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Apr 25, 2014 07:24 AM

Hedone Kitchen Counter? [London]

We were able to secure reservations for Hedone at the kitchen counter. What are your thoughts? Will this be a comfortable place to dine?
Thanks so much from a FL, USA hounder!

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  1. I've eaten at the counter at Hedone - it's a perfectly comfortable experience although I would say it doesn't particularly enhance the dinner unlike some other places.

    I assume there are only 2 of you? It wouldn't be a great place to eat with 3 or 4.

    It's not like other restaurants where there is extensive interaction with the chefs - they still mostly serve the food on the pass and then waiters bring it from behind you - quite odd.

    Overall I'd say if it's the only way you can try Hedone and you want to go then it's not significantly worse than having a table.

    1. We were at the restaurant a few days ago and were given the option of sitting at a table or the counter when we arrived. I think they were trying to get people to sit at the counter.

      We chose the table option. As MIT mentions, there didn't seem to be much if any interaction between the chefs and the guests at the counter the night we dined there. The chef seemed preoccupied with something and rarely spoke to anyone, even some repeat customers.

      We would for sure pick the table option if we return and had a choice, but I agree with MIT's last sentence too.

      1. I'll go along with the other posters. If it's your only chance to taste the food at Hedone, go for the counter. The night we were there, only one, lone male was eating there, but it was a holiday weekend.

        It seems to me the chefs are so busy working that there's little interchange with anyone sitting there. You may be lucky and maybe someone will cancel when you are going to be there.

        20 Replies
        1. re: zuriga1

          The other possibility is The Five Fields. If I can get reservations there, should I forego the counter at Hedone? They did say they would move us to a table if one became available

          1. re: gblcsw

            I really can't answer your question because I've never eaten at The Five Fields, and I don't think anyone on this board has ever mentioned it. Hopefully, someone will know more about it. It seems to get great reviews, and if you're staying in London proper, it would be a bit closer to get to.

            1. re: zuriga1

              Thanks! Will do some more research and report back after our trip at the beginning of July.

            2. re: gblcsw

              I have sat at the counter and it's fine and quite comfortable. I enjoyed watching them prepare the dishes but as others say there isn't a lot of chit chat.

              I had forgotten Hayler had reviewed Five Fields, it's sort of slipped below the radar, his review was OK but interestingly not a lot online. Totally agree with MIT's last sentence as well. I think Hedone is a destination restaurant whilst a Five Fields sounds like a nice neighbourhood place.

              1. re: PhilD

                Like Phil my first impulse was to check Andy Hayler's site, which has a solid but somewhat tepid review of Five Fields (14/20 or not Michelin star worthy) and an enthusiastic review(s) of Hedone (18/20 or strong Michelin 2* - only Fat Duck has a higher rating in GB from Hayler and he has dined there around 50 times). So based on Andy Hayler's reviews Hedone, one would guess, is better.

                However I also like to check the comments on Toptable (now OpenTable) since these are reviews from folks who actually dined there the past year. You get the 'crowd-sourced' wisdom of hundreds of diners.

                I was surprised to see that Five Fields reviewers rated it a good bit higher than did Hedone diners. Hedone was rated 4.4/5.0 overall and 4.6 for food, from 268 reviewers. Five Fields was rated 4.7 and 4.8 from 168 reviews, which is really strong -- higher even that Ledbury, which I liked better than Hedone when we ate at both last week.

                Dunno what to say ... we liked Hedone and wouldn't blink at sitting at the bar if need be, but Five Fields has strong support too (we haven't eaten there).

                OK, here we go into Terra Incognito or rankings, which I tend to look at last (if at all) for many reasons ... but out of curiosity I checked and Hedone is ranked #1,478 of 16,506 in London, which you can interpret as 'in the top 10%' or 'behind 1,477 other restaurants' :)

                Five Fields is ranked #3 of 16,506 (the top six includes Le Gavroche, Petrus, Ledbury and Gordon Ramsay so it's not a totally foolish list). Interesting ... I'm impressed.

                1. re: willyum

                  Its a bit of an enigma isn't it. Hayler, Mashler and Sturgess were luke warm. The Critical Couple loved it, then TopTable and TripAdviser give it top marks, yet it is still way under the radar with few of the other usual suspects reviewing.

                  I wonder if TopTable and Trip Adviser ratings have anything to do with the Chef Patrons US background at Corton so maybe a US fan club who use these two social media forums more frequently?

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Hands-up I haven't been to Five Fields yet, but I'd be gobsmacked if it's on a par with Hedone.

                    Also, my experience of the Hedone counter was quite the opposite to most of the above. It was social, chatty and, on my most recent visits, a great opportunity to speak with Mikael himself, who seemed happy to hold court and share his enthusiasm, passion and (pretty much) unsurpassed knowledge to everyone on the row. I think that if you go there with a certain degree of enthusiasm and desire to be fed they'll respond in spades. It is also worth noting that it's as much a local neighbourhood restaurant as fine dining and, as such, seems to get more relaxed as they come to know you. Not that the initial experience is duff mind, the food is simply spectacular full-stop.

