Twenty-six-year-old chef Tom Sellers has been making waves on the London dining scene with his Noma-like debut restaurant near Tower Bridge. Kerstin Kühn finds out what all the fuss is about
Since opening in April this year, Story has taken the London dining scene by storm. The debut restaurant from 26-year-old Tom Sellers, who has worked with the likes of Tom Aikens, Thomas Keller and René Redzepi, has been an instant hit with customers and even the fiercest food critics. Booked out for the foreseeable future, its runaway success is reminiscent of that of Dabbous, this year's Catey Newcomer Award winner.
Housed in a former toilet block close to Tower Bridge, the 40-seat glass-fronted restaurant has a sense of a posh garden shed about it. Inside it is wood-clad and furnished in Scandinavian style, with a glass-walled kitchen offering views of Sellers and his brigade.
Sellers serves a tasting menu in a rapid succession of small, playful dishes that are designed to evoke childhood memories. Diners choose from six or 10 courses priced £45 or £65, respectively.
Things start with a series of "snacks": crispy cod skin; nasturtium flowers stuffed with oyster sabayon; radish with kelp butter; and a rabbit sandwich: a rectangle of tender shredded rabbit, tarragon-scented mousseline and topped with three slices of carrot in different colours. A glimpse of the delights still to come.
The first actual course is called "bread and dripping". A candle made from beef dripping arrives at the table melting into a pool in the holder and is served with dense, dark sourdough bread for dipping. On the side are tiny cubes of pickled celery and braised veal tongue. It's a simple yet stunningly original idea.
Then comes a thinly sliced raw scallop served with horseradish cream and cucumber spheres blackened with dill ash. "It's one of my favourites," says Sellers. He cures the scallops in lemon vinegar and makes the ash from cucumber skin, which he chars on the barbecue outside the restaurant. "I have influences from everywhere I have worked," he adds. "Noma is a big influence on this dish in terms of its lightness and the use of vinegar and herbs."
Another Noma-esque dish is beetroot, raspberry and horseradish. The beets come as small discs with the horseradish in snow form, while raspberries add acidity, which, as Zoe Williams of The Sunday Telegraph put it, "complicates that age-old marriage like a revivifying threesome".
Next up is a dish of heritage potato, comprising a potato purée spiked with asparagus, barley gras and a black "coal" oil. Rich and creamy, it's the closest Sellers gets to comfort food. "I work with a guy called Chris Haseldon, who grows the best potatoes in the world," he says. "I wanted to celebrate his potatoes in this dish."
The only meat dish on the menu, pigeon, is cooked medium-rare on the barbecue, giving it a light smoky flavour, and is served with summer truffle and pine. "It's a classic combination," Sellers says. "It is finished with sea broccoli and cooked in butter."
Among the desserts, the Three Bears' porridge is the one that has been grabbing headlines. Three little bowls arrive at the table with three different flavourings of porridge: one too sweet (cooked in condensed milk), one too salty (cooked in a salt caramel stock) and one just right (cooked in buttermilk). "It's designed to evoke thought and start conversation," Sellers says. And that's true of the rest of the menu, too.
Sample dishes from the menu
Bread and dripping
Burnt onion, apple, gin and thyme
Scallops, cucumber and â¨dill ash
Mackerel, salad root and strawberry
Beetroot, raspberry and horseradish
Heritage potato, asparagus and barley grass
Pigeon summer truffle â¨and pine
Prune tea, lovage and milk
Three Bears' porridge
£45 for six courses; â¨£65 for 10 courses
Story 201 Tooley Street, London SE1 2UE
020 7183 2117
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