26 Grains: the London Café Bringing Back Porridge

Hello, my name is Dani, and I am a porridge addict.

My morning is not complete until I’ve devoured soy milk porridge with sultanas, raspberries, and a drizzle of honey. Some people have yoga, some people have meditation – and I have my porridge. It’s calming to stand over the stove stirring the oats and contemplating my day, and I don’t see myself adopting another breakfast choice anytime soon.

When I was organising a day trip to London, I was ecstatic to discover that there is a porridge café there. Yes, you heard right: a porridge café. Much to my boyfriend’s inconvenience, I planned the whole day around visiting to this café, and I must say, I was not disappointed.

Photograph courtesy of Time Out

Tucked away in the whimsical little courtyard of Neal’s Yard is 26 Grains.

Porridge isn’t exactly what you might call a fashionable food, but 26 Grains – founded by Alex Hely-Hutchinson – is helping it make a comeback. Perhaps what I like best about 26 Grains – aside from the porridge, that is – is that the café really captures that Scandinavian atmosphere of cosiness. It’s exactly what you need first thing on a London morning; in fact, I would go as far as to describe my experience there as though my stomach had been cradled in a warm, delicious hug.

Photograph courtesy of 26 Grains

I’m reluctant to call 26 Grains a minimalist café, but they certainly illustrate the philosophy of ‘less is more’. The only form of clutter is a selection of cookbooks dotted around the place, and a plant wall on the garage doors. As far as customers go, some are bent low over their morning newspaper, steam from their cappuccino curling into the air. Two sit opposite one another, heads together in hushed chatter over a bowl of banana cacao, on what might even be a first date.

“Nothing in this world is as it seems. Except, possibly, porridge.”

Stephen Fry

Photograph courtesy of Amazon

The one drawback to our experience was the café’s insane popularity. This meant that our only option for dining was to be seated up at the bar, which wasn’t the most comfortable and relaxed setup. In saying that, we were lucky to even get this option, and it did give us full view of the kitchen. We also had the choice of dining al fresco, but considering we were visiting the capital in late December, that alternative wasn’t wildly appetising.

Photograph courtesy of Retail Design Blog

26 Grains really nails the craft of artisan porridge. To cite their menu, we’re talking about Nordic pear porridge with coconut yoghurt and cacao crumble… rhubarb and cardamon granola with compote… even their famous avocado and dukkah on sourdough rye for those who decide that porridge isn’t their thing. While you’re there, why not energise with a turmeric latte or smoothie? You can check out their affordable, healthy and seasonal menu here. Oh, and p.s. – they’re vegan friendly 🐮

“26 is just a number that I like… it’s one of those numbers that seems to come around a lot; there are 26 letters in the alphabet, 26 miles in a marathon, 260 weekdays in a year, it just fits.”

Alex Hely-Hutchinson in an interview with Suitcase Magazine

Photographs courtesy of About Time, Healthy Hotspots and Pixie 

About five minutes after we had ordered, we were served with beautifully-presented porridge; a feature which is very important in the day and age of social media where nothing really happens unless you Instagram it. Served in quaint ceramic bowls, I drooled over the dish that was too beautiful to eat. Then – if it were even possible – I discovered that it tasted even better than it looked.

The Ginger’s Recommendation

  • Hazelnut and Butter Porridge with Almond Milk Oats, Cinnamon Coconut Palm Sugar and Apple
  • Fresh Mint and Ginger Tea

26 Grains isn’t just for the porridge lovers; photograph courtesy of Pinterest

If you are planning a trip to London, I strongly recommend you make time to visit this café. 26 Grains really makes you appreciate the simple things in life. Now, excuse me whilst I book another trip to London to feed my porridge addiction.

The ‘Deats

Name: 26 Grains

Website: Here (seriously, you should check it out)

Location: 1 Neal’s Yard, London, WC2H 9DP

Hours: Monday to Friday (8am-5pm) and Saturday to Sunday (10am-4pm)

To bring the oat-y magic to your kitchen, check out the 26 Grains Cookbook on Amazon. Furthermore, to read more café reviews on the Ginger Passports, allow me to introduce you to Brew-tiful: Nectar Espresso Bar and Café, and my personal favourite, Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix.

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Brew-tiful: Nectar Espresso Bar & Café

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?”

Cassandra Clare

It’s been a while since I reviewed a café. You might remember my blog post on Starfish from way back in January, where I discussed the thriving café culture in the New Zealand city of Dunedin. I was determined to bust the camera out at least once more before buying that one way ticket out of here, and my nose led me to Nectar.

I don’t consider myself a coffee maestro, but in saying that, I know a good cup of joe when I see (…drink?) one. Nectar Espresso Bar and Café specialises in brewing high quality coffee roasted right here in Middle Earth. The barista also scores brownie points for going out of their way to concoct an iced coffee for me that didn’t pre-exist on their menu – and they served it in a mason jar. It made all my hipster dreams come true.

