A few years ago, just after it launched, I went to Hedone in Chiswick despite being in no fit state. I had come back from a cricket tour of Northern Ireland with Peter Oborne's White City All Stars, which involved staying at Drenagh – perhaps the country's most beautiful home – and pickling our livers between games. I landed in London to a text from Jackson Boxer, a dear mate of mine who has become a restaurateur of great renown, reminding me of our dinner appointment in an hour's time.
So I lugged my giant cricket bag – full of dirty whites and stinking, as only cricket bags do, of bitter marmalade – over to west London. Jackson is the ultimate hangover cure, I figured; and he said this place was special. Also, I'm not usually the fastest to get to a buzzy new place, so I might as well take this opportunity to appear ahead of the game.
We had a lovely night, but frankly my tastebuds were so contaminated by Drenagh that I thought it would be a dishonest review: I couldn't possibly taste everything properly. I planned then and there to return to Mikael Jonsson's place, but with a fresher mind and a clearer conscience. It's taken a while, but what follows is a report of that happy occasion.
This technically exceptional restaurant has been named one of the world's top 50, and its philosophy is based on simplicity. Each dish is crafted to make fresh ingredients taste of… themselves. I can't do all of it justice on this one page; but if what follows reads more like a menu than normal, that's because Jonsson's skill deserves close scrutiny.
We start with two amuse-bouches: sherry meringues with foie gras and butter mushrooms, followed by a tuna carpaccio cornetto served in a square wooden box full of black rice. Both touch perfection. The meringues crumble without being chalky, and the foie gras is as rich and luxuriant as any man has known. While little cornettos are rather childish, there's nothing childlike about the single bite of moist, firm tuna, which provides an immediate and fishy antidote to that foie gras.
Then there is a dish much discussed in food blogs: Cevennes onion, which is to say a sweet one from southern France that has its own appellation, and pear shavings with sage. This is avowedly simple – not bland, just simple. The poached onion is withdrawn and inoffensive rather than eye-wateringly aggressive; the sage is intense and the pear shavings immaculately weighted to have just the right amount of bite.
Next: Isle of Mull scallop, cooked in its shell – simply the best scallop I've ever tasted; small and succulent and tender – with nori (edible seaweed) and a sublime lime butter: rich and acidic simultaneously. Then it's on to liquid Parmesan ravioli with a sweetcorn consommé, mild horseradish emulsion and guanciale (cured Italian pork cheeks), in which the burst of wet Parmesan in al dente pasta is unforgettable. As my wife Charlie put it, "More Parmesan than Parmesan."
Not even halfway through a menu that's £65 for six courses, and £75 for seven; but the sequencing means we don't get too full too quickly. A roasted grouse with smoked sweetcorn, bread sauce, foie gras and sorrel is a carnival of colour and autumnal flavour. So, too, is a roasted loin of venison, as dark and purple and juicy as the beetroot it comes with, alongside radishes and plums.
After all that, it's figs from Provence with elderflower, lemon and thyme; and warm chocolate with exquisite powdered raspberry, passion-fruit jelly and Madagascar vanilla ice cream. If that's not enough for you, there are apricot, basil and almond macaroons, and an excellent wine list.
I told you it needed fresh tastebuds. Somewhere in there we had umami eggplant with cucumber two ways, sorbet and sauce, but I can't even remember when.
This, you see, is foodie heaven. The décor is fine and spacious; the kitchen is open and heaving; the service, excellent; the wine glasses, by Spiegelau, smart.
Hedone is expensive, but worth saving up for. If you want somewhere that turns on the style and gives you an extraordinary array of tastes in one sitting, head to Jonsson's Chiswick extravaganza. Just don't be nursing a hangover.
Hedone, 301-303 Chiswick High Road, London W4, Tel: 020 8747 0377
£170 for two, with wine
Four more: Foodie notes from the past week
Sausage and red bean soup
Sticking with my belief in the value of filling soups for dieters, this tasty number from Marks & Spencer is totally addictive.
Toasted club sandwich
They do a mean one at the Petersham Hotel in Richmond, accompanied by deliciously salty crisps and salad.
I know I had this in August too. But the corker I had at a wedding near Bath reinforced that it's possibly the most English bite of food.
In Taunton for a recent stag, we picked up barbecue materials from Morrisons. This gorgeous Austrian wine was a highlight.Reuse content