Add: 199 Tooley Street, London SE1 2JX
Tel: +44 020 7183 2117
Hours: [lunch] Tue-Sat 12pm-2pm; [dinner] Tue-Thur 6:30pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 6pm-9pm
Price: [lunch] £39 4-course set lunch, £80/7 courses [dinner] £75/7 courses, £100/11 courses
Visited: December 2015
Restaurant Story is a relative newcomer on the London dining scene, but a very powerful one. It opened in April 2013, and got its first Michelin star within 5 months. Situated on a quaint and charming traffic island garden near Tower Bridge, it tells a uniquely British story through its food.
I was lucky enough to snatch a highly-coveted table two days before my trip to London. The decor was neat, chic, and inviting. Interestingly, each table has a copy of Charles Dickens’ Complete Works in the center—which, I suppose, is the quintessential representation of the British “story”.
For lunch, Story offers a £39 4-course set, and a £80 7-course tasting menu called “full story”. We went for the full story, which lasted over three hours. The service was attentive and professional, but not very formal, echoing the decor. The staff would explain the many components in each dish as it was served, although a couple of times I had a hard time catching all the components.
Before the actual menu started, we were served six amuse-bouches.
Crispy cod skin, smoked cod roe mousse “carrots”
Salty, crispy and smooth, the first bite woke up the palette immediately.
“Storeo” cookies: squid ink cookie, smoked eel mousse
An interesting play on Oreo cookies. At first taste, this course was less flavorsome than the cod skin, but the textural contrast between the crispy cookie and the smooth mousse was striking. After it melted in my mouth, a subtle smokiness lingered.
Rabbit fingers, pickled carrots, tarragon
The rabbit tasted rather strongly of star anise and was slightly dry.
Black pudding, fresh pineapple, roasted pineapple purée
I had actually never had black pudding before, so I was a bit apprehensive biting into this. The black pudding turned out to be quite light. The tangy fresh pineapple and the richer purée complemented the black pudding nicely.
Rock oysters, champagne vinaigrette, sorrel
A fabulous course. The punchy and acidic brightness was followed by the fresh ocean flavor and the contrast between the smoothness of the oyster and the crunchiness of the ice.
Before the next course is served, a waitress placed a candle on our table, and left without a word. What’s the story here?
The final amuse-bouche: Pumpkin soup, braised oxtail, poached quail egg
This very seasonal dish was quite lovely. A surprising tanginess cut through the richness of the pumpkin soup, oxtail, and poached quail egg. And the pumpkin seeds at the bottom contrasted beautifully against the otherwise creamy texture.
The amuse-bouches left us both satisfied and expectant. And then, finally, came the first course.
Bread and dripping: sourdough, ox fat, beef extract, veal tongue and pickled celeriac, celery and grapes
It turned out that the candle was made of ox fat, which would drip into the dish below as it melted—hence the name of this course. The waitress suggested that we put the beef extract in the melted ox fat, dip the bread in it, and eat it with the pickle.
The beef fat dripping looked intriguing, yet the flavor wasn’t all that special. But the beef extract was remarkably flavorsome, with an umami rarely found in western cuisine. The pickled celeriac was tangy and crunchy, and the veal tongue melted in my mouth. The sourdough was slightly warm, and the fragrance of the black sesame seeds in it bordered on overpowering, but remained, I thought, on the right side.
Onion, apple and old tom: caramelized onion, burnt onion shell, braised baby onion, onion crisp, apple consommé dressing with gin and lemon and thyme oil
This was, sadly, my least favorite course in the meal. I found the onion and gin too strong and pungent for me. Although, I should probably mention that I hardly ever drink anything stronger than wine… Also, the onion “crisp” on top actually turned out to be the least crispy item on the plate.
