Tom Sellers' ‘restaurant for the people' runs the gamut of lean and green to decadent and indulgent, says Jennifer Sharp
Tom Sellers doesn't do predictable. His first London restaurant, Story, opened three years ago in a converted public lavatory in the grimy approach to Tower Bridge. From the start, it was a huge success, with original, ground-breaking cooking, and it's now a destination for diners all over the world. When a new season of bookings opens, the Twittersphere goes crazy.
Eighteen months later, his next step was to revitalise the Lickfold Inn, a country pub in West Sussex with an affluent catchment area of toffs and farmers. It worked. Prosperous locals were wowed by Sellers' signature style and the cheerfully democratic public bar.
So what next? Well, how about a landmark site on the Knightsbridge/Chelsea border, a far cry from the comfort zone of most edgy, tattooed, bad-boy London chefs?
Tom Sellers and head chef Daniel Phippard
Restaurant Ours is a vast space, the building originally created by Norman Foster, and in the past it's been a fashion boutique, a restaurant and a nightclub. It's been empty for nearly four years as the owners searched for a tenant who could bring that rare combination of stability and pizazz. Enter Sellers, who teamed up with influential property developers the Reuben family to open the restaurant in May this year. Many others were intimated by the size of the premises, but Sellers had "a crush on the place" and was cheerfully brave and ballsy enough to take it on.
You enter Ours at street level via a futuristic under-lit walkway, which opens out into an eye-popping, triple-height space with an open kitchen and a 118-cover restaurant. The mezzanine holds a laid-back lounge seating 100 as well as the Bloom room, with private dining for 16. The playful interior is a brilliant mix of raw industrial chic and A Midsummer Night's Dream, with enormous trees, witty neon art, twinkling fairy lights, bare brick walls, exposed pipes and huge glass windows.
Sellers sticks to his principles and is using the same suppliers and methodology as he does at Story. He's drawn to the stimulating tastes of sharp and sour and the clashing textures of the New Nordic movement, and he's the master of theatrical flourishes. He works with head chef Daniel Phippard to continuously ask: "what do people want to eat now?"
The answer is raw dishes, such as scallop with fingerling lime and pickles, steak tartare or tuna with ginger and green onion. Or there's imaginative salads, such as heritage beetroot with raspberry and horseradish, or spinach with quinoa, girolles, chunks of celeriac and a lightly poached smoked egg. The only criticism of a fresh crab, avocado and apple starter is that it isn't twice the size.
For non-dieting diners, there's a broad range of substantial dishes, but with a light touch. A tranche of seared turbot rests on a garden-fresh bed of peas, asparagus and chervil, or there's monkfish with squid ink and courgette, tagliatelle with black truffles, or aged rib of Galician beef for two, served with marrowbone and morels.
Vegetables are stars in their own right, especially the grilled Hispi cabbage, served in a heavy cast-iron pot, or the chips pimped with Pecorino and foie gras.
The menu is strictly seasonal and in winter, a lamb dish will be replaced with venison and a spring risotto with Jerusalem artichokes or mushrooms.
Puddings are an adventurous take on classic desserts, such as Á®les flottantes brought up to date with passion fruit and slivers of coconut, or peach soufflé with Champagne and elderflower sorbet.
Sellers knew that wet sales would be key to the success of Ours and there's a nature-inspired cocktail menu and top-class consultant Gearoid Devaney shaping the international wine list, with 22 available by the glass. There's also a lively snacks list, including white anchovy tart with avocado, buttermilk chicken, and a shrimp and yuzu toastie.
Currently, in the dog days of August, Ours does 1,000 covers Monday to Saturday, but Sellers expects that to double in the last quarter. By September, they'll open for Sunday lunch - cleverly named 'Our Day' - with a simple 4/4/4 menu with roast lamb, beef and chicken and a vegetarian option. Sellers promises great meat and a perfectionist's approach to the staples: the roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. For private parties, there may be a whole lamb or suckling pig.
Despite the swanky catchment area, Sellers has created "a restaurant for the people", with a mission statement of 'What's Ours, is yours'. He wants everyone to come and enjoy themselves - "it's hard not to have a good time," he says. Sellers may describe himself as "an astute young man", but at 28, he's become a mature, visionary restaurateur.
Roasted apricot, praline, beurre noisette ice-cream
From the menu
- Oscietra caviar, avocado flower £23
- Scallop gremolata £12 per piece
- Sea bass, melon, almond £12
- King prawn, garlic, half-roasted seaweed £25
- Lamb, Butter lettuce, morels £30
- Veal chop, black truffle, Madeira £37
- Cinnamon doughnuts, salted caramel, apple £7
- Strawberry, sour cream and seed granola £8
- Plum tart, vanilla ice-cream £8
264 Brompton Road, London SW3 2AS
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