A cafe, specialising in porridge, right in the heart of Neal’s Yard. It sounds perfect, right? Well it is – and I’ve fallen in love with this little gem that is 26 Grains.
I visited on a bright, yet cold winter’s morning when Neal’s Yard was practically deserted. Except of course in 26 Grains, whose cosy interior space was filled with London’s early risers seeking some warmth and a delicious start to the day. This however, meant we had to sit outside which was a blessing in disguise if ever there was one. Thankfully I was wrapped up in my fur stole, and alfresco breakfasting whilst admiring the beautiful scenery that Neal’s Yard has to offer proved to be the best seat we could have opted for.
We moved inside to order and were greeted by two friendly-faced ladies cooking away behind the counter. I felt as though I was in their kitchen, not a cafe, and I loved how all the ingredients were out on display and that you could see everything being prepared. And why not? They use such wonderful ingredients that they deserve to celebrate what goes into the food and just how it’s made. I actually found it to be an inspiring experience, as this gave me some ideas of how to inject different techniques and flavours into the rather ordinary porridge I make at home, in comparison.
Perhaps unsurprising, but also very pleasingly, 26 Grains has all sorts of dairy-free options when it comes to coffee and so I subsequently ordered what has become one of my favourite drinks – an almond milk latte. If you’re expecting it to have that filling, creamy consistency of a ordinary latte then I’m afraid you will be disappointed. However, I think that almond milk’s more refreshing flavour perfectly compliments the coffee, and so I would definitely recommend making this alternative choice whenever it’s available. The almond latte at 26 Grains was in fact one of the nicest I’ve had the pleasure of drinking.
As for the main event, they do not make it easy to choose, even though there are only a few combinations of porridge flavours. I adore Bircher muesli and the winter smoothie bowl sounded equally as tempting, but for my first visit I couldn’t not have porridge. There are various savoury options, as 26 Grains is open all-day, which sounded perfect for lunch and dinner however, I do like something sweet for breakfast. This eventually led me to the Raspberry, Cacao, Tahini Porridge: ‘almond milk oats and quinoa, cacao, raspberry and tahini yoghurt topped with almonds and fennel’. My friend went for Banana Cacao: ‘almond milk oats, coconut yoghurt, cacao nibs, banana and date syrup’.
When our porridge was delivered to our table, they looked as pretty and as instragrammable (yes, I think this is worthy of being an adjective) as porridge has the potential to be. After taking a moment to admire its beauty, I tucked into the most delicious breakfast I’ve had for a long time. Maybe ever – although I am aware that this is a bold statement to make. I enjoyed every mouthful. Its warm comfort also made it extremely filling, which I think is exactly what is required for a good breakfast.
I know that others may not get as excited as I have done over a porridge cafe, but I think 26 Grains is successful in changing the stereotypes that some people may have. Traditionally, porridge is thought of as rather bland and boring yet here, these two words provide perhaps the most inappropriate description of what 26 Grains has to offer. However, even though 26 Grains proudly sits amongst London’s many health cafes, I think that for some this may seem quite intimidating. I must admit, taking my friend who lives outside of London, here was somewhat risky. I didn’t want her to not enjoy breakfast and go back thinking that we went to some pretentious vegan place. These concerns proved to be unfounded and it turned out she loved it too. Therefore, I think it’s fair to say that there isn’t necessarily an intended audience for this place as I believe that everyone can enjoy it. I would recommend anyone to 26 Grains, not only those who have specific diets, and especially those who love simple, honest food with amazing flavour combinations. Naturally, the location adds to its charm.
Truthfully, 26 Grains was not exactly what I anticipated. It had more of an authentic and humble atmosphere and by no means seemed to be created as a novelty or a publicity stunt as other places in London often are. It’s original; the kind of place you don’t discover very often. I’m very glad I visited, and I know for certain that I’ll be back soon.