Forget the grey mulch your mum used to serve you – porridge in London is serious, sumptuous and sexy. In fact, some of London’s best restaurants are so serious about the stuff, they’ve taken the humble oat-based bowlful to dizzying new heights of culinary sophistication. So if you’re looking for the best breakfast in London, you could be wise to ditch the knife and fork and reach for a spoon instead.
The best porridge in London
Like all the quintessentially British fare at this iconic Soho spot, the porridge is a classic dish ‘done properly’. Head chef Jeremy Lee’s recipe uses just three ingredients: traditional stone-ground Irish oatmeal, water and salt, gently simmered and constantly stirred (lumps are a no-no) until they’re cooked. To serve? Dark cane sugar and either milk or cream. Impeccably restrained, it’s the Savile Row suit of breakfast bowls.
Also try: Bramble porridge at Dean Street Townhouse (£5).
Venue says: “We invite you to start 2018 by trying our delicious modern Greek tapas paired with innovative cocktails and carefully sourced Greek wines.”
You know coconut or banana ‘bread’ is basically cake, but calling it bread makes it socially acceptable to eat it for breakfast? That’s the deal at this airy all-day Greek diner in Marylebone. Of coooourse this sumptuously spiced rice ‘porridge’, with its Earl Grey scented base, hazelnut crumble and cinnamon topping (plus chunks of sweet orange jelly) isn’t actually a rice pudding. Nooo, never. We’ll play along.
Also try: Black rice porridge with coconut milk, banana and mango at Nopi (£9).
Okay, now don’t freak out. This faux-porridge, created for NAMA by Ooosha, aka raw food chef Amy Levin, is pretty radical. And as everything at this trendy ‘artisanal raw food’ spot, it’s definitely not cooked. A moist, vanilla-scented mix of chopped coconut, apple, almonds and dates comes scattered with cacao nibs, blueberries, cinnamon and nutmeg, and served with almond milk for pouring. It’s porridge, but not as you know it.
Also try: Coconut milk-soaked cinnamon chia with berries at Tanya’s (£4.95).
Right up there with Marmite and Kim Kardashian in the ‘love ‘em or hate ‘em’ set, congee is a salty Asian rice porridge. which at this Soho noodle bar comes as the sticky Japanese version, Okayu. Served with slivers of pickled turnips, mellow shitake mushrooms and a soft-boiled egg, it may be outside your comfort zone, but try it anyway – there’s always the sensational udon to fall back on.
Also try: Savoury porridge with frogs’ legs and smoked beetroot at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (£17).
Dealing with Scandinavian winters isn’t just about thermal underpants and bobble hats, you know – it’s about warming from within, too. The porridge at this cleaned-lined Scandi café is made to a traditional Nordic recipe, with rolled oats simmered in full-fat Kentish cow’s milk until rich and creamy. In typically Scandi style, it’s also a stunner, and comes dressed with fig slices, chia seeds, and a trickle of delicate agave honey.
Also try: Buttermilk oak porridge with hazelnuts, seeds and berry compote at Snaps & Rye (£5).
Don’t mess with 26 Grains: they take porridge VERY seriously. Not only do they pre-soak tip-top grains (such as buckwheat, amaranth and flaxseed) to remove any nasties, they cook them in home-made non-dairy milks before adding unrefined sugars and warming spices. This oat-and-barley blend is simmered in coconut milk then topped with chunks of salted caramel pears, cinnamon Greek yoghurt and a moreish pistachio sesame sprinkle. Wholesome? Yes. Boring? Never.
Also try: Andean three-grain almond milk porridge with chancaca syrup at Lima Floral (£7.50).
Fancy breakfast with a bit more oomph?
This famous inbetweeny meal – not quite breakfast, not quite lunch – has been greatly improved by the addition of free refills on daytime-appropriate bubbly and cocktails. And while this new wave of alcohol-soaked midday dining may have its roots across the pond, what could be a more natural activity for Londoners than the so-called bottomless brunch, which brings together a sociable weekend meal and excessive amounts of booze? Here’s our guide to the best bottomless brunches in London.
Baozi Inn Romilly Street
Please note, the review below relates to Bashan – the venue’s previous name. Time Out Food editors, Jan 2018. The warren of distressed hutong rooms and twanging music might make patrons of this Hunanese eaterie feel like extras in Kill Bill. Posters celebrate Mao’s paeans to chilli-fuelled revolution – ironic, we hope, but it’s hard to tell when the service tends to the authentically brusque. Unfortunately, the kitchen seems to have rested on its laurels of late, and prices have crept higher. The once-famously fiery dishes have been toned down for non-Chinese (who account for a decided minority of diners), so it’s worth a word with staff if you’re after genuine western Chinese heat. Otherwise, stick to dishes displaying the double chilli icon. The most fun and expensive choice on the menu is the whole sea bass in red chilli, de-boned at your table should you wish and served in a big bowl of broth – ideally soaked up by a second serving of noodles. Pork dumplings were tasty if unremarkable; green chilli-stuffed shrimp looked great but lacked pungency. Beancurd puffs were crunchy-sticky goodness. The kitchen also produces a serviceable General Tso’s chicken, for more mainstream tastes. Ba Shan is much more enjoyable and civilised than many local competitors; it’s still popular too, so reservations are highly recommended.