Restaurant review: 26 Grains

26 Grains, Neal's Yard

To say that I am a breakfast person is somewhat misleading. More accurately, I am a porridge person and my consumption is by no means limited to the morning hours. On a hot summer day I will settle for bircher muesli, but porridge is by far my favourite. If I had been Goldilocks, I would not have rejected the first bear’s bowl as too hot and the second’s as too cold before settling on the third. No, I would have devoured all three bowls then scoured the pan for leftovers.

From its origins in the plain pottage of the poor, recently porridge has evolved into an almost luxurious affair steeped in spices and showered with fruits, nuts, seeds, compotes and curds. Little wonder that then it has become the healthy breakfast of choice for many Brits, from David Cameron to Tim Henman to Kate Moss. I’m so obsessed that I’ve developed a process of soaking and stirring that allows me to produce a decent bowl from the microwave at work, without resorting to sachets. It’s not ideal, but decent porridge is better than no porridge.

So imagine my joy at learning that, aged only 24, Alex Hely-Hutchinson has opened porridge pop-up 26 Grains as a permanent site on my route to work. Dive off the tube a stop earlier and take a detour via the kaleidoscopic Neal's Yard, and I can arrive at my desk with a bowl of perfect porridge that eclipses any microwave efforts. Just as 26 Grains’ modest décor is elevated with a lick of pastel green paint, Kilner jars and neat little cacti, its bowls of modest, mostly English-grown grains are elevated with Nordic spices and seasonal toppings.

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Perched on wooden boxes masquerading as stools, we wait in anticipation. One friend is tempted by the banana cacao, but opts for bircher. Another chooses the knockout blueberry porridge, which is brightened by naturally sweet layers of blueberry compote, strawberries and coconut flakes atop a swirl of rich almond butter. For me, an aromatic cardamom and oat and barley base crowned with honey-glazed apricots, creamy tahini yogurt and a flourish of sesame seeds.

26 Grains produces porridge just as it should be: virtuously wholesome, a little indulgent and wonderfully comforting, this is the culinary equivalent of being wrapped in a soft blanket. Arrive famished, leave fortified for the morning ahead.

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