Restaurant Story

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The rapid succession of small, artfully crafted dishes at this Bermondsey outpost of modernist cuisine is playful, but the artistry’s not mere gimmickry.

By Guy Dimond

The anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, best known for his book ‘The Raw and the Cooked’, made the observation that our food needs to be more than just ‘good to eat’ – i.e. safe, tastes okay, and feeds us – but also has to be ‘good to think’. By this he meant we had to enjoy and appreciate the story, the ‘meaning’ behind it. That is why we value the vegetables we grew ourselves more than those from a supermarket, and why we pay more for organic meat from a farmer whose story we trust, than we do for a similar food product from a faceless corporation.

Tom Sellers understands the value of a good story. His CV includes years (not just weeks) working at Noma, Per Se and Tom Aikens, though that in itself isn’t unusual in the world of fine dining. But this 26-year-old tattooed chef’s tale includes a few London pop-ups and guest appearances before he has finally put down roots at this purpose-built restaurant in Bermondsey, where a Victorian toilet block once stood.

Sellers’s time in Copenhagen has clearly had a big influence: the sparse and natural wood interior looks Scandinavian. But more than that, the menu shows strong New Nordic influence, with other styles that can broadly be called modernist. Think along the lines of Dabbous, Aikens, even Blumenthal, and you’d be on the right track.

The rapid succession of small dishes is playful, evoking childhood memories. The ‘bread and dripping’ is a loaf served with a lit candle made of beef dripping; as the tallow melts, you dip the bread as if it’s melted butter. Tiny ‘milk bottles’, served in a dolls’-house milk crate, contain a dessert of rhubarb, custard, and a hit of sherbet at the bottom, eaten through striped straws. A second dessert of ‘three bears porridge’ has one too sweet, one too salty, and one just right.

The artistry’s not mere gimmickry. Raw scallop is sashimi-grade, cleverly paired with the charcoal-like tang of dill-scented cucumber ash rolled around balls of fresh cucumber. ‘Burnt onion’ – actually more caramelised on one side – has a juniper-sharp gin dressing poured over it. There are three tiny, beautifully crafted  appetisers, comprising bright nasturtium petals, crisp cod skin and rabbit presented like tiny fish fingers.

This Story likes to play, but both wine list and service needs more gravitas when such weighty prices are charged. One of our glasses of wine smelled corked. Our sommelier argued that it couldn’t be corked, on the grounds that he couldn’t smell it (though we definitely could). But this left the only bad aftertaste in what had otherwise been a magical meal.

NB we were told that bookings are being taken one month ahead; in May, you’ll be able to book for June, and so on.

Venue name: Restaurant Story
Contact:
Address: 201 Tooley St
London
SE1 2UE
Opening hours: Lunch served noon-4.30pm, dinner served 6.30pm-midnight Tue-Sat
Transport: Tube: London Bridge
Price: Set meal £45 6 courses, £65 10 courses

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:1
LiveReviews|3
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Maria London

OK. I am a foodie and my expectations were high. And I was not impressed. The place is overpriced and the food is very average. We had the 6 courses which mainly consisted of onions, potatoes, pumpkin and celeriac. All very inexpensive ingredients... To charge £55 for a set meal of the cheapest ingredients seems a bit, well, ambitious. Of the six courses there was only one which included meat or fish. Bread was considered a course of its own which I found unusual. The amuse bouche were so unspectacular, I can't even remember them. I can't give them more than one star out of five for their food. They are also trying too hard which really got on my nerves. The pot with a duck which was steamed over hay and herbs and some other stuff was presented to us at the table in its oven dish. I guess this was supposed to impress us or enhance our dining experience but we just found it hilarious. OK the chef is 27 or something but this place is so far away from the wonderful Viajante or the ever impressive Chez Bruce as London is from Tokyo. Won't go again.

AM

Went for dinner here with friends. It is a beautiful restaurant, great wine selection and some of the courses on the tasting menu were really excellent - like the lemon dessert. However a few items were just not up to scratch. The real issue here is that unlike most tasting menu's in London the portion size is just not adequate - at £75pp not including drinks or service it is such a shame you leave hungry. Slightly larger portions and a few more hit dishes and it would have got more stars!