Restaurant Story: South London gets its new fine-dining hotspot
You may have heard that Tom Sellers is the new Dabbous – the next big thing on the London food scene. Whether it’s true or not is something we had to find out for ourselves.
Story is set just 100m away from Tower Bridge; it won’t go unnoticed as it’s a brand new structure in wood and glass. The cosy but sophisticated dining area lies on an industrial floor and a beautiful glass wall overlooks the Shard.
There’s a lot of light in Story: there aren’t walls to separate spaces, the open kitchen is in the corner of the room and if you get close enough to it to spy on the cooking process, chef Sellers will invite you inside for a quick on-the-hoof experience.
The tables are naked and the distinctive crockery and cutlery resemble those of former world number one restaurant Noma, where the chef has worked. Noma is not the only notable apprenticeship he went through – Sellers also worked with Tom Aikens and the legendary Thomas Keller at his flagship restaurant French Laundry on the US west coast.
Story’s menu is very simple: you can either choose between a fixed six or ten-course option. We opt for six and the introductory amuse-bouche look and taste impressive. The cod skins with cod roe emulsion are delicious, the flowers with oyster cream and toasted rye very refreshing, and the tiny rabbit sandwiches with tarragon are flavourful; however, visual and actual influences from Noma are over-present in each of them.
The drinks list takes a wider perspective than the classic wine-oriented ones: there is focus on local beers and drinks as well a smart selection of wines. We go for a good ale from Bethnal Green and a glass of chardonnay that turns out to be uninspiring.
The first course is Bread and Dripping; the alternative to the usual butter is a beef tallow candle which is lit, allowing you to eat the dripping with warm home-made bread. Although it looks good and quirky enough to be on the table, the taste isn’t something you’ll positively remember – and it’s very heavy.
Following the tallow candle is Burnt Onion, Apple, Gin and Thyme, another dish coming straight out of Noma’s cookbook. The concept, ingredients, presentation and even the crockery are rather surprising and disappointing. The food execution is also not perfect, resulting in a good amount of onion, difficult to digest.
A brief foreword for the next course of Scallops, Cucumber and Dill Ash: I am a big fan of raw scallops but they are surely something that should be flagged up on the menu as many guests could be upset (including mine). The delicacy of the king of molluscs is a delight, and the pairing with cucumber could work, but the dish’s balance is threatened by an excess of horseradish covering all the shades of rawness. Unfortunately, this is also another presentation and pairing already seen on Redzepi’s table.
To conclude the savoury part of the meal is Beef cheek, Stout and Cauliflower Yeast, the standout dish on the menu. The beef is cooked in beer at 66°C for 48 hours, with the cauliflower roasted to order. The flavour is really intense, rough and refined at the same time – one of those that make you consider asking for more. My beer was not enough so I opted for a glass of pinot noir that matched the sophistication.
Desserts were more about fun than exploring new culinary directions. The Rhubarb and Custard Cream Soda brings you back to an age when only colourful foods and sweets caught your attention: a personal piece of advice, the rhubarb is very bitter so mix it before drinking. The Three Bears’ Porridge is first of all a literary reference that gives a meaning to the name of the restaurant and its purported recurring theme. The course is made of three porridges, from salty to sweet, as illustrated by a dainty card.
Tom Sellers is a talented young chef and Story is a pleasant new addition to the South London food scene, but he still needs the maturity and awareness that distinguish creative chefs from derivative ones. His inspirations overshadow his own ideas but this is something that will surely change with time. Or at least we hope so.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Filippo L’Astorina, The Editor
To book a table at Story, 201 Tooley St London SE1 2UE, call 020 7183 2117 or enquire here.