, but I do understand the kind of cooking that has been described here by several astute diners. As in music, where it is far more difficult to maintain tone quality while playing exceedingly softly, it is infinitely more difficult to cook and present something with a minimum of handling, cooking and seasoning. It is much easier to augment a product, to add season and sauce and garniture to hide imperfections of sourcing and kitchen technique. Visit any of the more-is-more temples to see what I mean.


eGullet member #80.

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... it is infinitely more difficult to cook and present something with a minimum of handling, cooking and seasoning. It is much easier to augment a product, to add season and sauce and garniture to hide imperfections of sourcing and kitchen technique. Visit any of the more-is-more temples to see what I mean.

Erm, doesn't sauce and garnish come under kitchen technique? If a kitchen is crap, it's crap and the garnish can only serve to confirm this further. Ironically, Britain has great meat and fish, it's veg where we generally struggle and can let a restaurant down. And although it may be very classical, producing a clear, reduced sauce with the distinct depth of advertised flavour really can separate the men from the boys. Out of interest, what 'more-is-more temples' are you referring to?

Matthew asked earlier what chefs are going to the lengths Mikael is when it comes to sourcing, and the simple answer is hundreds. Pretty much every Michelin starred restaurant strives to find the best ingredients available to them, both in terms of locality and budget. Heck, there's a host of non-Michelin accredited gastro-pubs in the south Notts area where I live who apply this same dedication.

I admit Hedone is impeccably sourced (at a price, budget it is not), but the food definitely isn't executed as well it may or comparable to a host of restaurants the length and breadth of England; I'd take Sat Bains, The Ledbury, Viajante and a host of others ahead of it any day of the week.

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... it is infinitely more difficult to cook and present something with a minimum of handling, cooking and seasoning. It is much easier to augment a product, to add season and sauce and garniture to hide imperfections of sourcing and kitchen technique. Visit any of the more-is-more temples to see what I mean.

Matthew asked earlier what chefs are going to the lengths Mikael is when it comes to sourcing, and the simple answer is hundreds. Pretty much every Michelin starred restaurant strives to find the best ingredients available to them, both in terms of locality and budget. Heck, there's a host of non-Michelin accredited gastro-pubs in the south Notts area where I live who apply this same dedication.

I doubt very much that they are, with all the best will in the world they may be trying to source carefully but not to the same extremes. For a start, sourcing locally is no guarantee of great quality. Is your guy in the pub in South Notts insisting on having Scallops delivered live on a daily basis, so fresh that they are still moving when they are served raw? How about getting personal deliveries from France twice a week for vegetables and fruit that he can't get of a good enough quality in the UK? Are the pigeons being strangled so that they retain the blood or are they being shot. Is he retaining a shelf at one of the best butchers in the country, hand selecting his meat and having it hung to his own specification?

They may have noble intent but I'll almost guarantee they aren't sourcing to the same level as Mikael.


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Mikael was stabbed and Aurelie beaten in their restaurant last night by a gang, one of whom has been apprehended. They were battered, but hoping to open tonight.


Edited by Margaret Pilgrim (log)

eGullet member #80.

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Holy shi.. really? that's terrible. My thoughts go out to them..

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Yes, debate parked. That's shocking, I do hope they're open and well tonight.

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Absolutely shocking news, I hope that Mikael, Aurelie and the rest of the staff are all OK.

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I returned for the tasting menu today. We had a very warm welcome from Aurelie (with whom I had exchanged emails when I sent a message of encouragement for her and the team after hearing the news), but in the end I came out upset.

Scallops were perfect and we said so when asked.

Slow cooked egg with girolles was very good and we said so when asked.

Rock Oyster (from Dorset) with beetroot caramel was excellent and we said so when asked.

An onion with pear was a dish we didn't care for or understand, nobody asked, and we didn't say anything.

The kale, cockles and broth accompanying a turbot were excessively salty and we said so when asked (while praising the turbot).

Out storms the Chef from the kitchen to come to our table. He is visibly upset. He informs us curtly that that (1) the dish is exactly as he wants it, that (2) that's the natural juice of the cockles and (3) that we are wrong as hundreds of people have had it and have not complained. Then he turned on his heels without hearing any more from us.

I did not understand why our opinion was asked if hundreds of previous customers had certified that this dish was perfect. I've eaten tons of shellfish since I was a kid and I've never had such a salty sample in my life. The fact that seawater is natural does not make it good, like for many other natural things (how about fish gut). I don't drink seawater and I am surprised that Hedone customers do. I think Jonsson simply can't cook cockles.

I felt a lot of hostility coming from the Chef (I can only conjecture he was also offended by our blog mild criticisms). I felt that my custom was unwelcome. These are not feelings I like to have in a place I travel two hours to eat at and where I spend over £200 of my hard-earned money (I am not naturally rich...).