The Nectar philosophy towards food is free-range, gourmet and delicious. They also cater to vegetarians, gluten free-ers… you name it. They’re also open to special requests and will go out of their way to accommodate your wants and needs. Oh, and did I mention the presentation of the food is insane?! Honestly, I feel like I’m dining in some five star Parisian restaurant. It’s pretty awesome considering the menu here won’t break your budget.

Nectar offers a warm and inviting environment that embraces you like a warm hug – especially during the depths of winter. A make or break feature for me when it comes to cafés are their design. It doesn’t matter how divine the food is; if the aesthetic doesn’t tell a story, I’m not convinced. Fortunately, Nectar passes this test with flying colours. A palette of white, yellow and green sweeps through the interior, and the rich motif of plants keep things fresh and natural.

This is a sublime place to celebrate special occasions. For a more industrial Tuscan atmosphere, venture out onto the landing at the top of the steps. There is also a sun-drenched bench at the front of the café decked out with the latest newspapers and magazines. As Nectar is located in the business district, I always see workers pop in for a morning caffeine hit or lunch break and enjoy their takeaway coffee upon the stools, taking in the sights of the bustling street outside.

My Nectar Brunch Order

  • Iced Coffee
  • Poached Free Range Eggs w/ Mushrooms, Grilled Vine Tomato and House-Made Hash-Browns
  • Birdseed Slice

Tip: Ask for your iced coffee with ice cubes sans cream. I’ve found that different countries take very different approaches to this cold beverage, and – if your taste buds are anything like mine – that is either a very good thing or a very, very bad thing. In New Zealand, an iced coffee is more like a Starbucks-esque frappuccino than, y’know, a coffee with ice. It always pays to take the time to clarify what you are actually ordering with your barista to avoid disappointment.

The ‘Deats

Name: Nectar Espresso Bar and Café

Websitewww.nectarespresso.co.nz

Facebook: @nectarespresso

Location: 286 Princes Street, Dunedin, New Zealand

Phone: 03 477 8976

Hours: 8am – 3pm

If you are a coffee enthusiast like me, then be sure to check out my blog post: You Can’t Buy Happiness… But You Can Buy Vietnamese Coffee ☕

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Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix

Could this possibly be the best café in Dunedin?

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Having lived in this city in southern New Zealand my whole life, I think it is fair to say that I have done the café rounds. Coming from a family with a passion for food (and being a high-functioning teaholic), it is hard pressed for me to find a café here that I have not dined at.

And so we arrive at the Starfish, the eclectic seaside café on the St. Clair esplanade.

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It’s hard to define Starfish, but maybe that’s the beauty of it. From the electric swing playing over the speakers to the David Bowie posters pouting down at you from the wall, from the vintage swan wallpaper to the Pacific Ocean right outside the front door… and I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. Think coconut turmeric lattes as you sit outside and enjoy the sun on a lazy Sunday morning. Think a glass of wine as you wind down to an acoustic set on a Friday evening. Think fresh seafood sourced straight from the Otago harbour. Mouth watering yet?

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I think the best thing about Starfish is that every time I go there (and believe me, it’s an embarrassing amount), it’s a whole new experience. I never tire of the ever-changing menu, and there is such a huge array of options to choose from and I don’t think I could ever sample everything. For all you social media enthusiasts (*raises a guilty hand*), do not fret; everything at Starfish is Insta-worthy. And for all you difficult dietary chums (*raises another guilty hand*), they’ve got you covered. Dairy free? Gluten free? Vegetarian? Look no further.

If there is one place you should go to experience the essence of Dunedin’s café culture on your travels, Starfish is the one. Perhaps one of the only stale points is that it is not within walking distance of the town centre, limiting it to those with access. However, if an outing to St. Clair is not already on your to do list, then I honestly don’t know what you’re doing here. Nestled in a plethora of boutique shops and restaurants – not to mention the most photogenic beach in New Zealand (am I biased? …probably), just one visit will be enough to convince you to ditch your return ticket home. Just make sure you’ve packet a scarf and gloves in your suitcase. Brr.

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My Starfish Breakfast Order

  • Pics Poles Smoothie
  • Blueberry, Coconut & Lemon Hotcakes
  • Citrus Slice

(note to self: don’t complain when you no longer fit your jeans)

Also, a handy tip; if you’re eyeing up one of their famous smoothies (I recommend the Pics Poles; possibly the best peanut butter creation to ever grace the earth), make sure you get in there before 3pm or else the blender gets put away for the day. Believe me, I’ve made this mistake many times; tears were shed.

The ‘Deats

Starfish Café, Restaurant & Bar

240 Forbury Road, St. Clair, Dunedin, New Zealand

Sunday-Tuesday 7am-5pm

Wednesday-Saturday 7am til late

03 455 5940

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