A meal at Restaurant Story, SE1
Apparently Restaurant Story has been the hot topic across blogs, online magazines and the likes since it opened last year. I had not read much, I confess, not interested in the hype for some obscure reason (as I usually am) and only reading one of my favourite bloggers’ post and my idol food critic’s piece.
I wasn’t thus entirely sure what to expect upon our visit, booked without too much hassle, (any at all in fact) a month prior. I knew about the beef dripping, and about the book thing. I knew it was a tasting menu and I knew Tom Sellers is young and talented but that was about it.
We were figuratively swept off our feet as soon as we sat down with an incredible series of mouthwatering amuse bouche. The bouche was certainly amused, my friend and I giggling in delight and not even able to keep up with the waiting staff’ descriptions of each of them.. we counted 9, with some absolutely exceptional. My favourite was probably the first: crispy cod skin with cod roe emulsion, those tiny droplets of emulsion so precisely spaced out on the crispy skin it looked like something done in Photoshop. The most intense was the leek and potato which, albeit a bit too oily, was bursting with bold flavours in its dipping bowl.
The first official course arrived and that was the famed and famous beef dripping. It is visually effective… Spoiler alert! It’s a proper candle and it’s properly dripping and you just dip the lovely bread rolls in it. Simple but very effective and romantic too – who knew beef tallow could be romantic?
We then were served a Burnt onion dish, different textures and cooking types of onion and a clear and subtle gin dressing, unusual, interesting, and very pleasant. Swiftly followed Heritage potato, turnip and coal, well yes ‘just mash’, but one of the nicest you can have, with a little cute pickled turnip and coal oil. While it looked like a diesel spill on the plate, it was mildly smoky, dense and really delicious with the soft mash and crunch of the root veggie.
The only meat dish of the evening was next. Grains, beef, watercress and sloe was just phenomenal: tender, succulent slice of beef, lightly grilled with fresh watercress and a watercress cream which was beautifully bitter, on a bed of pearl barley and deep fried quinoa. Truly splendid.
At this point Jon, our maitre (and a nice surprise for me, having met him a Roganic two years ago) swiftly sold us an extra cheese course (which we shared, and I am glad we did it was so huge). A brie de meaux and (not very strong) British truffle sandwich with a chutney made with loads of stuff (sloe, damson, amongst others) that went really well with the creamy cheese and had a beautiful deep purple-red colour. And then, after such a hefty dish, one of my favourite thing of the evening arrived.
A pre dessert, or rather a palate cleanser, of rapeseed ice cream, rapeseed oil and sea buckthorn snow. Bizarre, sour and mellow at the same time, with pretty yellow and orange hues on the place, it was surprising and delicious.
Then, our first dessert. Another stunning dish, with more snow (this time dill) and more ice cream (almond) with an almond cream base and dill oil, and some hidden edible flowers, hidden by tiny crumbs which provided texture to a stunning dish., The sweet milkiness of the almond, the cold and herby dill, I devoured it.
By now we were at our.. ‘not sure, lost count’ plate of food yet we felt none of the expected stuffiness one feels when it’s course after course.
More comparison with the now closed Roganic, as this is an incredibly delicate way of producing stunning food. The next and final dessert was just bonkers, and I was laughing while eating it. Pear, artichoke and verbena. We’re not sure if it was verbena (as per menu) or lemon balm (as per waiter’s intro) but who cares. It was pure oddity, but it was astonishing.. I was actually tasting jerusalem artichoke, jerusalem artichoke ice cream with pear and I loved it. I was amazed!
After such a whirlwind of a meal, I ordered a calming mint tea and there we got the petit fours. I saw the cute milk bottle with a straw and thought to myself “these people are crazy, no way I am drinking a rhubarb, custard and yogurt shake now”! Lo and behold I did, with all the pleasure of a hot summer’s day, drinking a beautifully smooth, cold and refreshing milky drink, with sour and intense rhubarb, ethereal custard and cool yogurt. We slurped our way through the bottle and proceeded to a melt in your mouth, rose flavoured tea cake.
And it was over. What an experience. We laughed, and I remembered the Fat Duck. We tasted nature, and I remembered Roganic. We marvelled at the colours and I remembered Tom Aikens. Comparisons come to mind for sure yet Story is unique – it’s fun but not too serious. The kitchen is in sight behind glass windows and noisy: you can hear the chefs shouting in unison. It made me think of a pirate’s ship and the sailors pushing full sail ahead and shouting ‘aye’ to their captain. The service is super efficient but not formal and the opposite of intimidating. You almost don’t notice them coming – but they come fast and furious to serve you a meal that will make you buzz for hours after.