Restaurant Review: Restaurant Story, Tooley St in London
Every January, one of the things I look most forward to is being able to try a new restaurant for my birthday dinner. I’ve had a great track record so far with restaurants like The Ninth and Portland gaining Michelin stars after I celebrated my birthday with them, so I’d like to think that I bring a little bit of luck each time. However, luck was not required for the restaurant I decided on for my 30th birthday dinner this year.
Restaurant Story was opened by rock star chef Tom Sellers when he was 26. Five months after, he received a Michelin star and has held onto it for the past five years. “[My food is] intelligent and product-driven,” Sellers tells me. “I like my cooking to have a narrative behind it.” After scouring through different restaurants, I was drawn to Restaurant Story’s dynamic tasting menu-only concept that celebrates British cuisine in a way that hasn’t been seen before.
Upon arriving at our table, I was greeted by an envelope with my name on it. Inside was a lovely letter from Chef Sellers and his team greeting me a happy birthday and thanking me for choosing to spend my evening with them. We would soon find out that this attention to detail and personal touch would be a common trend throughout our visit.
Guests are not presented with a menu on arrival; you are asked for your likes and dislikes and a parade of plates composed of classic Story dishes and new seasonal creations will be brought out for you. Our 11-course menu for the evening consisted of:
- An array of snacks
- Platinum caviar and golden beetroot
- Snail ravioli
- Bread and dripping
- Lobster, leek, and horseradish
- White truffles and celeriac
- Pollock, umami and squid
- Oscietra caviar, veal sweetbread, and turnip
- Venison, cauliflower, and yeast
- Paddington bear
- Lemon sherbet
- Almond and dill
My fiancé and I agreed that it was some of the best food and service we had ever experienced. The service was top-notch, the sommelier was approachable, and the passion of the entire team was evident with every interaction. The menu takes you on a journey, with each succeeding course taking over where the previous had left off. Naturally, we asked each other which dish was our favourite. However, once we thought we had made a choice, a new plate would arrive, bringing with it new flavour combinations presented in the most thoughtful and intelligent way.
One standout dish was the famous bread and beef dripping. A candle is brought to the table and lit by the server. We are then told that the candle is in fact made out of beef fat and we are to dip the sourdough bread into the dish that catches the drippings. The additional condiments provide both texture and balance to the rich flavours and make for a fun and delicious experience.
“I was at my family home in the kitchen on a Sunday, thinking about life. There was a candle lit on the table and it was dripping. My father used to eat dripping every Sunday, and as I watched the candle dripping, the idea came to me,” Sellers explained.
We were also lucky that the last of the restaurant’s white Alba truffles was on offer during our dinner. We immediately agreed to adding an extra course to our menu and were not disappointed when a white truffle “risotto” was delivered to our table. Celeriac was prepared to mimic the traditional Arborio rice with the shaved white truffles acting as the perfect complement. The result was a luxurious and tasty plate that fully respected the ingredients in the best possible way.
As one who does not have a big sweet tooth, I was delighted to find out that our meal was capped off with some of the most intriguing and exquisite desserts I’d ever had. The ode to Paddington Bear referred to a cardamom-scented pain perdu with clementine marmalade topped with shavings of foie.
The mix of savoury and sweet is exactly the type of contrast I like in my desserts. The almond and dill course was one that perhaps encapsulated the ethos of Restaurant Story the most: the combination of almond ice cream, almond crumble, and dill snow should not make sense, but it does. It was a perplexingly delectable dish that kept changing with every bite.
Just like our meal, Restaurant Story is a journey that needs to be experienced first-hand. It will surprise, challenge, and enlighten you. It will show you British food through a new lens. It will walk you through the pages of a young chef’s life and invite you to contribute to the chapters to come.
Address: 199 Tooley St, London SE1 2JX
Phone: 020 7183 2117
Click here for Ina’s exclusive interview with Tom Sellers