WHEN creating something that's a labour of love, there's always a risk that the labour will be more evident in the finished product than, well, the love. Stories, the latest addition to that quaint row of independents (and a Subway) at the top of Roundhay Road is clearly the product of somebody's love and, frankly, obsession, but executed in a way that seems effortless, rather than laboured.
After ten years living in London I’ve returned to the motherland
That somebody is Emily Crocker, owner of Stories, and that obsession is with quality and simplicity - something instantly noticeable on walking into the venue, featuring white walls, muted tones and natural pine (a bit like Colours May Vary with a coffee machine). It's this minimalist approach that instills an unusual sense of calm on walking through the door.
It's a welcome change from the usual furore of espresso bars, with the clatter of stainless steel jugs, the scream of steam wands and the crowds of twitching, caffeine-starved punters. Not to say the place wasn't busy, pre-elevensies on their second day of trading and the place is more than half full with business folk, young creative-types, and ladies whose interests had presumably been piqued from the traditional tearoom over the road.
However, Pantone palettes and geometric patterns, however trendy (in this case, achingly so), do not a cafe make. Luckily Stories isn’t lacking substance behind the style. Coffee is from North Star and crafted by expert baristas, fresh daily bakes come via local award-winning Noisette Bakehouse, whilst there’s a food menu that continues the quality and simplicity of the decor.
Split into breakfast and lunch, most dishes straddle the line between the two (you might even call it brunch), from homemade granola to dippy eggs with cultured butter and smoked salmon on sourdough. You know, the kind of things you fancy before 3pm.
Crocker has clearly done her research when it comes to shopping for the best regional produce - all of which is available to take home from a small pantry section at the back of the seating area.
A local girl originally, Crocker’s returned to Leeds after a ten year departure to contribute something intimate and personal to the food scene. “After ten years living in London I’ve returned to the motherland, and there was nowhere better than Oakwood, in my eyes, to open a cafe," she tells me. "I love the community feel in Oakwood and I want Stories to be a place where we not only know our customers by name, but know how many shots they have in their coffee and how strong they like their tea.“
We don't imagine it’ll be long before we’re wandering in and ordering “the usual”.
Find Stories at 454 Roundhay Road, Oakwood, Leeds LS8 2HU.