Now this may well be the best story you will ever read. Getting a table at this restaurant is like spotting a leopard on safari. Ever so rare, but definitely worth the perseverance. So call up and book the next available table immediately and whilst you wait out those months, you’ll just have to make do with this…
Tom Sellers opened Story, his first restaurant, in 2013 when he was only 26. Within just five months he was awarded a Michelin star, which he has easily retained ever since. If this isn’t impressive enough, Tom also has a pretty amazing CV. Before opening Story, Tom worked at a whole host of Michelin starred restaurants; Trinity in London, Per Se in New York and Noma in Copenhagen. I think we can safely say that this guy knows how to whip up a good meal. Have you booked your table yet?!
With its exposed wood, floor-to-ceiling windows and modern furnishings, the decor at this Bermondsey restaurant was clearly inspired by Tom’s time in Copenhagen. The log-burning stove makes it cosy and inviting, even on the dreary winter’s afternoon when we went along for lunch.
The signature dishes are all inspired by Tom’s childhood memories and the history of British food. At Story, Tom seeks to tell a tale through the food he serves. There are bookcases stuffed with books, books on the table and you are encouraged to take your own book along, write a note inside and leave it at the restaurant. It’s Tom’s way of encouraging you to share your story with him.
We arrived, chilly and soggy, and were shown to a lovely window seat. There’s nothing “stuffy” about Story, which is still quite an achievement for a Michelin starred restaurant these days. There are no crispy white tablecloths, no snotty waiters or hushed voices. It’s relaxed and friendly. With the log burner kicking out plenty of heat and a couple of drinks ordered, we started to warm up and settle in.
Mr Kelly ordered his signature drink, an Old Fashioned, and I ordered a glass of sparkling English wine. I’ve used to always go for champagne when I wanted a fizzy treat but, out of curiosity, I recently tried the English version and fell in love. It’s just something a bit different. At Story they we serving the 2010 Nyetimber Classic Cuvée from West Sussex, which was delicious.
At the same time as bringing my glass of bubbly over, the waiter placed a book and a glass down in front of Mr Kelly and told him it was “definitely worth a read”. After about five minutes of waiting for his drink to arrive and getting a little bit tetchy, the waiter came over and told Mr Kelly that it really was worth at least having a look at that book…
Hidden inside was a hip flask containing, what I’m told was, an exceptional Old Fashioned. That was just Tom’s first trick…
Now to the food…
The menu is slightly cryptic but we threw ourselves in and went for the “Full Story”. Given we’d had to wait six months for this table, I wasn’t about to do anything by halves and so we also threw in one portion of the optional truffle dish.
First up: Snacks.
Crispy cod skins with dots of smoked cod roe emulsion, carrot tops and gin botanicals…
Savoury oreos made up of squid ink biscuits sandwiched together with smoked eel mouse and dusted with vinegar powder…
Crispy pillows decorated with caviar…
A variety of sausages topped with homemade relish…
The showstopper snack – the “rabbit sandwiches”. Lightly-fried rabbit croquettes, topped with tarragon emulsion and slices of different carrot, pickled in bergamot and served on a bed of moss. A truly amazing melt-in-your-mouth nibble!
A delicious velouté adorned with a crispy wafer, squid ink mouse and edible flowers…
And that was just the snacks! Edible art at its best.
We ordered a bottle of red for our next few chapters. Unlike most Michelin-starred restaurants, there were a number of affordable wines and we were very happy with our bottle at just under £30. Mr Kelly could start to relax…
Then it was time for Chapter One: Childhood.
Bread and dripping. The candle, placed on our table when we arrived, was made from beef tallow and had slowly been melting into a delicious puddle. It was just begging to be soaked up with the fresh sourdough that appeared, nestled in a leather pouch, along with little jars of homemade beef extract and celery relish.
Onion and gin. A perfect medley of burnt, raw and caramelised onions with a gin and apple dressing.
Chapter Three: Sea.
Razor clams. A taste of the ocean appeared with billows of smoke trailing behind it. Balancing on top of a stack of shells and seaweed were two razor clams, decorated with crisp barley and champagne snow.
Scallops. Perfectly cooked, served with a dill vinaigrette, horseradish cream and cucumber rolled in dill ash.
Next up was a very pleasant surprise. A soft and still-warm-from-the-oven brioche bun, served with a pickled cucumber jelly and a layered butter infused with black truffle, foie gras and parsley. My mouth is watering just thinking back to this one.
Slathered over steaming hot brioche, that butter really was a taste of heaven. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Then it was time for our optional course. A rich truffle risotto made with grains of celeriac and topped with a plethora of fresh white truffle shavings. Something completely unique and absolutely delicious. With its intense truffle flavour, it was incredibly rich and we definitely only needed the one portion.
Once again, I had made the fatal error I I always made in restaurants like this. I had fallen, very happily, into the bread trap. Every time we go out for dinner Mr Kelly always warns me about this one but I never learn. I just love fresh bread! Stuffed with sourdough and brioche I needed a little pause before our next chapter.
Chapter Three: Land.
Potato and coal. The tastiest dollop of buttery mashed potato you will ever eat, topped with wafer thin slices of radish, coal oil and…oh yes…more butter.
Venison done three ways. That crispy little parcel of venison confit will stick in my mind for years.
Then there was another little surprise, a zingy palate cleanser. Milk ice cream with lemon curd, lemon verbena and lemon snow.
The last chapter. Chapter Four: The End.
Almond and dill. A scoop of creamy almond ice cream, almond snow and fresh dill snow.
Wow, wow and wow. If someone had said to me that I would leave Story loving dill snow I would never have believed it.
Mr Kelly ordered a Turkish coffee to finish things off, which came as thick as treacle, just as he likes it.
And it was a peppermint tea for me.
From edible candles to champagne snow, we loved every page of Tom’s story. It was a completely unique experience and every dish that came out of the kitchen elicited “oooooohs” and “ahhhhhhs” from us and the fellow diners.
Tom – you’re a pretty impressive guy with a hell of a story.