Story Coffee, Battersea

Slowly but surely Battersea and I are becoming friends. My latest South London discovery is a small independent café, with great design and easily the best coffee in the area. Story opened a few months ago and is already a popular neighbourhood spot. I found it to be particularly lovely mid-afternoon when the venue is quiet and calm, with a few customers working, reading and enjoying their warming drinks.

Located on a charming corner of St John’s Hill Road, with a weather-worn historic sign above the door, advertising Peterkin Custard, the modern look of Story is striking and welcoming. Inside the décor is very minimalist and functional, with bespoke wooden furniture and plenty of natural light thanks to the big windows. The thick brown floorboards add a warm homely feel to the small café. I loved the colourful assortment of roses and jars of brown sugar on each table and I decided there and then to recreate these delightful bunches at home.

Story use Square Mile’s Red Brick espresso blend and milk from Goodwood Farm in Sussex, these fine quality components make the ultimate creamy coffee. My flat white was velvety and rich, petite in size and expertly poured. The baristas also offer filter and Aeropress coffee, tea is from Lanani & Co and Chocolate is by Kokoa Collection. Delectable edible treats sit tempting visitors at the bar. I’ve heard they offer avocado on toast for breakfast, so am already planning to return to try that!

The Story crew seem passionate about bringing good coffee to Battersea and they are definitely succeeding in their mission.

More information here:

The Manor, Clapham

Clapham is now a destination on London’s food map thanks to The Dairy and The Manor, two restaurants with the same ownership, style and food finesse. Tucked away just off Clapham High Street, halfway between Clapham North and Clapham Common stations, you will find The Manor, a charming modern bistro. It has only been open a few months but the reservation book is filling up fast as foodies migrate south to try chef Dean Parker’s creative cuisine.

Warm bread in a sack was soon placed on the table alongside a precariously balanced lump of whipped ‘chicken skin’ butter on a pebble. The waitress kindly delivered a second bread and butter after we polished off the initial offering at staggering speed. We accompanied our bread with thick and meaty pork and fennel salami, delicious but rather a stingy portion for £7. BBQ crispy chicken skins and kimchi is a must, a crunchy salty and sweet mix of oriental flavours.

We opted for vegetarian starters, not intentionally: fermented potato flat bread with smoked aubergine and mint and Burnt kale with cavolo nero and toasted almonds. Both offer unusual tastes and were presented beautifully on unique ceramic platters. The kale had a beguiling bitter aftertaste complemented by a cooling creamy sauce made of something I was unable to identify. The smoked aubergine was delicious too, and would be ideal as a dip at the start of a chic dinner party at home.

Of the meat courses, I recommend the Suckling pig belly with braised head, morcilla and squash, an irresistible array of textures and tastes. The pork was carefully cooked so the meat was tender and the fat nicely crisped, the squash was surprisingly sweet and soft and morcilla (blood sausage) sauce in the centre is rich and indulgent. Hay-smoked pigeon with fermented grains, parsnip and malt granola was a little bizarre for my palate but is a hit with other foodies. The gamey meat is topped with crunchy cereal-like grains and the sauce is milky, qualities I expect at breakfast time.

Frozen chocolate fondant, dulce de leche and milk is for the chocolate lovers, a light yet punchy dessert. Granny Smith apple parfait with meringue and brittle sorrel is the showstopper. A light and refreshing pudding served in a small bowl is topped with leaves that are zapped with liquid nitrogen at the table, causing a stir all round. It was both exciting and tasty.

Clapham’s newest restaurant is quietly upping the ante for restaurants in this area. For me, it is very exciting to discover an eatery that illustrates the skill of a fine kitchen with the flair and character of a trendy young café.

More information and book here:

The Dairy, Clapham

Clapham has never been a very appealing place to me: hectic main station, chain stores filling the streets and predominantly occupied by young professionals who continue to live and act like students. Recently though one of my best friends has moved to the neighbourhood forcing me to reconsider what Clapham has to offer. Consequently I have discovered The Dairy, a brilliant independent eatery serving innovative food that looks and tastes delicious.

A few months ago, when I took to Twitter to ask for Clapham restaurant recommendations, the Dairy was the unanimous favourite. The small characterful restaurant is found near Clapham Common station and certainly stands out, with its trendy distressed look and retro rustic décor – it is very countryside chic.

The utmost care is taken to use locally sourced ingredients. The September menu features an assortment of inventive and interesting flavours with a particular focus on seasonal produce. The chef, Robin Gill and his team collect many of the fresh components from the roof where an allotment has been planted!

The dishes are of the ‘small plate’ variety, reasonably priced, until the waiter tells you that you’ll need at least four each. Here’s what we shared between the three of us, carefully selecting from the themed sections on the menu.

Sariette de Banon, courgettes, rooftop honey, basil £6
Truffled Brie de Meaux on fig & walnut toast, rooftop honey £8.5
Galician octopus, fresh coco beans, chorizo £6.5

Butternut squash, rooftop rocket, buttermilk £7.5

Yorkshire venison, celeriac, game sausage, blackberries £10
Suckling pig belly, cobnuts, heritage carrots, cavolo nero £10

Salted caramel, cacao, malted barley ice cream £6.5

36 month aged Comte, grapes, maple & thyme cracker £7.5

There was a delicious sounding Gin Sour available but we opted for a bottle of house wine. Each dish is immaculately composed with clever contrasting flavours and textures. Highlights for me were the Truffled cheese on toast, a creamy, nutty and sweet delight; the rich and succulent pig belly with startlingly black cavolo nero and bright orange heritage carrots. Octopus and chorizo was a lighter dish for seafood fans and Butternut squash was a delicately seasoned vegetarian option.

For dessert the Dairy keeps things simple with a decadent chocolate caramel recipe paired with ice-cream, it was one of the best puddings I have ever tasted. Greedy rascals that we are, we couldn’t resist the cheese plate which completed the meal perfectly.

Those who want to experience the Dairy’s creative flair should order the bespoke seven course tasting menu carefully selected by the kitchen and priced at £45 per person. A diamond in the rough, the Dairy makes me want to visit Clapham again and again.

More information and book a table here.