A few years ago, I was lucky enough to dine at Andrea’s, a pan-Asian eatery nestled in a ground-floor corner of Las Vegas’s smartest hotel, Encore. Having recently hosted Kate Upton and Emily Ratajkowski, as well Nick Jonas, Elijah Wood and George Clooney, it was the hottest restaurant in town.
There was nothing particularly special about the setting (the boundary of a casino), the décor (more faux-70s chic than spectacular), or the food (silly-money sushi and Wagyu steak, mostly). What made the restaurant a magnet for celebrities was that it had sex appeal – and it was sexy because of the music.
Andrea’s had named Steve Angello, the ex-Swedish House Mafia mega-DJ, as its ‘musical head chef’. Dishes arrived to a nuanced playlist that rolled from Little Richard to Aretha Franklin to Bruno Mars. The set revved up as the night unravelled. Angelo had it nailed. Andrea’s had vibe.
I’d always wondered why the concept had never caught on. So too, it turns out, had Tom Sellers, the tattooed, top-knotted working-class lad turned rockstar-chef behind Restaurant Story in Tooley Street. He’s recently weaponised his newly-refurbed venue with a playlist curated by drum and bass quartet Rudimental. Rock on.
Sellers asked 14 of his celebrity chef chums – including Jason Atherton, Gordon Ramsey, Bjorn Frantzen, Angela Hartnett and Clare Smyth – to provide three songs that inspire them. His DJ mates – he’s tight with Professor Green and Tinie Tempah, too – then arranged the tracks into a set that swings from Eminem and Jamie T to David Bowie and Elton John via Massive Attack, the Rolling Stones, Counting Crows and Kings of Leon, among others.
Sellers was just 26 when he originally opened Story in 2013. He was awarded a Michelin star only five months later. The restaurant occupies a rather odd ground-floor site in the fork of a junction just off Tower Bridge. This year, it has been updated with contemporary art, a beautiful ceiling installation and the return of tablecloths, presumably considered too bourgeois previously. A floor-to-ceiling glass front sits you in a gold-fish bowl. Routemasters bear down on you just metres away.
Despite the punchy playlist, Story remains an intimate, food-lovers’ restaurant. Don’t expect a full-on party nightspot á la MNKY HSE or Sumosan Twiga; this place has more class.
For lunch, you can opt for five courses for £50 or eight courses for £100. For dinner, it’s £125 for 10 courses, or £145 for 12. Dishes are a mix of Story classics – Oreo-like cookies filled with smoked eel mousse, and beef-fat candles served with bread – alongside new, seasonal creations such as platinum caviar and golden beetroot, or monkfish with champagne and sea herbs.
Heavily deconstructed, Instagram-able wow food is as impressive to look at as it is to eat – occasionally, even more so. The tracks work their magic, elevating the food and adding an extra dimension to the evening. If music be the food of love, DJ Sellers please play on.
Restaurant Story, 199 Tooley Street, London SE1 2JX, restaurantstory.co.uk