Young, et al.
Age, in my opinion, is an arbitrary factor. Chef Tom Sellars is young. He is, to be specific, 26 years old and is now heading the reportedly exciting kitchen of Restaurant Story. When Tom turns 30, the age factor will hopefully have been dropped (by PR and the chef himself) and the more contemplative talk about his creative gastronomic identity will surface. I am 28 years old. I eat around. And when I turn 30, I will definitely not let anybody talk about my age. I might also have accumulated an experience of taste that turns me into a snob and exempts me from enjoying ordinary innovations. And this is my concern about recommending Restaurant Story – an experience of taste on diners’ part.
Let’s begin. I liked the look of Restaurant Story. Most efficiently, it utilizes its location, which was once a public loo, to emulate the grand view of the Shard. Two tasting menus – a £45 six-course and a £65 ten-course – are being operated. Like the design of the restaurant, the dishes are precise and appealing to the eyes. The taste, however, needed work and the majority of my 6-course menu were derivatives from more mature restaurants elsewhere. In other words, if you have pretty much been there and eaten that, you might not find this retold Story a revelation of taste or innovation.
My 6-course menu kicked off with a parade of amuse. Nasturtium Flower was piped with greenish oyster emulsion. The proportion was wrong and the taste was indiscernibly peppery. The very light Cod Skin with benignly creamy cod emulsion was not so cloddish and exhibited skills. The potential can also be tasted in fried Rabbit Sandwich, which married the warm rilettes-like savouriness with colourful pickled carrot discs. The tarragon note was subtle. Moving on to the beef wax that was shaped into the candle, I became less impressed. While the idea – of lighting a beefy candle and letting it melt to become dipping oil for the bread – was fun, the actual experience of sitting through a beef fat candle dribbling, smelling profusely but unpleasantly, and congealing countered the enjoyment of what that followed. The crusty bread to sponge up the fat, though freshly baked, was uneven in texture and at times stodgy. To go with the bread, I was also given another side of veal tongue with apple and celery. The latter ingredient dominated the dish. Burnt Onion was served with gin, apple and thyme. In my opinion, to create a spectacular dish of humble-sounding ingredients, you need to ensure premium quality of humbleness that subverts diners’ perceptions. In this case, my onion – tender and nicely caramelised – still tasted just like any onion. The gin broth verged on being very boozy, and this unbalanced concoction with thyme left the dish with a bitter aftertaste. Scallop, lightly cured in elderflower vinegar, was an alchemical departure from a Noma signature. I found the spring-y crispness of the scallop, achieved by the curing, delightful to the tongue, while the balls of dill-scented cucumber (a few of which were ash-coated) provided refreshing contrast. The horseradish cream, however, was too glue-like and would fare better with dainty lightness. Lamb – sous-vided and seared – did not leave any impression for taste. More worrying was its garnish – best summed up as variation of raw lettuce – that was so rich in chlorophyll it could freak out vegans.
As desserts arrived, there appeared a disparity of *theme* in the meal. While the green-ish, foraged-ish taste dominated the savoury, the desserts were fun-led and less wild. Rhubarb compote was layered with vanilla custard and egg white foam in a school milk bottle. Very Tom Aikens. The consistency was thick and not easy to be sucked through a straw. The layers were also separated in ways that I was unpleasantly hit by the sharp acidity of rhubarb compote before being led into thick lovable lushness of custard. Three Bears Porridge was cute, and at first, *fun* to eat. We were encouraged to try three servings of honey-laced oatmeal porridge and pick whichever tasted “just right”. Unluckily, the fun quickly left the table, as I chanced into the inedible “too salty”, then spooned up the “too sweet” and finally cringed at the “too bloody sweet”. Rose-perfumed teacakes were enjoyably redemptive.
There is potential, still. And I don’t want to write my experience at Restaurant Story off completely. Certain individual components in a few of my dishes are skilfully prepared. As with all start-up restaurants – this being one – they will get better with age. There, too, are wonders that young talented chefs can bring, but at present, from a point of view of a presumably slightly more aged and more experienced diner, I prefer my meal to be more mature in execution and balance.
201 Tooley Street
Tel. 020 7183 2117