You know I like my porridge. A warm hug of a bowl to dive deep into first thing on a wintry December morning, it keeps you chugging until lunch and it certainly isn’t a modern day ‘health fad’, high in beta-glucans that benefit your heart health and soluble fibre which gives your gut some love. I have my own way of making the creamy oats, soaked overnight in a plant based milk, some chia or ground linseeds stirred through and topped with nut butter (ALWAYS) and whatever seasonal fruits take my fancy. Perhaps my daily bowl would look way too high maintenance for the average breakfaster, but I can’t do simple. It’s just not in my makeup. I like every mouthful to have different textures, flavours, temperatures, all the elements that make some damn good eating.
Occasionally there are days when I don’t want to make my own porridge and need it fancifying up, even more than I can muster. I have written a review in the past on 26 Grains, a porridge café in Neals Yard in London, so you know how much of a fangirl I am and how long I’ve been waiting for some genius to bring the same experience to us in Manchester. Thankfully Hester Lonergan, the face behind the brand Haver, has heard our cries and comes brimming with gifts.
Currently popping up in Ancoats General Store on Great Ancoats Street in Manchester on Fridays from 7:30am-11am. All porridges are vegan, the flavours change weekly and in no way is this your mundane banana, cinnamon and peanut butter. Expect toppings galore of granola, compotes, caramels, nut butter, edible flowers and a lot of love.
On the dreary November morning when I wandered into AGS (Ancoats General Store as it will be known from now on), tummy grumbling, eyes still bleary and legs already tired ahead of a long day of work. Hester was busy hustling in the corner surrounded by plants and with a soundtrack of ABBA quietly jingling in the background, it was enough to bring a smile to my face and crack the morning grogginess. Two choices on offer Pomme Classique and PBCB, the first a almond oats, apple and cinnamon compote, raisin granola, date caramel and walnuts a tough choice against the PCBC, coconut oats, banana chia jam, coconut crumb, maple peanut sauce and cacao nibs. Pomme Classique won the day, because who doesn’t love a good dollop of caramel?
So I got chatting with Hester after ogling her masterpieces on Instagram for a while. We both share a strong love of the ManiLife Deep Roast Peanut Butter and porridge (DuUUHH), it was great to finally meet her in person rather than virtually whilst she was prepping my porridge. There are too many people I communicate with over Instagram, but have never met them in real life. 2018 goals I think!
So the porridge came, and my oh my was it delish. One brilliant thing that Hester always asks, is whether you would like the sprinkling of salt on top which she strongly advises. Similar to salted caramel, the combination of fat, salt and sugar get all of our senses tingling, that little bit of salt elevates all the flavours and it’s a little tip I’m going to be adding to my own bowls. Nothing was overly sweet, just perfectly balanced. The oats had the subtleness you want with a almondy note, some sweet jewels when you bite into the raisin granola, the date caramel mixed with the salt brings out a rich almost treacly flavour, the compote was rich in cinnamon and alongside the crunch of the buttery walnuts it left me scraping the bottom of the bowl wondering where it had all gone.
However my tummy was full, I was set for my day and left hoping that the wait until my next bowl wouldn’t be very far away.
The last pop-up of the year is this Friday the 15th of December, if you can make it down expect some festive flavours. The most recent have been Terry: an almond oats, chocolate and almond granola, clementine, cacao caramel, almonds and zest, a posh Terrys Chocolate Orange of sorts and Drift: a snowy white spectacle with coconut oats, baked apple, coconut chia, blossom sugar and macadamia. Happily munched with carols gracing your ears, it’s a morning that surely will get you in the festive spirit. Christmas jumpers and antlers are optional. After then, I’m not too sure what’s happening on her agenda. Hopefully many more opportunities are on the horizon for Hester, where she can spread the word of porridge to more people of Manchester. If you’re after a beautiful bowl, the picture for Instagram is optional but recommended, there aren’t many other options in town, and whilst you’re waiting at AGS why not have a wander of the shelves or get yourself a cuppa or a coffee. It’s also one of the very few city centre options for a turmeric, matcha and beetroot latte FYI. It’s a wondrous store and gives rise to many other pop-ups like Haver, it’s the small and independent ventures we need to be celebrating. Much better than your Pret breakfast or lunch I can guarantee.
Get hurtling with those spurtles.