Occupying a bright, sunny corner just a few doors down from Birdhouse, Story Coffee has been part of the furniture in this part of London, which is just west of Clapham Junction station, for close to four years. Give how often I go up to London, this shows just how little I get out of the station rather than zipping through it on the train. The loss, frankly, is all mine.
There’s not much to Story Coffee, just a single, unfussy rectangular space, with plenty for room on the broad pavement for a cluster of tables. Meanwhile, inside is a mix of tables and bars. Since it started, Story Coffee has used London’s Square Mile, but that’s slowly changing, Story having recently started its own bespoke coffee, roasted by Modern Standard. For now it’s Square Mile’s Red Brick on espresso, with a different single-origin on batch-brew and another on pour-over. These change every day or two and represent your best chance of sampling Story’s own coffee, which occasionally makes an appearance.
For somewhere so small, there’s also an impressive brunch menu, prepared in the kitchen downstairs, and served until three o’clock each afternoon (four o’clock at weekends). Naturally, there’s a good selection of cake.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Story Coffee sits on the corner of Sangora Road, from where it’s a five-minute walk down St John’s Hill to Clapham Junction Station (home of Story Works, Story Coffee’s new little sibling). It’s the last in a parade of shops that includes, a few doors along, Birdhouse.
A single, tall floor-to-ceiling window faces the busy St John’s Hill, where the broad pavement allows space for three two-person tables, shaded mostly by the shop, or, during the afternoons, by a large tree on the pavement. Alternately, around the corner on the quieter Sangora Road, you’ll find another two equally-generous windows, the first with a two-person table, the second with a long, low bench. The door, meanwhile, shows no favouritism to either road, being at 45⁰ to both.
A glass affair, with a small window above, the door adds to the feeling of light and space inside Story Coffee, aided by a light wooden floor/furniture, plus white-painted walls and ceiling. Two large lights hang at the back (where there’s no window), with four more conventional ones above the counter, although in a refreshing change (most coffee shops seem to have all their lights on even when it’s bright) these were switched off during my visit.
Story Coffee’s long and thin, maybe three times as long as it is wide. A window-bar occupies the front window, while another occupies in the first window down the left-hand side. This is followed by two long, narrow, four-person tables, both perpendicular to the wall, with two two-person tables at the back. These have a padded bench on one side, a wooden bench on the other. Finally, a four-person bar runs along the back wall. In an interesting twist, Story Coffee has a no laptop on tables rule, which is (refreshingly) rigorously enforced.
The counter’s on the right-hand side, a short, wooden affair, set back from the front window, leaving space for a single, round table with three chairs, the only chairs in the place. The till and cake are at the front, the angled door naturally depositing you there. The two-group Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine with its single Mythos 1 grinder comes next and that’s it. The batch-brewer and EK-43 grinder are on a separate counter behind the main counter, where stairs also lead down to the kitchen.
Although Story’s now roasting, it’s more interested in getting the quality right rather than rushing the coffee out, a commendable approach, so don’t be surprised if it’s all the coffee is from Square Mile (which was the case when I was there). I visited on Wednesday last week, but popped in the day before for a takeaway flat white in my Therma Cup. Returning the following morning, I had an espresso, the Red Brick proving surprisingly bright in a way I wouldn’t have liked six years ago but which I now find quite pleasant. This was curious, since I hadn’t picked up the brightness in my flat white the day before.
I was there for breakfast, choosing scrambled eggs and baked beans on toast from a brunch menu heavy on eggs/avocado on toast. This was a far cry from a dollop of eggs with a few beans from a tin on the side though. Instead I had a generous slice of sourdough toast, engulfed by a mound of rich, creamy scrambled eggs, some of the best I’ve had. My separate pile of baked beans, a mix of beans of various shapes and sizes, all covered in a rich tomato sauce, had clearly never seen a tin in their lives. A breakfast fit for a king!
|115 ST JOHN’S HILL • LONDON • SW11 1SZ|
|Monday||07:00 – 16:00||Roaster||Modern Standard + Square Mile (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 16:00||Seating||Tables, Bars; Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 16:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cakes|
|Thursday||07:00 – 16:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 16:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 16:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 16:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||25th, 26th September 2018|
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of London’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to London.
You can also see what I made of Story Coffee’s little sibling, Story Works, and its flagship brunch spot in Wandsworth.
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What an interesting coffee shop to visit!!!
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