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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The French Way: A Succulent Food Tour of Nice + Recipe

It was mid-morning when my family and I shuffled sleepily to Place Masséna on a Sunday in mid August. Our arrival to Nice the previous evening had offered us a peek into the lazy, sun-kissed life of the Côte d’Azur, and we were ready to explore the city through our tastebuds.

At 9.30am on the dot, our lovely tour guide, Marion, bounded into the square. We had booked a food tour with the French Way, a local company specialising in art, food and wine tours in Nice and Paris. The rest of my family were proud foodies, and whilst I was still developing an appreciation for gastronomy, I was excited to tease my palate with the iconic tastes of Niçoise food.

While I’d always thought of French food as confined to croissants and vintage cheese I can’t pronounce, this tour would open my eyes to the fresh and simplistic flavours of the French Riviera. Described by the French Way as, “not quite French, not quite Italian”, French cuisine is characterised by the use of locally-grown vegetables that are chosen according to the season. The dishes focus on modest, reductionist ingredients so that the consumer can enjoy each component in its own right.

Marion lead our tour group from Place Masséna, through the Old Town and to Cours Saleya Market. There, we wandered through the bustling stalls with eyes as wide as a child’s on Christmas morning, trying to take in everything all at once. The colours, the smells, the atmosphere… it was almost too much to process. All the while, Marion was throwing information and samples at us left, right and centre.

Highlights included Torta de Blea (a local cake made of sweet and savoury ingredients), Socca (a chickpea pancake of sorts), and hard candies made from violet flowers. Oh, and I can’t forget all that gorgeous fresh fruit.

Fifteen tastings later (yes, you read that right), and we had arrived at Maison Bremond 1830. Maison Bremond 1830 is a mouth-watering shop specialising in olive oils, truffles, tapenades, terrines and confectionery, all sourced from the Mediterranean and Provence. There, we were treated to olive and truffle oils that would change my standards of cooking forever. Without a shred of doubt, my favourite was the lemon-infused olive oil. I thought that was quite impressive for someone who doesn’t particularly like lemons or olives 🍋

The ‘Deats

Name: Maison Bremond 1830

Website: Here

Address: 15 Rue de Pont Vieux

Phone: +33 (0)4 93 92 50 40

Email: nice@maison-bremond.com

At the end of the tour, we bode farewell to Marion and retreated back to our apartment with full stomachs and inspired minds. As someone who had never been passionate about the kitchen (I think to even say I am tolerant is quite a stretch), I was amused to find myself motivated to practice recipes and dishes influenced by Niçoise cuisine. I really relish the idea of modest, delicious food that is easy on the tastebuds and easy on the waistline. I guess that’s the key word here: easy. None of the meals Marion delighted in showing us required much preparation or effort, and they were all sourced from local producers without any of that synthetic shit imposed through processes of importation or preservation. With French food, what you see is what you get. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Recipe

Salade Niçoise

2 hands full of red radishes

4 hard-boiled eggs

1 branch of celery

2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes

200g of tinned tuna

4 big handfuls of mixed salad leaves

1 tablespoon of dijon mustard

10 tablespoons of olive oil

3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper

4 spring onions (or 1/2 red onion)

1 handful of broad beans

4 purple artichokes

16 tinned salted anchovies

black olives de Nice

salt and pepper

vinaigrette

The ‘Deats

Name: The French Way

Website   Facebook   Twitter   TripAdvisor

Address: 31 Avenue Malaussena

Phone: +33 (0) 6 27 35 13 75

Email: info@thefrenchway.fr

If this article has whetted your appetite for all things French, then make sure you take the time to enjoy my two Parisian blog posts: Fluctuat Ner Mergitur: A Paris Photo Diary and How to Spend a Layover in Paris (Sans Eiffel Tower) 🇫🇷

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5 Foods That Will Make You Go WTF (and 5 Foods That Wont)

Oh, Thailand.

One of the highlights of traveling to a faraway and exotic country is having the opportunity to try weird and wonderful foods. In France, that may be escargots. In South America, that may be roast guinea pig. In Thailand… well, let’s just say you’ve come to the right place to find out.

1

Insects

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Traveling to Southeast Asia as a vegetarian, the last thing I expected myself to do was eat a bug. But, as it would stand, I am not very good at being vegetarian.