Scallops, cucumber and dill ash: elderflower-marinated scallops, fresh cucumber, cucumber rolled in dill ash, dill vinaigrette
I chose this dish because I was intrigued by the sound of dill ash. It turned out that this was Story’s signature dish. The scallops were marinated in elderflower vinaigrette for over 20 hours. There were two plays on cucumber and dill: fresh cucumber and dill, as well as cucumber rolled in dill ash. The dill ash was fragrant, though barely more so than the fresh dill on top of the green cucumber ball next to it. However, it did add a subtle bitterness and an almost powdery texture, which was quite intriguing. The scallops were tender and very sweet.
A little off-the-menu surprise: Brioche, dill-pickled cucumber, butter with cucumber and black truffle gel center
This was one of my favorite things in the meal. The brioche was warm, rich, fluffy and very delicious. But what was truly amazing was the butter. As the little card explained, the butter was high in butter fat, making it richer than any other butter I’ve tasted. The cucumber and black truffle gel in the center was incredibly fragrant. All these amazing flavors were lifted by the subtle saltiness of the pink Himalayan salt on top. Ridiculously good!
White truffle and chestnut: tortellini, chestnut purée, roasted chestnut, shaved chestnut, chestnut foam, white truffle oil and white truffle
The first thing I tasted was the fragrant white truffle. However, it was far from overpowering, and the rich chestnut flavor came through boldly. The four variations of chestnut each offered something different—the purée smooth and slightly bitter, the shaved raw chestnut crunchy and a little punchy, the roasted chestnut rich, and the chestnut foam light. All the components together made for a rich, flavorsome and balanced dish.
Fallow deer, yeast and dandelion: fallow deer meatball, shoulder and chestnut samosa, loin, fried belly, cauliflower purée, dandelion sauce
Another one of Story’s signature dishes. The meatball was fragrant, but not particularly flavorsome. The samosa was rich and very tasty. The loin, which was cooked in a water bath, was gamey, succulent and incredibly tender. The fried belly, topped with some nuts, was flavorsome and very delicious. The purée on the side had a rich and pure cauliflower flavor, but was rather light at the same time. The sauce tasted quite nice, though I wasn’t exactly sure what dandelion was supposed to taste like even after I had finished the dish.
A much-needed palette cleanser: Lemon snow, lemon curd, lemon parfait, milk ice-cream, crisp, candied lemon skin
This was an amazing symphony of acidity and sweetness—the lemon snow was extremely acidic, the lemon curd lemony and a bit less acidic, the lemon parfait a little sweet, the milk ice-cream sweet and rich, the white crisp on top somewhat sugary, and the candied lemon rind sweet yet slightly bitter. It did indeed clean our palettes wonderfully, and made us quite forget the main course.
Pumpkin, burnt clementine and cardamon: pumpkin sorbet, candied carrot, clementine, crème fraiche, pumpkin seeds, caramel and crisp
This first dessert tasted a bit too light for me, especially since it came right after the palette cleanser. That said, the pumpkin sorbet was seasonal and worked surprisingly well. The textures in the dish were also quite interesting, with different kinds of crunchiness coming from the candied carrots, the pumpkin seeds, the little crisp and the shard of caramel. All these distinctive flavors and textures came together to create a rather unique dish.
Almond and dill: almond sorbet, almond cream, almond crumble, toasted almond, dill ice, dill oil, edible flowers
This second dessert was served with a very simple explanation: “Everything white is almond. Everything green is dill.” And we were left to our own devices trying to figure out the actual components in this dish. It turned out that the almond part was almond sorbet, almond cream, almond crumble, as well as some slices of toasted almonds. The dill side of the dish consisted of dill ice and dill oil. The strong flavors of almond and dill were complemented beautifully by the slight saltiness in the almond cream, the butteriness of the almond crumble, and the bitterness of the edible flowers, which was the only component on the plate that was neither white nor green. A very smart and innovative dish, and a worthy ending for this incredible story.
It was interesting to me how Story managed to effortlessly weave several themes—dill, pumpkin, and chestnut—not just throughout individual courses, but throughout the entire meal. This definitely lent itself to creating a coherent narrative for the story. Kudos to chef Tom Sellers!
Finally, petit-fours: Rose and marshmallow tea cakes. A satisfying epilogue for a very, very long meal.