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199 Tooley Street
Tom Sellers gained a reputation as something of an enfant terrible when he opened his first solo venture, Restaurant Story, at the age of 26 in 2013; now he’s re-opened it with a refurb after a six-week closure. The whole place feels more grown-up; the stark Scandinavian look of the glass-walled room (Sellers spent a year at Noma in 2011) has been softened with tablecloths and sculptures, while the rather precious ‘story’ elements, such as guests being asked to bring a book to leave behind, have thankfully been pulped.
There’s no menu as such; guests are asked for any likes or dislikes before a procession of tasting-menu size dishes arrive, although they are likely to include story classics such as ‘Storeos’ – a savoury spin on an Oreo cookie filled with cheese – and Sellers’ signature dish of bread with dripping, in which a beef-fat candle lit at the table melts to become a dipping sauce for sour dough.
But it’s not all about the visual gags. Sublime turbot, Champagne and sea herbs, and chicken with morels and lettuce, bear witness to Sellers’ rock-solid training with some of London’s most famous chefs, while oscietra caviar, veal sweetbread and turnip showcased superb ingredients with every mouthful.
Even diners who have an allergic reaction to tasting menus are likely to be won over by the joy and invention on show here, although what elevated the meal for us from high-end rivals was the relaxed service led by witty and down-to-earth maitr’d Joe Paulinski who, for all his good humour, learnt his trade at the very serious Per Se. All in all, this is a Story that now knows how to put a smile on its customers’ faces, and if you haven’t returned since it first opened, it more than merits a re-visit.
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SquareMeal 3 Stars
199 Tooley Street
Temple Tube Station 368m
Covent Garden Tube Station 471m
Somerset House 66m
Lyceum Theatre 84m
Tues-Sat 12N-5pm 6.30-11.30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 3
Basic bare decor, we had window table lovely view of Shard, concrete floor so no soundproofing which means it can get loud and noisy, attracts quite a young crowd. They start with several ‘snacks’, which kept coming fast and furious while we were still waiting for our wine which eventually came near the end!! After that they were only too fast to replenish our glasses so that we had finished well before the end of our 6 course menu so we had to order an extra glass! Now down to the food. Dishes were hit or miss. Of the ‘snacks’, cod skin – yuk, pretentious, beef dripping candle which I don't get – would much have preferred a nice french butter as the bread was good. Rabbit sandwich – small morsel, beautiful and quite delicous and so was the black pudding if that's your thing (not mine but my husband liked it). We ordered one of the ‘supplement’ dishes – raw beef with truffle – comes to the table in an apple surrounded by smoking ice – stunning. Absolutely delicious, but would suggest ordering one to share just for the theatre of it. Cooking includes some very basic ingredients which are so creatively designed and beautifully executed – onions – amazing, potato superb. Main dish was lamb, 3 small pieces – cheek, belly and loin – exquisite, the best we have ever eaten but the lettuce served alongside was far too bitter for our taste. Desserts… strange yoghurts/ ice creams / bowl cereal… I would have preferred a tarte au citron or a piece of chocolate!! Finally the service. Most waiters knew detail about each course including the cooking processes though unfortunately most of them were almost unintelligable with strong foreign accents and did not seem particularly interested in our comments. Story is like another Dabbous but not in the same league.
Food + drink: 2
I really wanted to love this place, it has had fab reviews ,' the new Heston', ‘ Noma trained’. Unfortunately it was a real earth shattering disappointment, so much so, that i was craving KFC after. Firstly, the location seemed to be in the middle of traffic central in London Bridge. Floor to ceiling windows need a good view, throughout dinner i had to watch white vans, red buses and tourists escaping the unusual tropical downpours recently in London. The ambience was terrible, bright lighting, stark walls, tables too far apart, no buzz at all. The food was novel and beautiful to look at, but it just was not tasty. I felt like i was eating foliage for half the meal. The bread and dripping was novel, but to be honest dipping bread in saturated fat is no fun. We had the never ending tasting menu, which took hours. There was the tartest turnip dish i have ever eaten, so pretty and delicate but so tart. The veal was chewy, complete faux pas in any restaurant. The mackerel was boring and nothing compare to the Ledbury mackerel. The pluses were the desserts which included a lemon crunchy delicious thing and cute chocolate marshmallows and shakes. The 3 bears puddings incited some conversation and tested our palates but again not tasty. There were moments of brilliance but the bottom line was i was not sated, a must in any fine meal.
Food + drink: 4
Lewis Carroll's well known story of the girl who enters a strange unexpected world where she encounters incredible characters through many unbelievable experiences, some more pleasant than others, is very much paralleled in Tom Seller's new restaurant Story. Whatever you think of the food and the decor, it's completely unforgettable.
The actual restaurant is one large room on an island between two roads in Tooley St. The large windows make it bright and light and airy. Simple design means nothing really detracts from the menu and that is definitely the star here. We took the 10 course tasting menu for £65 but before we even ordered, we were given a selection of unusual amuse bouche. The cod skin with roe was interesting, a nasturtium (I wasn't expecting to be eating flowers but why not) with oyster mayonnaise was lovely but the rabbit finger was absolutely exceptional.
That was the prologue and then the first chapter arrived. A beef candle dripping into a dish and sourdough bread. Sitting in a lovely wooden restaurant I was transported to winter in Victorian England. The taste brought out exactly what we imagine that era to be but with a modern twist. Very filling, very moreish, incredibly tasty. From that point on the menu was definitely a range of experiences which were just stunning and theatrical and completely unparalleled. I could have done without the beetroot dish but that's mostly because I hate beetroot and though fresh, this was very beetroot and my mum thought the scallops with cucumber and dill ash were tasteless. Though we both loved the Heritage potato with barley, asparagus and coal oil (not my first experience coal oit – thank you Roganic!) which was just such a beautiful blend of flavours. The 3 bears porridge polarised opinion…I found the one ‘just right’ was very unpleasant – somehow too sharp, so Goldilocks I clearly was not but then they never did say which one was supposed to be ‘just right’ so perhaps I'm still in the running.
It's a long menu but the staff move through it very quickly…in fact at times a little too quickly. Maybe because it was lunch but I'd like them to slow the service down just a tad (first time I've ever said that) and give us a little time to breathe between each course. It's not a restaurant where every dish is a triumph but like Alice, if you want to have an innovtive, theatrical and just a little bit magical experience, then Story is definitely worth a visit.
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