In a former Victorian toilet block in Bermondsey, the future of London’s dining scene looks bright. Here, at the now glamorously repurposed Story restaurant, twenty-six-year old chef Tom Sellers has succeeded in gaining his first Michelin star, in just five months.
Following a pop-up trial run, Story opened in April and was an instant hit, offering an intriguing tasting menu based around childhood memories and books. Meals here begin with “bread and dripping”, a candle made from beef dripping, and end with “three bears’ porridge”, a trio of sweet and salty oats.
“Being open for such a short amount of time, we didn’t expect anything, and it’s a massive achievement,” Sellers said, the youngest UK chef to be awarded the accolade. “Our industry is notorious for being difficult to keep afloat but we’re making money every month, and business is very good. Michelin is only going to help. It obviously heightens people expectations but it’s our job to deliver.”
Eight other restaurants in London gained their first stars in the Michelin 2014 guide, revealed on Thursday, and like Story, they are all relative newcomers: HKK, Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, Outlaw’s at the Capital, Brasserie Chavot and Soho’s Social Eating House are all less than 12 months old, while Angler, Bo London and Lima have been trading for slightly more than a year. It showed the vibrancy and diversity of a city where five new restaurants open every fortnight; Lima is the first Peruvian restaurant in Europe to win a star.
Head chef at Dinner, Ashley Palmer-Watts, said: “There are so many places of amazing quality and talent in London, it really is becoming the place to eat.” Dinner is open seven days a week, serving nearly 300 people a day: “We’re flat out all the time.”
Indeed, the capital out-cooked other parts of the UK in the new rankings, with Manchester in particular failing to gain a hoped-for star at Simon Rogan’s new restaurant The French at the Midland Hotel. The city has not had a Michelin honour since 1975.
There were no new three stars issued, but this badge of pride was retained by Alain Roux’s Waterside Inn and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, both in Bray, and the eponymous restaurants Gordon Ramsay and Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester in London. The UK still ranks behind its European neighbours in terms of fine dining, however, with France boasting a total of 27 three-star restaurants and Germany 10 in the 2013 guide.
Some restaurants will not be celebrating. L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in London is downgraded from two to a one-star rating and five restaurants have lost their one star: Burlington in North Yorkshire, Dining Room at Mallory in Warwickshire, Hamborough on the Isle of Wight, Locks Brasserie in Dublin and Petersham Nurseries Café in London.
The first guide was published in 1900 aimed at the new breed of motor traveller and the star rating system introduced in 1926. The awards are considered the most prestigious in the restaurant industry. Michelin inspectors work full time and visit restaurants repeatedly and anonymously to try and avoid being given preferential treatment as critics.
Rebecca Burr, editor of the guide, said: “In the last year we’ve seen the rise of relaxed counter dining but also the opening of some big brasseries. Dining is becoming a less structured, less formal affair and opening times and menus are more flexible to reflect the way we live our lives. Single concept restaurants focusing on one or two dishes have also continued to open.”
She added: “London in particular has never offered so much choice, there really is something for everyone and for every occasion and there appears to be no end to the number of exciting new restaurant openings. With cuisines and culinary influences from all parts of the globe, it’s no surprise that the capital is one of the most exciting cities in the world for food.”
UK establishments by numbers