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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Grey Skies, London Highs

Where does one begin to describe London?

After the last six months, I have learnt that you should never nurse expectations when experiencing a new place. All expectations do is harbour disappointment – and what would be the point of that?

Stepping off the train at Paddington Station, I immediately found myself transported back to big city life. After shying away from the masses for the best part of three months, I ached to lose myself once again in the faceless crowds. In a city of nearly nine million people – over twice the size of my home country – I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be difficult.

In true British fashion, we were welcomed with miserable, melancholic weather. Cursing my photographic luck, I readjusted my scarf, kept calm and carried on (sorry, I had to). It was the first time I had been reunited with the Metro since my week in Paris, and I wasn’t expecting to have missed it so much. There’s that galvanising feeling of silent camaraderie between passengers that you just don’t experience on buses and trains. Or is that just me? Yeah… that’s probably just me.

“… when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”
Samuel Johnson (1777)

The modus operandi of this trip wasn’t so much participatory as it was observatory. We had arrived for one day only with a very special objective – to see Star Wars – and the rest was really just the icing on the cake. I was quite content wandering around the streets and getting hopelessly lost in the hopes of learning even a little about this beautiful, monstrous metropolis.

We strolled down the River Thames and lapped up the intoxicating scent of mulled wine from the Southbank Centre Winter Market. I had never before encountered such a market culture before arriving in England, and could wile away hours at a time exploring the myriad stalls.

Weaving our way through buskers and tourists alike, we looked up to find ourselves bathed in the shadow of the London Eye. Spoiler alert: it’s freakin’ huge. There are certain landmarks over the world that I have found somewhat underwhelming in size – the Pyramids and Big Ben, just to name two – but this iconic ferris wheel certainly lives up to the hype. Whilst we didn’t join the queues to see London from above, we enjoyed the view from below, and then carried on our merry way towards Parliament.

“London is a roost for every bird”
Benjamin Disraeli (1870)

Without a doubt in my mind, I can say that the highlight for me was the Camden Market. Unlike most people (I imagine), I had never before heard of this place. This fact was met with disbelieving ears, but I digress. Upon arriving, part of me felt like I had been thrown back in the MBK Shopping Centre in Bangkok, with it’s eccentric labyrinthine marketplace. Camden Market has over one thousand shops, stalls, bars and cafés nestled inside, plus spectacular events on the daily. My personal favourite food hubs include the infamous Cereal Killer Café (you know, the one with over 120 types of cereal on the menu) and the Cheese Bar (try the rosemary goats’ cheese, honey, walnut, and rosemary butter grilled cheese toastie! Phew, that’s a mouthful…). This is also a neat place to visit if you’re vegan 🌽

The ‘Deats

Name: Camden Market

Website: www.camdenmarket.com

Location: Camden Lock Place, London, NW1 8AF

Hours: 10am – late

I also discovered that one of my favourite artists – Amy Winehouse – lived and died in Camden. For this reason, a lot of places in this district pay homage to her, such as the striking statue found right in the heart of Camden Market, as photographed below.

The day concluded under the evening glow of Leicester Square. Located in London’s West End, this pedestrianised square is home to some of the city’s most iconic shops. Think M&M’s World and the LEGO Store – but honest opinion? The LEGO Store is slightly overrated, and M&M’s World didn’t even sell my favourite flavour (peanut butter, in case you were wondering). But hey, this trip wasn’t about retail therapy. After digesting that M&M’s could warrant four floors worth of consumerism and merchandise, we withdrew back to Leicester Square and explored the lights and the art and the Christmas atmosphere. London is most beautiful at night.

I will be returning to the Old Smoke very soon. I barely scraped the surface of London, and next time, I want to get my hands dirty. There are so many things to see, so much to do… far more than a day could ever afford. What do you recommend?

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for my London travel vlog, which will be uploaded to the Ginger Passports’ YouTube Channel. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any exciting updates! I will also be writing about my favourite London café’s in January, so keep your eyes peeled. Last but not least, if any of my readers are based in London and would be interested in meeting up next time I’m around, flick me a message on any of my social media profiles, or else email me at thegingerpassports@gmail.com – till then! 👋

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