Of all the foods I invariably find myself craving, my gradual addiction to the humble porridge has been the least expected.
An addiction it definitely is, as wherever I am in the world my day is never complete without a hearty bowl of oats, slow-cooked with chia seeds, and then topped with a sliced banana, goji berries, coconut shavings and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Downright delicious, it’s just a bonus that it’s also bursting with a whole host of health benefits from lowering high blood pressure and bad cholesterol to providing essential vitamins, minerals, fibre and a source of slow-releasing energy!
It’s mollifying to know that I’m not alone in my cravings – apparently, one in two Brits are porridge eaters, while nearly a quarter do so almost daily. And the arrival of 26 Grains in Covent Garden, with its innovative menu inspired by Scandinavian cooking traditions and spices, is only set to fuel our addiction further.
Following on from a successful run across London at cafés, wellness events and even temporary office residencies at the likes of Vogue and Glamour, the porridge pop-up is now setting down roots in a converted shed nestled between the colourful walls of beautiful Neal’s Yard.
We headed down for brunch on one of those gloriously sunny days that we’ve been lucky enough to have in abundance this summer. The bench spilling out into the Yard unsurprisingly was already occupied but it was equally satisfying to wolf down our porridge inside the cafe. The small but bustling space has a rustic, almost homely, feel with sacks of grains piled up against whitewashed walls, small wooden tables and stools, potted cactus plants and pastel-green shed doors flung open to let the natural light stream in…
Founder Alex Hutchinson’s menu is just dreamy, celebrating oats amongst other grains from brown rice to quinoa if you fancy a more savoury option. These gourmet grains pack in quite the punch as they’re soaked beforehand to break down their naturally occurring acidic layer – not only does this make them easier to digest, but also ensures you absorb the most nutrients from them!
We opted for two gorgeous helpings of porridge – blueberry porridge, a comforting bowl of oats cooked in coconut milk, served with blueberry compote, strawberries, toasted rye granola, coconut, almond butter…
… And carrot porridge! Who knew that carrot juice blended with oats and rice would make such a harmonious match. Flavoured with spices, seeds, raisins and ginger maple, it struck a fine and incredibly tasty balance between sweet and savoury.
We clearly couldn’t get enough and so we also also sprung for a cold summer berry bowl. Berries, bananas, coconut milk, cardamom granola, coconut, raspberries and bee pollen… just what we needed to cool down that scorching Friday afternoon.
Other favourites to look out for include the vanilla bircher muesli pot, which I delightfully had the chance to sample at a Deliciously Ella Q&A a couple of months ago. Almond milk soaked oats and chia seeds with coconut, goji berries, vanilla and date syrup, I can definitely see myself picking it up for a deliciously wholesome breakfast on-the-go, along with a strong cup of Workshop coffee that 26 Grains have brewing in the cafe. Oh the perks of working down the road.
26 Grains, 2 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, Seven Dials, London WC2H 9DP