With just 9 days to go until we re-open our doors to our bigger and better Pantry, a night out in London might not have seemed the best idea timing wise… but that is just what we did and we certainly do not regret it!
My very clever hubby managed to get us a table at Restaurant Story, which has been much anticipated in the foodie world, largely due to it’s head chef Tom Sellers. Tom is only 26, but has a CV that would fill any chef with serious admiration. He has been under the wing of several of mine and Vince’s culinary hero’s from Tom Aitkins, Rene Redzepi and Thomas Keller. In fact one of my first memories of Vince is of him sat by a window in a staff corridor at Loch Fyne in Cambridge reading Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook and thinking ‘he’s a bit sophisticated, he might be the man for me’!
You can and should read all the hype that has pre-ceeded his restaurant opening and the cracking reviews it has received in the few short weeks it has been open. I can not take on the likes of my favourite critics AA Gill and Giles Coren and review our meal dish by dish, because that’s their job and they do the dishes more justice than I ever could.. but I do have a few thoughts on our experience last night that I feel I have to share as a regular punter and as some one who knows how it feels to put yourself out there and open your own business.
Lived up to all the expectation, and as the expectation was so high, this is no mean feat! On the way to the restaurant I declared to Vince that I was starving I hoped the treats start swiftly, and my wish was granted!
Moments after ordering our first drinks the BEEF DRIPPING CANDLE and fresh baked rye sourdough arrived. I had heard about this but was wondering how it was going to work. A perfectly formed candle was lit and as it melted the dripping melted into the silver candle holder ready for dipping our warm bread into, at this point we knew we were in for a good meal!
This was followed by 4 further treats, before we even got onto our 10 course taster menu! Every mouthful from the pre-dinner goodies to the petit fours with our coffee at the end, were just amazing.
The Noma influence was there; where I am used to a fish or meat being centre stage in a dish it wasn’t until our journey home that I realised that only 1 of the 10 dishes had meat (lamb) and two had fish (king scallops and mackerel), it made a refreshing change as I was full and satisfied but not uncomfortable as I often am after over indulging during a meal out!
Vince and I have been lucky enough to sample taster menus in many top restaurants, it is our treat to ourselves for working the hours we do and usually ends up costing the price of a small holiday. At £45 per head for the 6 course and £65 for the 10 course for food at this level, with the amount of effort it takes to get these dishes to table is un-believable.
The Venue and The Man
Restaurant Story lives in a converted public toilet by Tower Bridge, don’t let that put you off, I have heard figures of around £2.5m to convert the building (crikey, well it is London)!
It is a small restaurant that seats around 40 people with an open kitchen, buzzing with a brigade of chefs that also bring dishes out to the table. This also includes Tom himself, who seemed to ensure that he visited EVERY table at some point during their meal. I have never seen this in any restaurant, let alone a fine dining one! This guy has got skillz! To have his team so well trained in the first weeks of opening that he can leave the kitchen and chat to his guests in a relaxed manner during service, is just awe inspiring.
I wanted a sneaky close up picture of the kitchen with the boys at work before we left, so I went around by the bar stealth style (Vince left me to do the dirty work due to my sub 5 foot stature) but I failed and was spotted by the gunvor, who knowing we are in the business offered for me and Vince to have our picture with him and the team, on spinning round with geeky excitement to go and fetch Vince I nearly took a waitress out (most embarrassing behaviour from a 30 + 1 year old) We waited whilst he served a dish to a table and got a sense of the banter and passion that was filling the kitchen.
When he got back, he declared ‘team photo’ and we got to be an honorary part of his brigade for a few seconds! Vince had pointed out a note stuck to the work top, whilst we were waiting for our photo and as we left the kitchen Tom told us to wait whilst he signed it and ripped it off for us. It is that attention to detail, eagerness to please, breakdown the barrier between the chef and the customers that really makes Mr. Sellers and his team stand out.
We left the place ecstatic, and that is no exaggeration. I feel so privileged to have dined at this restaurant within weeks of it opening and to have met this young chef at this stage of career.
Ok so I have got to get back to organising training, orders, menus, builders, carpenters etc but I will do it with a renewed spring in my step due to Tom Sellers and his brilliant Restaurant Story!