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Restaurant Story in London - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 91.
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The tale of Restaurant Story starts in October 2011 when the London Borough of Southwark grants planning permission for the demolition of a former public toilet block on Tooley Street and to rebuild it as a restaurant. The month after, chef Tom Sellers (b. 1987) announces a 2-day pop-up event called 'Foreword' where people can preview the food of his upcoming restaurant. Some 18 months and £2 million later, Restaurant Story opens its doors. 

Nottingham-born Tom Sellers' career started at the early age of 16 when he took a job at a local pub, after he had been expelled from school. He then moved to London to work with Tom Aikens and when he was 18 years old he crossed the Atlantic to train at Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York City. When he returned to London he worked at Adam Byatt's Trinity restaurant in Clapham and before starting his solo-restaurant Tom Sellers also did a stint at Noma in Copenhagen. In September 2013 Restaurant Story was awarded a Michelin star, six months after its opening.

Restaurant Story is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday till Saturday. You can choose between a 6 course (£55) or 10-course (£75) tasting menu. I had lunch with my husband at Restaurant Story on Saturday 7 December 2013 and we both ordered the 10-course tasting menu, plus two extra white truffle courses to share.

First to arrive and was Restaurant Story's famous beef dripping candle, an edible candle that, whilst burning, leaves a delicious pool of beef dripping in the candleholder.

Subsequently a succession of appetizers were served. To start there was a cod crisp with dots of cod roe mayonnaise, sprinkled with crushed juniper berries and carrot tops. This was followed by a courgette flower leaf filled with oyster cream and crisp bread crumbs (no photograph) and a radish with caper butter and Maldon sea salt. Then there was a savoury Oreo cookie with a smoked eel mousse filling and grilled leeks wrapped in crispy potato string served with a herb (tarragon, chives, lovage, parsley) mayonnaise and rapeseed oil. Finally there was a rabbit sandwich, topped with sliced pickled carrot. Six attractively presented appetizers with precise flavours. Particularly liked the Oreo cookie and the rabbit sandwich with its wonderful, moist filling.

At this point some rye bread arrived to mop up the flavoursome beef dripping. The bread was accompanied by a delicious mixture of beef tongue, celery, pickled horseradish and cubes of chicken consommé jelly, a bit like deconstruced brawn. This was also the first course of the tasting menu.

Second course: Onion, apple and Old Tom. Soft, caramelised Roscoff onions, a soft baby onion cooked in stout, an onion crisp and chickweed, served with a dressing of apple consommé, Old Tom gin and lemon thyme. Deliciously sweet and mildly bitter caramelised onions and lovely sharp and bitter notes from the onion cooked in stout. The apple and gin dressing added a nice crisp edge. A lovely and fragrant dish that had a good balance between sweetness and freshness. Well-judged caramelised/burnt flavours too.

Third course: Scallops, cucumber and dill ash. Thinly sliced scallops, marinated in the restaurant's own elderflower vinegar, served with horseradish milk, dill oil, and crunchy cucumber balls, some of which were dipped in dill ash. A dish with beautiful, clean flavours. Creamy and delicate scallops, their natural sweetness and freshness enhanced by the horseradish milk. The dill ash, that had blended in the milk and the oil, delivered a wonderful touch of toast-like warmth. Equally good was the dill oil that had a clean, well-defined flavour.

On to the fourth course: Pig, chicken and langoustine. Gelatinous pig's trotter filled with a moist and flavoursome chicken mousse and tender langoustine, served with a clear pork and langoustine broth and caramelised salsify. The broth had a great depth of flavour and lovely hop-like bitters in the aftertaste. A well-cooked, quite technical dish with balanced flavours.