Aurelie was charming and professional as usual and I was glad to see that she and the whole team were now OK after that incident two weeks ago. I wish them every success but I think there is far more to being a chef/restaurateur than sourcing good ingredients, and in my humble opinion Jonsson has not made that transition yet, on more than one level. (but, Matthew, you are right that their pigeon is great.) Tomorrow I'm at Galvin la Chapelle and I hope to have a better experience there or this London trip will have been a failure.

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Oh dear. There seems to be a theme emerging here and in other posts, that chefs are getting a little peeved with bloggers and bloggers are

Feeling hard done by that they are being challenged and treated " badly" by chefs etc. I find bloggers are deluded by their perceived rights and feel any challenge to their fragile food egos should be publicised. I would hate to be a chef in these times, bad enough having food critics judging but having every subjective palate pontificating on what is right or wrong publicly must be relentless.

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Whatever the merits of your argument, of course your sympathy cannot include Mr Jonsson himself, who in his former guise as a blogger felt the need to vent his foodie displeasure in public like many other customers.

But no please, not yet another inane debate on 'bloggers vs restaurateurs'. This thread is called Hedone, it was not opened by me, and its purpose is to report experiences and offer factually based opinions on the restaurant. Anybody uninterested in my reports is warmly welcome to skip.

(RDB, for me there is no issue whatsoever of hurt feelings and I don't perceive I have any special 'right', whatever that means, though I care about courtesy on the part of a restaurateur.).

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Oh dear. There seems to be a theme emerging here and in other posts, that chefs are getting a little peeved with bloggers and bloggers are

Feeling hard done by that they are being challenged and treated " badly" by chefs etc. I find bloggers are deluded by their perceived rights and feel any challenge to their fragile food egos should be publicised. I would hate to be a chef in these times, bad enough having food critics judging but having every subjective palate pontificating on what is right or wrong publicly must be relentless.

Isn't the theme here that Mickael can't seem to take criticism? I have read other reports of him being very rude to anyone who dared to suggest a dish wasn't perfect (Lanchester in The Guardian so not all bloggers). Hedone was on my must visit list for my next visit to London, but I am going to pass based on reports similar to RDB; on comments that the sourcing may be wonderful but the execution can be patchy and often quite simple; and, finally, zero response to an email question on opening times over Christmas. From what I can see of the prices they don't have the excuse of low prices, one of these concerns wouldn't have put me off, but the combination makes it too risky given the few days I am in town.

Not using PR may be laudable but not understanding the power of reputation maybe be a mistake.


Edited by PhilD (log)

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Four of us went to Hedone on Saturday for dinner.

I had the tasting menu which on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed. The custard with seaweed to kick things off was excellent, extremely moorish and light. Similar dishes to Man - the egg & girolles and the oyster with beetroot caramel – both delicious. Although I did enjoy the Cevennes Onion (which incidentally, we have a local grower of it here in Essex) and pear (variety not given) I felt it could have done with a better balance of pear to onion.

The turbot and cockle dish that Man had was served with curly kale rather than black cabbage I think. All was good but I couldn’t finish the greens, just too tough & steely for me. The turbot was pretty darn good but not as good as the turbot I had at The Sportsman last year.

The beef was superb – deeply flavoured, juicy and tender. The accompaniment to the beef was three variations of chicory. One was wilted leaves, the second raw heart/root and the third, a sort of Picada of Hazelnut and pureed Chicory. I didn’t like any of the chicory parts and thought the root/heart inedible, it was mainly root.

Of my friend’s dishes, I tried the Sika Deer, which compared to the beef, I found lacking in flavour, but beautifully cooked and as tender as butter - the overall combo with figs and chestnut puree was a delight. The other dish of lamb went down well but I didn’t get to try it.

I had a pineapple pudding followed by a chocolate one, both good. Two others had a pear tart which had tough pastry. My wife had variations of carrot – can’t remember the detail but she couldn’t taste the white chocolate element and found the whole dish rather carroty, to be expected really!

With a bottle of 2009 Montlouis from Francois Chidaine (£40), a bottle of 2005 Barbaresco from Paje (£70), 3 fizzy water and 1 coffee, our bill for four was £404 inc. service.

The service was pitch perfect, especially from Aurelie. She asked me how I found the tasting menu - I conveyed my enjoyment of it and touched on the chicory and pear/onion things.

Mikael tucked into a plate of something after service with a lot of shaved truffle. He had spent a bit of time with a couple of tables during our time there, all very jolly.

Best new opening in London – no idea. Two Michelin Stars – I don’t care. A good time was had, lots of good dishes, a couple of misses, nothing earth shattering either way but their service and resolve makes me want to go back for more – especially for that beef. Instructions have just gone out to my butcher to add 10 more weeks to the hanging of our Red Poll!

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