Shoreditch’s pop-up Porridge Café is now in its second week, and has just over a couple more to go before it pops off again. But is it breakfast brilliance or oatso overrated? We paid a visit to find out.
The café occupies a bright and airy space on Paul Street, successfully pulling off a charmingly scruffy-round-the-edges, half finished look. We’re told by co-founder Elly that the wooden service counter and the few stools dotted around for those eating in are homemade by the families of herself and partner Nik. A few prints left over from previous shop occupiers East End Prints brighten up the walls.
When it comes to the food, the obvious first observation is that all the savoury dishes we tried would be better described as risottos than porridge. But that wouldn’t be anywhere near so good for marketing — Risotto Café doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and wouldn’t warrant the helpful associations with high-profile Cereal Killer Café around the corner.
Chatting to Elly, who serves us with a smile, it’s hard to be too disgruntled by a publicity-friendly name. This is a venture started by a couple with a little experience — the pair run catering company Bow Food — but no capital. They’re taking a punt on porridge.
A spelt base comes with strong-tasting, meaty porcini mushrooms, pecorino and big chunks of salami (£6.50) — it’s made with chicken stock and red wine, and is a far richer and more rewarding affair than its grain-heavy, healthy-sounding description might suggest.
A slightly fresher offering comes in the form of a courgette, basil and mint concoction made with a blend of quinoa and millet (£5.50). The courgette chunks have seemingly been pre-charred to accentuate their sweet juiciness, while a big hit of lemon is bright and refreshing. We could swear there was tarragon in it, though, and we couldn’t taste any basil or mint — a bit of herb confusion?
A third ‘porridge’ (£6.50) is made with arborio rice — the risotto classic — with shredded chicken and leeks, and given a smooth creaminess with the addition of soft cheese. Again, it’s a filling lunch option we’d happily return for.
We didn’t try all these options in one go; there are only two on at a time, along with three more traditional breakfasty porridges topped with varying fruits. While mornings can be quite busy, there have been no lunchtime queues this week — we’ve kept an eye out as it’s just around the corner from Londonist Towers.
If you’re in the area of a weekend you might be tempted with the intriguing-sounding maple syrup, bacon and poached egg porridge. We're yet to try it but are told it is again more akin to risotto than the barmy breakfast mash-up it sounds like.
Oh well, we might have to give that one a go ourselves. Maybe with cornflake sprinkles, a crispy sausage wafer and a Bloody Mary jus...
Porridge Café is at 70 Paul Street, EC2A 4NA