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Harden's survey result
“Take your taste buds on a stimulating journey” when you sample the “truly memorable, eight-course or ten-course tasting menu spanning three to four hours” at Tom Sellers’ “extraordinary” venture, near Tower Bridge; where reporters are “blown away” by the “sensationally presented cuisine prepared with exceptional care and perfect flavours… it’s hard to find enough superlatives”. “Somehow the staff find a way to do fine gastronomy with the fun but without the pomp” contributing to an all-round “quite magical experience”. That’s the majority view anyhow, but ratings are again dragged into the middle ground by a determined minority of refuseniks who find it “an overhyped concept”: “ill-judged and wildly expensive”. STOP PRESS: throughout August and September 2019, Tom and team decamped from London to Cornwall to run ‘Story by the Sea’. At the time of this review, the presumption is that after their return, it’s then back to business as usual in SE1.
“Superb innovation” delivers a series of “sensational dishes” say devotees of Tom Sellers’s acclaimed culinary temple, near Tower Bridge, where between eight and eleven courses of his experimental cuisine are delivered according to the evening’s ‘story’ (with a four-course format at lunch). However, opinions diverged on the experience this year, with doubters who “don’t understand the hype” and who find the concept “confused”, “misjudged”, or “so expensive”. As the survey was concluding it emerged from a big refurb in May 2018, perhaps heralding a more consistent return to form?
“I preferred it to The Fat Duck!” – Tom Sellers’s “edgy, modernist culinary temple”, quirkily situated near Tower Bridge, delivers some of “the most interesting meals ever”, and although its ratings fell just outside London’s Top 5 last year, they picked up considerably again this year (perhaps due to the ending of his Ours consultancy?), and he’s once more “making a decent bid to be the capital’s best restaurant”. “Allow plenty of time for the show” (“as the name hints, everything has a story”) – 12 courses of “experimental” cuisine, “staggeringly executed” and delivered with “real panache”. “It’s not the cosiest of settings, but they do give you a little footstool to put your handbag on.”
The “diversity of the dishes…”, “the incredible work that goes into them…”, the “massively seasonal ingredients…” – Tom Sellers’s “mind-blowing” multi-course epics still win huge acclaim for his “edgy, modernist, Scandi-chic temple”, near Tower Bridge. But ratings dipped here palpably this year. Is it higher prices? Is it the pressure of opening Restaurant Ours? Whatever reason, a disgruntled minority found their meals “gimmicky”, or “ill-conceived”.
|Wine per bottle||£40.00|
Oddly situated on an island site near the south end of Tower Bridge, a singular first solo venture by a young chef who worked with Tom Aikens; it offers dishes as interesting and attractive as we have found in London in recent times, and very charming service too.
It's fortunate that this island-site Borough restaurant, not far from Tower Bridge, has had some good early-days reviews, as it's certainly not a destination that's ever going to make much of a living from its passing pedestrian traffic! And those who do stroll by are hardly likely just to pop in for the entry-level menu - six courses for £45.
The interior of the newly-built structure is similarly a bit of a surprise. It felt a bit like a smart, Scandinavian-style ski-lodge, decorated with bookshelves (complete with artfully disorganised volumes) and G-Plan furniture. We never particularly warmed to this interior, perhaps largely because it seemed to be the sonic equivalent of a black hole - voices often just disappeared, even over distances where this would seem impossible.
The table appointments, however, are all rather charming - in an rough-hewn way - and all seemingly commissioned by the patron, Tom Sellers, himself. You soon learn that that's the nature of things here - the Story is all about Tom Sellers, the still-young chef/patron, who used to work with Tom Aikens.
Like all good stories, the actual meal begins with the arrival of an old fashioned lighted candle. But in this story, you eat it; we won't spoil it for you. And then the amuse-bouches arrive. If your meal is anything like ours, this is the point at which you may begin to believe that this is one story which will have a happy ending. The nibbles are all carefully-crafted, and not at all what they initially seem, such as a sliver of cod skin that's been toasted to the consistency of a cracker. Or there's an Oreo-style number that's actually largely squid's ink. Each item is not just a surprise, but a nice surprise too. And the meal hasn't really begun yet.
What's remarkable is that almost everything that follows similarly twins interesting presentation, often a real delight to the eye, with surprisingly good taste and texture. So often, experimental cooking is code for 'not actually very nice', but here the position is precisely the opposite - everything is very nice. Almost every dish you could eat again. That's rare enough in any multi-course meal, and perhaps even rarer where, as here, the dishes aren't in an entirely known and usual mould. In fact, the only thing we didn't like from six courses was one of the dishes which make up the 'Three Bears' porridge' - pretty much everything else was a triumph.
There are irritations of course. The whole 'story' story can grate. Fortunately, however, even if you really try, you usually can't hear the staff - who are all very charming - presenting their dishes and the, er, stories supposedly behind them. So all you can do anyway is smile and nod. But that's the only obvious problem. This really is a story you don't want to end.
199 Tooley St, London, SE1 2UE
lunch noon - 5 pm, dinner 6.30 pm - 10 pm
Last orders: 9.15 pm