For my birthday this year I went to Story a relatively new restaurant that had been on my list ever since it opened last year as it offered modern, ingredient-led and unusual cooking. Despite receiving a Michelin star in the same year it opened, the reviews were mixed, some critics giving very high marks indeed while others weren’t happy at all. That just gave me another reason for wanting to try it. Besides, what I’d seen in photos and blog posts, the food looked like exactly my thing. It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.
The restaurant is a rather unusual location, a former toilet block at the end of Tooley St. It was a bit tricky to find as the street splits into two and Google Maps tells you its on the other half. I got there eventually and on time, too. The L-shaped dining room has about 12 tables, with the rest of the room taken up by the semi-open kitchen. Tables are simple wood without cloth and the floor is bare but polished and treated concrete screed.
The evening menu has only two choices: two tasting menus of six or ten courses. This being my birthday, I obviously went for the larger menu.
Only a few minutes after I had ordered the first “snacks” arrived, little mouthfuls of different flavours and textures from a radish stuffed with “kelp butter”, crispy cod skin, a “rabbit sandwich” and other delights. These gave an early indication of what to expect later. A lit candle arrived as well but not your usual candle. This was made of beef dripping which melts, runs down and collects in the bottom of the stick to be scooped up with bread later. Of course it’s a gimmick but it’s also a nice bit of theatre.
Then the dishes on the menu appeared: A fresh onion dish with a gin sauce, pickled scallops with cucumber and dill, and the best potato dish since Simon Rogan’s heritage potato/onion creationa dish of fresh crab with leeks and lovage:
I was very much tempted by the optional extra main course of beef tartare served in an apple with bits of apple and grated truffle on top, served in a bowl of (dry) ice and did not regret the decision as it was both some excellent theatre and an explosion of flavour, filling my head with umami:
And the flavour sensations just came coming. The next dish of raw squid with bitter sea vegetables/leaves and pine honey was equally satisfying and the lamb with grilled salad and sheep’s yoghurt was the perfect end to the main courses. This was the most conventional of the dishes with roast fillet and crispy belly.
Despite my rapidly filling stomach, the extra cheese course was also far too tempting to decline of which the calavados camembert was my favourite.
Then it was time to slowly wind down and move on to the sweet part of the evening. A dish of sea buckthorn and rapeseed cleansed the palate nicely of the lingering cheese and rich lamb, ready for the foie gras brûlée with pear. A similar concept to the dish at Duck & Waffle but far smaller and better balanced with the tart pear. And without the lobster, of course. A bowl of cereal with prune and variations of milk was next and made me wish I could have it for breakfast every morning. Then it was time for the star of the show: Simply described as “almond and dill” on the menu it was one of those dishes that just sound odd on paper and you simply have to experience yourself. I still don’t know why it worked but it did. The fresh, green flavour of the dill was well balanced by the sweet almond creating a quite remarkable sensation. The only dish that did not quite live up to the others’ was the final dessert of a small milk bottle filled with rhubarb and custard. This would have been great anywhere else but just a little boring after what had come before.
After all the above and almost four hours after I had sat down I was quite full and declined the offer of coffee or tea. I had an outstanding meal, the first one I now consider equal to the one I had at Sat Bains two years ago. The accompanying wines (and one beer) were well chosen and service led by restaurant manager Jon Cannon was both efficient and enthusiastic about the food, happy to discuss the dishes and to answer questions.
I can see that Tom Sellers’ food is not for everyone but f you like the cooking of Simon Rogan, Sat Bains, Ben Spalding or Paul Foster, I’m quite sure you will love the food at Story, too.
A few more photos are on flickr.