Feeling a little bit like a contestant off Fear Factor, I decided to expand my palate on the very first night of the trip by having a nibble of a grasshopper. In Thailand, insects are fried in a wok, seasoned with chilli, salt and pepper, and enjoyed as snacks. Whilst I cast my doubts on the Thai people’s relationship with the word ‘enjoyed’, I will admit that it wasn’t the absolute worst thing I have ever eaten. Did it taste like bitter, burnt popcorn? Maybe. Did it require me to run to the kitchen and spit out the remnants immediately afterwards? Maybe. But rest assured, it looks more gross than it actually is.

2

Fried Chicken Heads

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When I passed these at the market, I actually had to do a double take. I’d heard of chicken feet being a delicacy, but chicken heads? I felt a little sick just looking at them.

Whilst our tour guide informed us that these are mostly used for the purposes of pet food, that doesn’t stop people (including a few questionably brave tourists) from indulging themselves. Apparently (because, y’know, there was no way I was trying these in a hurry) they consist almost entirely of bones and gristle with a little bit of fat in the neck. If these little guys whet your appetite, don’t forget to crack the head so that you don’t miss out on the “unique buttery flavour” of the brain.

I think I’ll pass.

3

Whole Fish

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Arguably this isn’t as crazy as the other foods listed, but hailing from somewhere like New Zealand, it’s still a shock to see an entire fish for sale – head and all – as opposed to cuts of meat.

What really took me aback was the price. One of these fish were worth 30 baht (the Thai currency) which is roughly equivalent to USD$0.80!

4

Fried Worms

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Poppy enjoying her fried worms.

Mmm.

Fried bamboo worms are a Thai treat that you will most likely find in the North.

My friend Poppy and I brought a small bag of ‘lesser’ worms (because apparently you have high and low quality fried worms… who would’ve known?), and I plucked up the courage to try one.

In all honesty, I preferred the grasshopper. These little rascals tasted like gravel with a vaguely peanut-esque aftertaste. “Just like popcorn!” our guide grinned.

Yeah right.

5

Whole Fish 2.0

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If you thought I was done with the fish, then you were wrong.

I have no idea what kind of fish this was, but I’m sure it was an ugly mother******. This entire fish – teeth and all – was placed on the table in front of us, complete with chopsticks and dipping sauce. Had I not been vegetarian, I don’t think I could have even eaten anything, what with it staring back at you. If you fancy watching Poppy’s ethical dilemma, check out our travel vlog.

1

Ice Cream

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The first thing I decided when I arrived in Thailand was that I would have put on 5kg worth of dessert by the time I returned home. How can you not when you’re constantly walking past places like this?!

Aside from the miscellany of ice cream flavours, the toppings alone are to die for. Toasted marshmallow? Buttered popcorn? Oreo crush? Froot loops? You name it – they’ve got it.

2

Street Food

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You cannot travel to Thailand and not try the street food. Aside from the fact that it’s so insanely cheap, it also tastes infinitely better than anything you would ever buy out of a package. Plus, you’ll find yourself eyeing up foods you never even knew existed.

Durian? I have no idea what that is, but I’ll take three.

3

Watermelon Juice

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You got me; this isn’t a photo of watermelon juice. But it is a photo of fresh watermelon (and some sneaky papayas) at a local Thai market, which I think we can all agree is far more photogenic than juice in a cup.

Watermelon is one of my favourite fruits, and the only thing better than fruit is liquid fruit. The beauty of watermelon juice in Thailand is that – like everything – it is so much cheaper than the same product would cost back home (or even in neighbouring countries, for that matter). An average watermelon juice in Thailand might cost around USD$0.60. To put that into perspective, when I ordered one during my stopover in Singapore on the way home, I was charged USD$5.60. Case in point.

4

Gelato

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I tend to think of Italy when I think of gelato, but that doesn’t mean the Thai don’t know how to do their frozen desserts.

I became obsessed with matcha green tea gelato during my stay. The taste is ultra refreshing and perfect for a snack on the go during a hot, sticky day tour in the sun. One of those crispy waffle cones don’t go amiss, either.

5

Dragonfruit

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I think the name of this fruit alone is enough to warrant a mention.

If you don’t think you’re familiar with these, then you might be able to jog your memory by scrolling through any Instagram tag along the lines of #smoothiebowl or #nalubowl. Dragonfruit are white on the inside with distinctive black seeds dotted throughout them. They taste somewhat like a less tangy kiwifruit, and are popular for their gorgeous colours.

What weird and wonderful foods have you encountered on your overseas travels? Comment below – I’d love to hear about your experience!

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