Much has been said of late about 26-year-old head chef Tom Sellers’ first restaurant, Story, located on the site of an old public lavatory in Bermondsey. Because of his youth, plus the fact that he has never had any formal training, yet still managed to work at some of the world’s most famous restaurants – Noma, The French Laundry, Tom Aikens – his is a compelling success story of talent and dedication.
Sellers, who calls his approach to cuisine, “intelligent; simplistic in idea but technically sophisticated in execution,” tells us that he made up his mind early on about the name of the restaurant. “I was always going to call it Story,” he says. “I’m interested in the whole narrative side of food, that’s what inspires my creative process and how I see the dining experience.” For Sellers, his role as ‘author’ translates into a desire to create dishes that are evocative; which stir emotions and memories. “Every time you eat, your mind is relating the experience to previous ones you’ve had in the past,” he continues. “I like to think about that when I design my menus.”
“I’m interested in the whole narrative side of food, that’s what inspires my creative process and how I see the dining experience” — Tom Sellers
Nuanced and luxurious, there is a fairy tale element to the many dishes that stream out of Story’s open kitchen, with no shortage of edible flowers, pea shoots, natural greens, delicate whites, and ashy greys adorning the plates. To start, the six and ten-course tasting menus are accompanied by an army of amuse-gueules, each one faultlessly presented and prettier than the last. Crispy cod skin with parsley, a single nasturtium with a yoghurt filament; radishes hollowed out and filled with textured seaweed butter; a split pod with fresh peas sitting alongside ones made of truffle oil; and the much talked about beef-dripping candle, which slowly melts down in its holder, allowing you to sop it up with freshly-baked sourdough. After our senses have been whipped to attention by these starters, we move on to the primary dishes: rich, butter-infused mashed heritage potatoes with broad beans, barley grass and coal-infused oil; delicately burnt onion with apple, gin, and thyme – a spectacular combination of flavours that we still vividly recall to this day; scallops with cucumber and dill ash; and veal with apple, pea shoots, and thyme. For dessert, there is milk ice cream sprinkled with almonds and a sharp dill granita.
“It always starts with the produce,” say Sellers, who learnt many tricks of the trade during his time working abroad, but whose principal dedication is to an expansive notion of British cuisine. “After we get the greatest produce this country has to offer, we then ask ourselves, where does it grow, why does it grow, what climate does it grow in, is there something about the ingredient’s history that is significant? Is there something that relates to me personally? We try to find a story behind it that has meaning.” Following this approach, Sellers has proved an excellent raconteur, and it seems his trajectory as chef has begun in earnest.
Text by Ananda Pellerin
Story is at 201 Tooley Street, London, SE1 2UE.