So that this blog can be useful to everyone – in fact, for any restaurant critic or guide, or Buzzfeed Top List Ten Lobster Mac & Cheese to be even the least useful – then we have to assume that there is an ideally pleasant place to eat. If we can all agree that eating the soil is not fun, and that eating chocolate is then we should definitely be able, as a species, to draw a solid conclusion on landing between these extremes; we are, after all, most of us after more or less the same – a good dinner.
Sometimes, however, I am baffled by restaurants that polarize opinion, both those I think everyone should love, but they do not, and also those that people fall on themselves to give praise and leave me completely cold.
Take Hedone, for example, to Chiswick. I visited for the first time five years ago, shortly after it opened, and suffered from an emotionally vacant precession of beige dishes, apparently using the best products that Europe has to offer. the West can provide and yet so much faint desire for texture, color and pleasure that I felt my soul shrinking every minute that passes. And yet, in the following years, a certain subset of Foodie Internet repeatedly reiterated food to Hedone as being among the best in the country, but truly world class.
They say that chef Mikael Jonsson goes further than any other individual to find the best ingredients for his menus. They say that the ingredients are treated with techniques that complement and amplify the specific flavor profiles in as much as possible. And they say, over and over again, that if you can not appreciate that this western corner of London is rediffining modern gastronomy, that its awesome success belongs to the history books, then you do not deserve to you relax and you should stay at home with a Findus pancake by thinking very hard about your life. Agree, to be fair, they never actually said anything about the pancakes of Findus, but the inference is pretty clear.
Just let a man who spends a lot of his time looking for great great gastronomy (me) with a severe case of FOMO, and thus five years almost until the day I did another reservation to Hedone, determined – desperate, in fact – to find out if I was really a hopeless plebe or rather have some sort of tasting menu based on the Damascene conversion.
A long story short, I still remain a resident of Plebsville; A 2nd meal in Hedone was so amazing that the first one. A tomato appetizer tasted … well, tomato on a small biscuit; No more no less. A dish of scallops and truffles – despite containing two of my favorite ingredients – conspired to be shabby and thin, like eating something that had to be finished on the grill. A slab of liver – again, usually something that could not fail to lift my mind – was a big, boring and greasy chore. Nothing was hideous or even bad it was empty, cold, devoid of form and pleasure. It was, in short, the opposite of why I eat at all; if the best restaurants are confirmed by life and generous soul and mind, this was eating by numbers, technically correct but emotionally private.
I am not about to mark the opinions of so many people who, clearly and for their own reasons, consider Hedone as their last restaurant. But it is strange, not to mention deeply frustrating, that I obviously could not get out of Hedone the transcendental experience that many others had, the people I know for a fact have a lot of overlap with my own tastes when it comes to most other restaurants in town. In my original comment, I made the comparison with modern jazz; that somewhere at the bottom of my mind, I knew there had to be something but this thing, whatever it is, will probably be out of my house. For some, "A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane is a breathtaking work of amazing genius; for the rest of us, this is only arrhythmic and messy nonsense. I would like to understand it, but I did not understand it.
In many ways, whether or not, somebody else enjoys Hedone is a matter of supreme importance. They will not miss me (or much like me) as a customer and I will not miss them. I only mention this as a kind of thought experiment – that it is possible for people to have experiences so different from the same restaurant, in fact even the same meal (my first visit was on the same table as one of the superfans Hedone that I mentioned earlier), what is the restaurant criticism for? Should I find something else to do with my free time? In fact, do not answer that.
Be that as it may, excuse my existential oscillation; Normal service will be resumed in due course. Perhaps we should be comforted by the fact that we, as individuals, as diverse and difficult as we can find something in common, and that the occasional thunderbolt like Hedone is proof of nothing more than our diversity. I will leave Chiswick pride to those who are best placed to appreciate it and, as an anonymous commentator of my original critic said, "Stay in search of the perfect hamburger … and let [the] real food to adults ". For now, I will agree to disagree. But by God, if anyone starts going to Tayyabs, there will be a hell to pay.