Tom Sellers was expelled from school at 15 and started working in London’s high-end kitchens straight away, learning his trade under Tom Aikens and Adam Byatt. Stints at Per Se in New York and Noma in Copenhagen really broadened his horizons and in 2013 he returned to the UK to open his own restaurant, Story. He achieved instant success, winning a star after only 5 months and being listed in Zagat’s the world’s top 10 hottest restaurants. He is now a darling of the UK culinary world, with successful appearances on the Great British Menu and the opening of a country pub in West Sussex.
Story sits on the site of a Victorian public toilet and the restaurant was built from scratch by space craft architects in a neo-Scandanavian style with plentiful wood and glass. Sellers’ menus are light on description, with “veal, rhubarb and roots” being used to describe a dish with at least twenty components. At lunch you can choose a 3 course “short story” for £35 with an optional cheese course for a bargain extra £4, or it is £85 for the 10 course “full story”, and in the evening you can opt for the full or half story (£65 for 6 courses). I went along last week for the short story lunch menu. We started off with six different pre-starters – these were all very well executed but I do feel sorry for Sellers’ chefs as all the dishes were pretty labour intensive. The highlight of these was crispy cod skin and smoked cod roe with carrot tops which was a perfect blend of salt, smoke and the sea.
I also really enjoyed rabbit sandwich with tarragon cream and pickled carrots: the sharp, almost tart carrots cut through the rich, fatty rabbit and the creamy tarragon stood up very well to the meat. The most theatrical of the pre-starters was scallop dish that was served in the shell and presented at the table with a smothering of dry ice – see below.
After a sharp, fresh razor clam taster and a lovely beetroot, raspberry and horseradish palette cleanser we moved on to the first official course: sourdough with beef dripping and potted beef. This is now pretty famous and is possibly Sellers’ signature dish – he has formed beef dripping into a candle which is lit at your table. You can then soak up the melted beef dripping with the sourdough; I had heard that there were some problems with this dish when it was first introduced and that the candle didn’t always burn properly, but despite burning a bit slowly it worked pretty well for us and was a nice little gimmick. The sourdough was reasonable but not outstanding and certainly not a patch on what Mikael Johnsson serves at Hedone.
My main course was diminutive but perfectly formed – veal loin and sweetbreads with a charred spring onion, rhubarb and turnip. The loin was extremely succulent and worked really well with the crispy charred onion (which was sweet and soft). The onion was probably the star of the dish but the sweetbread gave it a close run – it was covered in onion ash which added bitterness and texture to the rich, fatty, melt in the mouth sweetbread. Rhubarb brought sharpness to the mix and was nice but it wasn’t an essential component of a complex dish with at least ten distinct elements.
Our dessert was truly a triumph – almond ice cream and parfait with powdered almonds and dill. It sounds like a strange combination but it worked perfectly for me – the strong, fresh and slightly sweet dill powder cut through the rest of the dish, lifting up the nutty and creamy notes of all the almond elements. A fantastic end to a remarkable meal.
Verdict: Novel and daring food executed very well 9/10