I've been keen to secure a table at Story for a long time. I'd seen Tom Sellers demonstrating his special brand of alchemy on the Great British menu and was intrigued to try it for myself. I'd promised a lovely meal as a very belated birthday treat for E, but it ended up being so belated another birthday had gone passed, let's hope Story can make up for it. It's not so easy to score a reservation because it's not a big place and the tasting menus need a bit of commitment. The restaurant resides in a former public toilet and to live up to its name, is lined with books. In fact all the diners are encouraged to leave one behind to add to the continuing story. I decided to leave a little hardback of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. When I first had it read to me on my mother's knee I was so keen to discover what would happen next, I learnt to read so I could find out. And deep down I still hope that one day I'll open a huge wardrobe door and find Narnia.
We didn't read the book but rather poured over the menu. It didn't really give too much of a clue. Each morsel was delivered with an explanation, history, provenance, a story if you will. We were on our seventh miniature dish we tried to fathom where we were on the menu. It was perplexing, was each diminutive course being delivered out of order? Then it was explained that the first three dishes were 'snacks'and then the next three were the ocean, sea and coast. So we were really just beginning. And there were other extras, surprises and additions.
We had a shrimp perched on a cling-filmed bowl with small puffs of smoke sending the occasional plume when you pat the drum-like skin. There was a scallop slowing emerging from a enormous cloud of dry ice. We had bread delivered in a leather pouch illuminated by a candle made of beef dripping and also accompanied by a small pot of beef extract that apparently took six months to make. I can safely say I've never tucked into a candle before. There was a delicate tartar on top of an iceberg, slivers of scallop carppacio, scrummy foie gras topped with a caramelised hat, passion fruit, a flowerpot of brioche, spiced wedge of duck, a medley of onions, smooth mashed potato, pumpkin, nasturtium, zingy passion fruit, cucumber, clementine, squid, turnip, dill ash, apple, endive, oyster nestled in seaweed and numerous other bites, amuse bouches and tidbits. Exhausting!
I didn't photograph all the food and I frankly lost count of what we ate. We starting to feel decidedly full, had eschewed the proffered cheese board (which seemed curiously prosaic amongst all that molecular gastronomy craziness) and were onto the final dessert. We'd had a few pre desserts, the tangy orange-y thing with triangles of sugar and it was now time for "almond and dill". There's something in me that needs part of the dessert to feature chocolate. Call me traditional, but it's true. Not just because this was the furthest from chocolate it could be, it was also sadly awful. The dill was so strong, so pungent and the almond parfait thing just didn't taste nice at all. What a shame to finish on the very worse dish! They were awfully apologetic and tried to redeem themselves by suggesting the chef whip up an alternative, but really we were more than sated anyway. At least there was my craved for chocolate as a final note, a small crisp chocolate shell around a the lightest of marshmallow with a liquid centre of raspberry. That's more like it, not a whiff of verdant dill at all!
It was certainly an intriguing meal, some fabulous bits, some okay and not an entirely happy ending, but all in all an experience. I hadn't seen my dining companion, E, for too, too many years so we had plenty of catching up to do. Story is not the perfect place for such an endeavour as you are really taking part in an immersive piece of dining theatre. You are hearing the lines delivered by the attentive servers constantly, so breaking any conversation whilst you are armed with new cutlery and the next edible chapter. I thought we had two hours slated for our table, but in the end the final page took more than four and a half hours to reach. Somewhat a never-ending story!
I'm not sure if this was the birthday treat I'd envisaged, I think we may need a new culinary tale, but somewhere else, Pollen Street Social perhaps, and not leave it so long this time!