Restaurant Story, 201 Tooley Street, London SE1

 

Can you judge a book by its cover? Not in the case of Story, the white-hot new restaurant housed in what looks like a garden centre on a traffic island just south of the Thames in Bermondsey.

During opening week, the here-be-dragons territory at the scruffier end of Tower Bridge rang to the keening of disoriented restaurant critics and bloggers, whose desperate attempts to be first through the doors of Story were endangered by their inability to find it.

So why have foodish early-adopters got so frothed up about this new kid on the block? (Or, actually, toilet block – the garden centre has risen on the site of a demolished Victorian public convenience.) Because Story's young chef, Tom Sellers, is a rising star, with a CV that reads like a directory of the world's best restaurants: he trained with Tom Aikens and went on to work at Per Se, Noma and with Adam Byatt of Trinity.

Sellers is clearly a cerebral sort of chap, given to galvanising his staff with daily-changing mantras. His mission statement here is "to inspire people to take their own journeys – creating stories not just of food, but of everything that has played significance and holds a memory". Story's website encourages diners to bring a book, and leave it behind to "evoke inspiration in others". In short, if you could slap a restaurant in the face, it would be this one. But hold hard. It sounds pretentious, hell it is pretentious. But Story is a lot more fun than it sounds.

Lunch was a thrill-a-minute experience. A succession of showstopping dishes began with a couple of insanely delicious pre-starters. First a wafer of translucent cod skin, dusted with 'gin botanicals' (powdered juniper berries) and dotted with whipped cod roe. Then a rabbit 'sandwich', a crisp, breaded parcel containing a superb, rillette-like confit of shredded meat.

Bread, a dense apple-based sourdough, came to the table in a leather pouch, possibly a repurposed book-cover. But it's what comes with the bread that's the story – an edible candle, made from beef dripping which melts into a dippable pool as it's heated by the flame. It's a dish that has got more newspaper coverage than Labour's deficit reduction plan, and it sets the tone for a meal which is designed to be talked about, as well as enjoyed.

Take the fairytale-ish dessert, cutely titled 'Three bears porridge'. A trio of distinctively flavoured oatmeals; one sweet, one salty, one 'just right'. It sounds ludicrous, but it left us grinning like kids. Sellers, like Heston Blumenthal, loves to play around with all that childhood stuff. And though his food is tricked up in modernist trappings, under the flowers, leaves and dustings of ash or yeast, there's a real precision to his flavour combinations, with bursts of acidity and sourness punching through.

Raw scallops, marinated in meadowsweet to leave them with a succulent milky texture, came with balls of cucumber rolled in dill ash, and oils which melted together like a psychedelic light show. More substantial, and the most satisfying dish of the meal, was a meltingly soft hunk of beef cheek cooked in hay, served with roasted cauliflower and stout sauce.

The trio of sweet dishes that closed our meal offered pure fun. First, mini milk bottles containing layers of rhubarb compote, custard and foamed egg-white, to be slurped up through candy-striped straws. Then the Goldilocks porridge combo. And, finally, a Tunnock's-like teacake, the marshmallow flavoured with rosewater.

Service is rat-a-tat-tat, with dishes coming out every few minutes, leaving our table-talk with more dangling narratives than Cloud Atlas. And there's the rub. As a food experience, Story is amazing. As a restaurant experience, it's… tricky. Story is not the place to go for a comfortable night out. It's certainly not a place to take your elderly parents, unless they happen to be modernist architects who enjoy eating ash and petals.

The plain, Nordic-styled room, with its enormous picture window filled with a view of the Shard, is not a relaxing environment. Chefs and waiters outnumber diners by a factor of 2:1. It was apparently without irony that our menu came to the table folded into a handsome old copy of A Tale of Two Cities; apt as we sat deliberating between a six or 10-course tasting menu, under the curious gaze of bemused passing locals.

Still, Sellers is a serious talent, and his achievement in launching a restaurant this fine at the age of 26 is worth celebrating. Like a good book, Restaurant Story left me feeling stimulated, satisfied, and wanting to tell my friends about it. It also left me with a suspicion that, much as I'd enjoyed it, I would probably never need to return.

Food *****
Ambience ***
Service ****

Restaurant Story, 201 Tooley Street London SE1 (020-7183 2117). Six courses £45, 12 courses £65, before wine and service

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering