Antidote. Downstairs : PART 1
It had been a long week and I’d been wanting to escape for a little retail therapy on Regent Street. I’d thought I might be trapped in my office all weekend but the rush-job didn’t materialise and instead of being flat out I was just flat.
And ever since my dinner, earlier in the week, where not one, but three women sported necklaces of sheer gloriousness, I felt my neck to be underdressed and in need of shoozhing up. Yes, that is a word.
They didn’t have the necklace I wanted, although I forced myself to buy two others, by way of consolation and after all that work I needed a feed. It was lunchtime, after all.
And I remembered that there was a new wine bar which had received many gushing reviews, not five minutes walk away and I also remembered that it had the bread from Hedone, because the owner there is a consultant here.
Hedone is a restaurant in Chiswick run by Mikael Jonsson, a perfectionist, whose mission is to find the perfect ingredient and showcase it. Hedone is ingredient-led, to the point of obsession.
I didn’t love Hedone , I’m afraid, even though I wanted to, but I did love the bread and was sad that I wouldn’t be able to have it without the meal attached. But the carb fairy answered my prayers and delivered said bread to the West End.
I looked inside, from Newburgh St. There’s a corner door. It was locked. It was 1.45 on a Friday and the ground floor was entirely empty. I assumed that it was closed.
A man then appeared behind the bar and made me think it might be open. I did that gesturing thing and he did it back, pointing at a door in the side alley. Had he not appeared, I’d have walked away, thinking it was shut. How ridiculous is that? And sitting at a window seat, at least four people tried to open the same door. DOOR. The clue is in the name. Open it, for God’s sake.
Given the dearth of customers, they can’t afford to lose any possible passing trade by looking like they’re shut.
The menu is short and sweet. Obviously there was the bread. Six slices of superb sourdough, with good salty butter. For me, this alone justifies a visit, but I accept that I may be more interested in bread products than your average restaurant-goer.
Other people might just order the aged Gruyère, which came with three more slices; this time a fruit bread. I ate that too, obviously. They didn’t mention the other bread when I ordered. I would have.
And I decided to try the cod brandade because I was worried that the cheese might not be enough. A salt cod and olive oil mixture, this was smooth and delicate. Not salty. It came with the freshest radishes and was a gorgeous plateful. Gone in a couple of mouthfuls.
Before I ordered, I asked the (fabulously helpful) waitress whether it was the same menu upstairs. Yes, exactly the same, she said. So why am I reading on their website about a set lunch menu of £23 for three courses. I wasn’t shown a set menu or anything other than the cheese and charcuterie selection and a few other small plates. I had no idea. I’d have gone upstairs. I am harrumphing, even now.
And they may want to ask themselves why it’s empty on the ground floor. The locked door doesn’t help but perhaps it’s also that the food, whilst truly excellent in quality, is simply not going to fill you up, unless you spend a small fortune. If you just want to drink (and I’m not judging you here, really) then you’ll be fine – it’s a great list of organic and biodynamic wines and the lack of additives helps with the hangover. But in my world, wine needs food to soak it up and unless you order quite a lot of the bread (£3.25) you might be leaving hungry.
I intend to go back to try the proper menu. The siren call of the sourdough makes that a dead cert.
But whilst bread will mean that I may return, I’ll be interested to see whether they manage to appeal to the locals and the tourists, which they will need to do if this is going to succeed. I suspect that it’s slightly too restrained and austere for the locale; it’s the sort of wine bar that might be more at home in Marylebone or Mayfair. I wonder if it will be there in a year’s time. I hope so. I wouldn’t want to lose the loaf.