                    1. re: marcusj

                      Hedone does have the feel of a neighbourhood restaurant, but I only wish more neighbourhoods had a local like that! Are the prices what you would call 'neighbourhood?' Down here in Sunny Surrey, I think a place like that would have trouble filling the tables by us regular folk.

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        I thought Surrey and Chiswick were on equal footing when it comes to jolly hockey sticks, rugby shirts and sizeable bank balances? ;-)

                        1. re: marcusj

                          Marcus, I'm just a little housewife from America... Chiswick isn't that well known to me. Sadly, despite the bank accounts in some of Surrey (definitely not all), we have few great choices for a dinner nearby.

                      2. re: marcusj

                        @marcusj "my experience of the Hedone counter was quite the opposite to most of the above. It was social, chatty and, on my most recent visits, a great opportunity to speak with Mikael himself, who seemed happy to hold court and share his enthusiasm, passion and (pretty much) unsurpassed knowledge to everyone"

                        It's interesting to read this ... we were there a few weeks ago, within a few days of zuriga1, and Mikael seemed preoccupied, walking about with his head down as if deep in thought when we wasn't cooking.

                        He barely spoke to any tables (all but two tables filled) or the six or so people at the counter, maybe twice briefly to a table with a pretty girl. We talked to one couple at the counter and they were on their third visit to Hedone, so not everyone was a newbie. I got the impression they were short one cook and one server and he was plugging the holes. And deep in thought about something.

                        As we were leaving, after retrieving our coats, he walked up to us and I shook his hand. He said nothing so I said something trite like "Enjoyed the meal" and he still said nothing. So I said something like "You can thank Andy Hayler for alerting us to Hedone" and he still said nothing, staring at me intently as if I were speaking Dothraki or Klingon and the words weren't quite making sense.

                        We left and I thought "that was a bit strange" but I figured he was in some Nordic funk. It didn't really affect how we felt about the restaurant but it was odd.

                        Curious to hear from zuriga1 whether he was like this later in the week when you were there?

                        1. re: willyum

                          willyum, when we were there, all the chefs looked extremely busy, although there were quite a few empty tables even at 9 p.m. (it was a holiday weekend). Only one person was at the counter, and he seemed engrossed in his food and didn't seem to talk to the staff at all. We got a nice farewell but only from the waitstaff.

                          I don't see why customers should expect the chef to talk with them. When I cook, I don't like to be disturbed and that's just cooking for two. :-)

                          I did love the waitstaff... all were so professional and very well informed about each course and knew how to explain the ingredients and how to eat each thing... break this first, eat it whole etc. I'm sure you got the same advice.

                          1. re: zuriga1

                            I don't know about you June but I have the impression that the principle attraction of 'counter dining' is often the interaction with the chefs - that certainly seems to be the case in America and places like Kitchen Table have brought it over here - part of the selling point is that James Knappet will chat to you over the meal (if you want) and talk you through the food.

                            Offering counter dining but then having no one say a word and serving food through waiters just seems a bit odd - suppose they needed to do something with the space.

                            1. re: ManInTransit

                              Maybe it has something to do with my age, but growing up, the only counter dining I did was at diners. No talking with anyone but the waitress there. I do think you're right that many people want that interaction with the staff, especially a well-known chef.

                              I'd rather the chef was paying attention to the service, food quality etc. It's nice if they come around and say a hello, but it's not of much importance to us. Maybe it was a space thing at Hedone.. no room for tables in that corner of the room.

                          2. re: willyum

                            When we were there in December he didn't cook at all and spent his entire time discussing the enhanced wine pairings with the two tables who were having them. That may have been why there were some significant errors in the food that came across the pass.

                            That said, once we ordered some expensive wine we got some immediate attention and conversation but that was so transparent as to be rather awkward.

                        2. re: PhilD

                          So sad I never got to try Corton, was all set to book it on a trip in a couple of weeks. Liebrandt seems to be cooking at The Elm in Williamsburg now but that seems a very different restaurant.

                          1. re: ManInTransit

                            If you want some tips for Brooklyn, MiT, let me know. Someone I know works at a restaurant there and he seems to be quite a foodie and wine expert. I am completely out of touch now with NYC dining and snacking. I do get homesick. :-)

                            1. re: zuriga1

                              Any tips for Brooklyn and Williamsburg would be great - although please don't put yourself or your friend out.

                              I'm well covered for Manhattan thanks to CH but spending a few days east and trying to work out where best to eat that isn't Brooklyn Fare!

                              1. re: ManInTransit

                                You don't like hot dogs?

                                Just email me your address.... I'll talk with my friend Frank.

                      3. re: PhilD

                        I have eaten at Five Fields and I would agree with PhilD's comment above that it is more of a neighbourhood restaurant.

                        To be fair to it though I did not think the food here was far from the quality of that produced by Medlar, another Chelsea 'neighbourhood place' with a star.

                        I don't trust TA for restaurants but still this just shocked me: Five Fields- Ranked #2 of 16,504 restaurants in London