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|Address:||201 Tooley Street, London SE1 2UE|
|Tel:||020 7183 2117|
|Price: £70.00||Wine: £23.00||Champagne: £75.00|
|Opening Hours:||Tues-Sat 12N-4pm 6.30-11.30pm|
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You might call the food at Story ‘Noma-influenced’ or ‘Scandinavian’, but perhaps a better term would be ‘Protestant’. Think of a cold, grey church in Copenhagen, untroubled by the bells and smells of Catholic competitors in the Mediterranean, and that's Story's spiritual home. It's the absolute polar opposite of an Italian trattoria knocking out spaghetti puttanesca and carbonara. Indeed, in the very final course, one of the porridge dishes is deliberately served too salty – possibly a first for sackcloth and ashes dining. Throughout the menu it is impossible to find a dish that could remotely be described as an indulgence; often there were sour or bitter flavours. The most prominent use of fat in the meal – in the bread & dripping – came in a form reminiscent of the poorhouse.
This is not to say that the meal was bad and in fact it was pleasingly inventive. But often its greatest interest was as an intellectual exercise – for example, “I wonder whether strawberry and mackerel go together?” (answer: “not really”).
The menu seemed to me very heavily influenced by Simon Rogan, in terms of the appearance of the food, the starring roles for humble vegetables and the preference for typically British ingredients. But unlike Rogan, who I consider a demigod, here there were misfires in both presentation (burnt onions came in ungainly wide slivers rolling around on the plate) and flavours (a few garnishes had no taste at all).
The room is nice but not luxurious. Staff were keen and friendly but I was a bit put out not to get any reaction when I brought along a 40-year-old Penguin paperback. (You are encouraged to bring a book to ‘spread the story’ or somesuch – if you're going to run a gimmick, at least give a pat on the head to the diners who play along.) Value for money was good – our ten course meal was £65 – but you're not getting the same mind-bendingly original technique as at, say, Rogan's Manchester outlet where the long tasting menu doesn't cost much more.
Would I return? Paul Hood of Social Eating House recently sounded off about “young chefs who try to run before they can walk”. I do wonder if he had Story in mind. But the chef Tom Sellers is obviously an ambitious, talented and above all creative bloke – so there's no cause for excommunication, and I hope in time to give it another try.