Fifth course was Heritage potato, turnip and coal. Creamy and soft potato mash made with Apache potatoes, served with two turnip halves and a small puddle of Hollandaise on top and a pitch-black coal oil. The potato mash wasn't too buttery and therefore left enough room for the delicious sweet and nutty flavours of the potatoes to come through. The Hollandaise, made with dandelion vinegar, was quite sharp on its own, but this sharpness was balanced by the coal-infused oil.

Next up was an extra course: Raw beef, apple and white truffle, served in a scooped apple. At the bottom of the apple was a truffle mayonnaise, followed by creamy beef tartare, mixed with small cubes of apple and crispy bacon, topped with a thin layer of jelly, lightly flavoured with apple, and some grated white truffle. A stunning dish, both flavours and presentation.

The sixth course of the tasting menu was Shrimp, brown butter, chestnut and rose. Pink shimps marinated in meadowsweet vinegar, served with slices of crunchy fresh chestnut, rose petals and a langoustine and rapeseed oil. Underneath this all was a delicious brown butter emulsion. The floralness of the the rose petals combined nicely with the shrimps and the brown butter delivered the right amount of warmth to tilt this light and delicate dish.

Main course was Venison, yeast and elderberries. Beautifully cooked saddle of venison, served with a marvellous cauliflower and yeast puree, that had an amazing, long aftertaste. Equally good was the venison, red cabbage and elderberry jus, the latter delivering a nice hint of fruitiness. Also on the plate: chargrilled cabbage, red amaranth, lightly charred wild rice and a small piece of chargrilled cauliflower. A comforting dish, cooked with attention to detail. The meat was perfectly tender, lovely light bitters from the charred vegetables and the elderberries, and the cauliflower puree had a wonderful buttery nuttiness to it.

Before dessert we had an extra cheese course, in this case gorgeous truffled Brie de Meaux, served with crisp raisin toast and a red fruit chutney. Brie and white truffle; what's not to like.

This was followed by a refreshing pre-dessert of rapeseed oil ice cream, sea buckthorn snow and cookie crumble.

First dessert and eighth course: Almond and dill. A refined dessert of almond ice cream, nice and salty almond crumble, accompanied by dill snow and dill oil. A lovely combination of herby and milky flavours, the dill oil adding a nice touch of warmth.

Next up was Prune tea, lovage and milk. Sweet prune compote flavoured with Earl Grey tea, served with milk skin, candied lovage stem, lovage oil and a delicious lovage ice cream that had a nice salty finish. A wonderfully fragrant dessert with well-balanced sweet and salty flavours and I loved the intensity of the lovage ice cream.

Shortly after the tenth course and final dessert arrived: English pear, artichoke and sorrel. Chargrilled pear, served with Jerusalem artichoke ice cream, red sorrel leaves, thinly sliced Jersusalem artichoke and a drizzle of syrup. A light and elegant dessert; the fresh pear combined well with the earthy sweet Jerusalem artichoke.

Plum puree with yoghurt foam

Raspberry coulis and rose meringue tea cakes

To say that restaurant Story and chef Tom Sellers are controversial, almost seems like an understatement. Not everybody is a fan and The Independent even quoted Tom Sellers saying: "The haters spur me on". His food is certainly individualistic and it displays the youthful energy and bravado of an uncompromising chef who knows what he wants. Sellers' creative cuisine employs ingredients and techniques that may seem unusual to some but that are very much en vogue among the small (international) group of young chefs at the vanguard of modern cuisine. The flavour combinations may be risky from time to time, but they work and isn't edgy food what you would expect from a young, talented and ambitious chef? I certainly admired the stylistic unity during the entire menu. The flavours are cool and clean but Sellers makes sure there is no lack of warmth or comfort. This is very digestible food that is not only beautiful to the eye but also very attractive to eat, prepared with great attention to detail by an inspired chef. If I were to stick with the restaurant's narrative theme, I would have to say that the menu was quite a page-turner. But I also couldn't blame Tom Sellers if he occasionally felt a bit like Charlie Chaplin in his film Modern Times....

Posted 16-01-2014


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