YOU magazine's brilliant restaurant critic and wine expert
Tom Parker Bowles & Charlotte Kristensen: YOU magazine’s brilliant restaurant critic and wine expert
In Story Cellar, Covent Garden has a bistro to match Paris’s finest. Tom tells the tale…
Story Cellar is the younger sibling to Tom Sellers’s much admired Restaurant Story. And while the original place, down by London’s Borough Market, may be temporarily closed (for a refurb, apparently), you certainly won’t be disappointed here.
Money has been lavished on the smallish Covent Garden space, lots of it, but the feeling is handsomely elegant rather than naffly macho, a Parisian-style bistro deluxe. Red leather banquettes are softly, lusciously buttery, solid table lamps emit a discreet glow, and the long, winding bar is topped in gleaming zinc.
Service is smooth and assured. Even the menu’s font has charm, the sort used by Raymond Chandler as he bashed out LA noir classics on a battered old Olivetti.
Whole rotisserie chicken is a magnificent thing, the skin crisp and burnished, the flesh tasting of a life lived outdoors (stock image)
There’s an open kitchen with a central grill, immaculately cooking steaks and dover soles.
But Sellers is a serious chef and, despite the bistro feeling, there are some splendidly original dishes. Snail bolognaise on toast, for one, earthy, rambunctious, bosky and boozy, like a rout of unruly gastropods out on the lash in Pigalle; a verdant splodge of wild garlic butter adds mellow pungency.
Paris meets Hong Kong with a vast scallop, cooked yet still translucent within, served in a buttery, smoky, chilli-spiked XO sauce.
House-cured charcuterie, and pickles, are excellent, as are sides: tomato salad hollering with sweet aplomb, and a suitably savoury, stock- and butter-soaked petit pois à la française. Butter, as you may have gathered, is big here.
Whole rotisserie chicken is a magnificent thing, the skin crisp and burnished, the flesh tasting of a life lived outdoors. A proper bird, with depth and texture. We gnaw the bones clean.
Gravy is clear, intense and winey, French fries as fine as you’ll find anywhere. It’s not cheap, at £56 for two, but offers very good value. You could easily feast on this alone. In fact, my only complaint is the price of the (excellent) wine list, being pushed to find much on it for less than £50. A Muscadet Sur Lie, usually one of the cheaper options, squeaks in at £48.
Still, Story Cellar is a class act, an upmarket bistro that not only excels in the rotisserie and grill, but everything else too. Just writing this makes me want to go back. This one will run and run.
About £45 per head. Story Cellar, 17 Neal’s Yard, London WC2; storycellar.co.uk
DRINKS: Charlotte’s pink picks
Barbiecore – the trend of 2023 – has triggered a tidal wave of pink, sashaying down runways, making statements at festivals and posing on the red carpet. Now you can match your drinks with the craze: this week I’ve picked a range of top rosés. C’mon Barbie, let’s go party!
CODORNÍU ROSADO BRUT NV (12%), £10.49, Waitrose. Bursting with berry fruit and an invigorating effervescence, this juicy, quality pink Spanish cava is a stellar choice for any party.
CODORNÍU ROSADO BRUT NV (12%), £10.49, Waitrose.
TORRES VIÑA SOL ROSAD0 2022 (12.5%), £7.50, ocado.com. This coral pink rosé from the trusted Torres family – a pioneering Spanish brand – is quaffable, well-priced and a perfect crowd-pleaser.
TORRES VIÑA SOL ROSAD0 2022 (12.5%), £7.50, ocado.com
ARBOUSSET TAVEL ROSÉ 2021 (13.5%), £12, Tesco. A tempting Tavel from the southern Rhône, this is a personal favourite. It’s a rosé with body, oomph as well as flavours of macerated strawberries and pink grapefruit.
CODORNÍU ROSADO BRUT NV (12%), £10.49, Waitrose
SASSY CIDRE ROSÉ (3%), £3.50, Majestic. Sassy by name, sassy by sip. If you’re unsure about the taste of cider, then give this fruity example a try. It muddles orchard and berry fruit, with delicious results.
SASSY CIDRE ROSÉ (3%), £3.50, Majestic
CONTESA CERASUOLO D’ABRUZZO 2022 (13.5%), £8.95, the winesociety.com. An Italian star with a lively personality to match its wild hue. Fruity, fresh and structured, this pairs perfectly with barbecued meats.
CONTESA CERASUOLO D’ABRUZZO 2022 (13.5%), £8.95, the winesociety.com
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