So, I was thinking what is a good way to follow a recipe post on porridge? Obviously a review of possibly THE BEST porridge cafe, like EVER!
I’m not exaggerating here
So, in the mornings I do like to make my meals that little bit special. Sprinkling on a little bit of bee pollen here, cacao nibs there, adding maca for some OOMPH. When I’m at home this is all fine and dandy, i have everything in my kitchen and my mum doesn’t mind paying for these things that make me happy (thanks mum!), however when staying away from home, i can’t fill my carry on case just with food. Ok ok i do do this, but I need some clothes to wear too. So food alll goes in the latge case, along with tupperware (my hero dressed in plastic), and clothes and shows into the carry on. Sorted.
Alas, when in London there is a saviour.
Sick of avo on toast, and nut butter on toast, I need some proper posh porridge in me.
In saunters 26 Grains, with serious amount of swagger, and porridge making credentials.
(The few times that i have visited 26 grains is when they were open in Neal’s Yard, but now they’ve moved to another location as of September 2016, so don’t follow my directions, you won’t find them there anymore!!)
Hop on the tube and get yourself down to Covent Garden, or if you’re like me WALK, everything is so much closer in London than you realise. Have a little wander over to Neal’s Yard, a little hidden oasis of calm. It is crowded but it sure ain’t rowdy. This haven is chockful of healthfood and wellness warrior hotspots. Spy Wildfood Cafe in the corner. A completely raw vegan cafe that isn’t all lentils and bird seed. Also there’s Neal’s Yard Remedies, a natural organic skincare company (its BRITISH TOO), where you can slather on the most beautiful smelling products whilst knowing that you’re not adding any bad chemicals into your body. Pick up some hippy health foods too, to recreate THAT porridge that you’ll soon be eating in 26 Grains.
I’ll start with a little background information first. Alex set up 26 grains first as a pop up and then they opened up their first shop through Crowdfunder. Whilst living in Denmark, Alex grew to love their sense of ‘hygge’. It doesn’t really translate to English directly, but means warmth and cosiness. Does a bowl of steaming porridge sound familiar? So she wanted to open a cafe serving porridge, full of wholegrains, not just oats, seasonal fruits and vegetables, cooked long and slow to retain all the goodness and give anyone eating it a lovely glow. THAT she has definitely achieved.
Whether its breakfast, lunch, a rather hefty snack or an early dinner you are wanting, 26 Grains can cater for that. It ain’t all sweet either. Savoury porridge is a DAMN GOOD THING
I’ve now visited 26 Grains 3 times (hello mini fan over here), first all by myself at lunch time, the second on a day out with my mum (thank god, i needed someone to talk to) and the third with a friend for a little early breakfast date. The shop is a little space, with outdoor seating if it’s a nice day (we are in London though so its probably raining), or the option to take away. The menu is written on a large chalkboard on the wall, there’s jugs of water to help yourself as you take a perch at a wooden table to make your decision.
In the tiny Neal’s Yard shop, usually there are three people working in the smallest kitchen i have seen. They cook on little stoves, surrounded by a crazy array of toppings, rude health milks and steaming bubbly porridge.
First up on the menu and for my first visit it had to be the classic, Hazelnut and Butter. This is where my love affair first began. You’re probably thinking,”BUTTER IN PORRIDGE? EW!” It’s incredible. I’m telling you. And makes it even creamier. As Renee Redzeppi once said, “The only dish I go back to is porridge every morning. I cook it in milk, and it has to be steaming hot, I add a dollop of butter that melts all over it. I sprinkle flaky salt on it and if i have it, add thin slices of pork. That’s the breakfast of champions”.
I think he has got it about right.
So I visited for lunch. Picture, almond milk oats, topped with toasted hazelnuts, a nice sizeable amount of butter, cinnamon coconut sugar, and some slithers of apple. Put it in a beautiful bowl, eaten on a cold rainy day and HEY MAMA! Porridge coma here I come!
On the next visit with my mumsy was over a spot of lunch. As we were sharing, we thought we’d get a savoury bowl and then a sweet, for a little bit of pud. So it was a bowl of crispy brown rice (something I MUST recreate) with coconut curry chickpeas, kale, aubergine pickle and coconut yogurt. Not spicy just full to the brim of flavour. One of those dishes where every mouthful tastes that bit different so you keep going back for more, and more…and moreeee.
Next up. The sweet stuff. The bowl we’d been eyeing up. Both of us admitted afterwards we were trying to eat the savoury as quickly as possible so we could dive into this! It was one of the seasonal bowls, as we were just coming out of winter into spring it meant blood oranges. Those purple tinged citrus that stain your face as they drip down, marvellous beauties. In the bowl was a toothsome (I don’t know why I’ve written that word its awful) mixture of spelt, rye and oats to make up the base. Then a topping of blood orange compote, cacao granola, pistachios and greek yogurt. Heavenly. We left nicely satisfied with a big grin on our faces. No brisk winds and pelting rain could stop us…
And then there was the third visit. With my friend Hannah for an early breakfast. I mean I woke up at 6:30 in order to get there, dedication or what? We both opted for something sweet, Hannah had the blood orange that i had the previous time, but I had my eye on a little coconut rice concoction. Toppings consisting of cacao nibs, toasted coconut chips, lime zest, black tahini, date syrup and some extra lime to squeeze, I mean what more can you ask for. Like my childhood memories of Ambrosia rice pudding in a much more body loving form. The best by far.
Alongside Hazelnut and Butter, Banana and Cacao and Nordic Spice are regulars on the menu. The seasonal specials don’t stick around for long, but some past members have been Blueberry Almond Butter, Rhubarb Buckwheat Cardamom Granola, Matcha Cacao Coconut, Raspberry Cacao Tahini Fennel and Apple Beetroot Cranberry. I could go on and on but I’d like to leave some element of surprise for you.
So onto the savoury is the favourite of Egg and Kale (yesss egg on porridge, think of the oooooze) also some avo on there for good measure, but past creations have been Indonesian Chicken, Sticky Teriyaki Mushrooms, Orange Buckwheat Feta, just to name a few. There’s a Bircher muesli and smoothie bowl for those wanting something on the colder side, banana bread, bliss balls, smoothies, juices, brilliant coffees and matcha lattes. Basically anything superfoodie, they’ve got it.
So what’s to come next? Alex has a book coming out soon. I’m expecting lots of porridge recipes and food with a scandi influence. The pages will probably smell of cardamom. They’re moving out of the Neal’s Yard store to a new location which opens in September, I can’t tell you exactly where yet because I don’t know! So if you’re ever in the vicinity, please don’t hesitate to stop off at 26 Grains. You’re looking to spend around £6 for a sweet bowl and about £8 for a savoury, you can’t get much for that price in the big smoke and you’re guaranteed to not be feeling hangry 1 hour later.
If anyone visits please let me know about it, I want to hear your experiences too. I’ll definitely be back to visit the new store when it opens, so look out for some pics on my instagram. In the meantime, don’t mind me as I’m now off to cook, porridge for breakfast lunch and dinner anyone?
Love, bliss and full tummies