Mikael Johnsson is a former lawyer and food blogger who opened Hedone in Chiswick in the summer of 2011, winning numerous plaudits and a Michelin star after only 14 months. He is now branching out, and is acting as consulting chef to Antidote where his role includes appointing the kitchen staff and having input to the dishes and produce. Many new London restaurants open amid PR hype, courting critics and bloggers to create a buzz – however, Antidote bucked this trend, opening quietly without the association of Johnsson’s name (the connection was eventually spotted by canny blogger The Skinny Bib). It is on Carnaby Street on the site of a former French bistro, La Trouvauille, and has retained a lot of the front of house staff.
They do a fixed price set dinner menu of 4 courses for £40 with an extra £30 for the wine pairing, and there is a wine bar downstairs with a small menu including cheese boards, charcuterie and small seafood plates. The decor is understated and simple, my only issue being the very uncomfortable wooden seats. Antidote’s bread is delivered fresh from Hedone every morning: we had sourdough which was light and airy, yet had a deep wholemeal flavour – definitely amongst the best bread I have had in London. The wine list is wholly organic and therefore mostly French; they have over twenty wines by the glass at a cost of £4 to £13. You can buy all of the wines to take away for roughly half of the sit-in price.
We started with a truly fantastic dish – slow cooked duck egg with asparagus and peas, which was beautifully presented: the egg yolk was served alongside a refreshing pea puree and pea shoots, complemented by a bullet of creme fraiche; the asparagus was rich and earthy and also served atop its own puree. The flavours were very clean and simple, but hit a perfect balance.
Next was monkfish with chard and a shellfish emulsion – the portion was generous, the fish perfectly cooked and nicely complimented by the slightly bitter chard. The sea and shellfish foams and emulsions were disappointing – a grey smudge like newly mixed concrete and foam that turned to scum on the hot plate. A more conventional cream based sauce would probably have worked better with this dish.
Salt march lamb was served wonderfully pink but had been properly rested so didn’t have a hint of blood – again, the presentation was beautiful with the lamb sitting amidst bottle green cucumber puree and pungent wild garlic leaves; the soft texture of the lamb nicely paired with crispy anchovy powder. To finish, chocolate moelleux with passion fruit sorbet was underwhelming but still fairly tasty – I think the majority of the creativity had been poured into the first three courses.
Verdict: simple, beautiful, great value food – get there as soon as you can.