In a nutshell:
-a cut above the rest – even by London standards
-bucketloads of taste and charm
-a short walk up St John’s Hill from Clapham Junction station
-a place for all day brunch, superb coffee and for putting your computer away
Having walked so many times in and out of Clapham Junction station, I find – like most of who rush through it on a daily basis – I rarely lift my head to notice the area around me. Ah, the joys of the busiest train station in the UK, a web-like labyrinth full of platforms, gathering trains from all angles, only to shoot them all off in different directions again. It’s a hub so many Londoners alight at, only to leave again minutes later. It’s a shame then that one of the best nooks of London is just up the hill, yet so many people miss it.
Or many it isn’t. Maybe we shouldn’t tell them about it.
The other day I got off the train, took a right and walked up St John’s Hill. Only 7 minutes later did I arrive at Story Coffee. And within moments of arriving I decided would have walked 70 minutes to get here. The first of this ever expanding South London-based coffee shop, Story Coffee boasts some of the finest decor with one of the warmest welcomes – add to that their masterful ways with coffee, and you have yourself a coffee shop which is in a league above the rest.
Set up in 2014 by owners Sof and Jo, their care and eye for detail sing out throughout. From the fine woodwork, to the plants on each table, to the arty lights hanging from the ceiling, the carefully curated interiors have this power to transcend a sense of calm and beauty into your day. It’s an effortless feng shui effect I was not expecting in the middle of Battersea. Added to that, nearly all the fittings are made out of the wood of one tree. I couldn’t help but be charmed by everything this place was.
“This is a coffee shop utopia. It’s extracted all the good things of modern coffee shops without losing sight of their raison d’etre: social interaction. Add a little bit of that unutterable Story Coffee charm, and you’re getting close to imagining just what a special place this is”
Behind everything is not only extremely good taste, but a heightened sense of responsibility towards the planet and to the customers’ experience. They call themselves Story Coffee because of their belief in transparency and traceability, and they only pick suppliers who follow the same approach (their milk, for example, is from the brilliant The Estate Dairy based in Somerset). They’ve also tackled the issue of coffee shops turning into solo workspaces. Of course they make a great environment for computer work, but when the sound of computer tapping takes over the sound of bubbling conversation, and the interaction between the customer and barista is reduced to a whisper – so eager not to disturb – the place becomes something else entirely (interestingly, Timberyard in Covent Garden has nailed the concept of a coffee house workspace – check them out if it’s of interest). Story Coffee has negotiated terms by which people can work on computers but not take away from the overall atmosphere of the place: computers and tablets can be used on the bars lining the windows, but not on the main tables. And on weekends, no computers at all. I haven’t known such intricate computer rules before but, as with everything in this place, it works.
Having recently celebrated their 5th birthday, they have collaborated with London roasting giants, Square Mile, to create their very own Story Coffee blend. It’s delicious – well worth the trip just to try it. Interestingly they use an Uebermilk dispenser here, a game-changing German product which basically ensures the froth of the milk is the same every time by regulating temperature and texture. And quite honestly, the latte art is outstanding. All aspects of the coffee-making process are done perfectly – error doesn’t seem to function here.
“The cheese toasties start from a delectably pedestrian Classic 3 Cheese Blend all the way to the exotic Wild Mushroom and Truffle toastie (I was transfixed)”
Food-wise, it’s an all day brunch affair – and just like the coffee, it’s excellent. Choose from smashed avocado to hickory smoked baked beans, to sweet sourdough french toast and Bircher muesli. And the cheese toasties start from a delectably pedestrian Classic 3 Cheese Blend all the way to the exotic Wild Mushroom and Truffle Oil (I was transfixed). Fresh cakes, tray bakes and pastries are also available, as well their very own Story Works juices. Note the kitchen closes at 3pm on weekdays.
All in all:
For me, this is a coffee shop utopia. It’s extracted all the good things of modern coffee shops without losing sight of their raison d’etre: social interaction. Add a little bit of that unutterable Story Coffee charm, and you’re getting close to imagining just what a special place this is. So if you manage to draw yourself away from the hustle and bustle of Clapham Junction station and take that 7 minute walk up the hill, you can be assured it’ll be worth it – every.single.time.
For me, this place is 10 out of 10. I will be returning – with a friend or a book.
The second branch of Story Coffee is called Story Works which is just about opposite Clapham Junction station – perfect for commuters. Less of a brunch place, perfect for coffees and juices on the way to work. The third branch is currently being developed in Wandsworth, due to open in a few months – watch this space.
Want coffee this good at home? Or even brunch? Then check them out on Deliveroo and Uber Eats (incredible, I know).
Things to know:
-laptop restrictions apply (see under The Ethos for details)
-alternative milk options
-music is very chilled, in the background
-Address: 115 St. John’s Hill, London SW11 1SZ
-TFL directions: get the 87 bus from town and get off at Brussels Road; or enjoy the short walk up from Clapham Junction station; or 15 mins walk from Wandsworth Town station (download the City Mapper app for more precise journey info)
-Opening Hours: 7-4pm (Mon-Fri); 8-5pm (Sat and Sun)
Recommended things to do nearby:
–Hetu – a vegan zero waste store. Featured in everything from Conde Nast Traveller, to the BBC, to the Telegraph, this is a must visit, even just to gawp at its passion and commitment to change the world through buying power
–Royal Trinity Hospice – one of the best chains for second hand buying, find timeless treasures in here, including designer labels
–Battersea Arts Centre – a one of a kind arts space just 15 minutes walk away
–Wandsworth Common – perfect for an afternoon walk
–River Thames – get a boat or a ferry into central London, take a walk, or enjoy the view
–Battersea Park – one of London’s most beautiful parks