Brunch at Exmouth Grind or how I found yet another way to love my neighbourhood…

Finding a lovely new spot for brunch that’s within walking distance of your front door is like finding a fiver in the back pocket of jeans you forgot you had in your wardrobe. It’s unexpected and it’s awesome. Exmouth Market Grind is that fiver for me though truth be told, it’s totally a tenner.

Sat where the lovely little Café Pistou used to be on the corner of the market, it’s got a 5* location and boasts a menu that mixes the traditional – full English or baked eggs anyone? – with the modern – wild boar eggs Benedict and breakfast burritos over here please – which means you’ll be able to please every sort of breakfast hunter in your party.

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Inside it’s open, airy and modern, marrying marble beautifully together with blush pink menus and coral coloured booths. Staff are super lovely finding a table for four with the minimum of fuss on a busy Spring Saturday morning and noting requested menu changes with nary a raised eyebrow but a warm acknowledgement and cheery smile.

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Yoghurt & granola bowls at a neighbouring table looked fresh & virtuous and there are several small plates on offer as well as breakfast dishes. If you order anything as a side – and really why wouldn’t you, it is the weekend after all – you owe it to yourself to make it the chorizo stuffed dates with pancetta & labneh which will now forever be known to me as the Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson of the menu in that they are enormous and excellent. Casting shadows over the dish, they dwarfed the sourdough toast that came alongside, were perfect for mopping up the sweet, smoky, golden-oil streaked yoghurt and provoked the table next to us to lean over and ask hungrily what they were. FYI, it’s so satisfying when other people get food envy from your order.

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A breakfast burrito was crispy and squidgy and stuffed with avocado, scrambled eggs & sausage while a splendid serving of eggs Benedict with wild boar & chilli saw incredible sunset coloured yolks spilling generously over creamy hollandaise drenched muffins. Three house ground coffee blends were up for selection and met with approval by the caffeinated people in our group while the option to make it brunch of the bottomless & bubbly sort for £12 make it a great shout for the next long boozy girls breakfast in your diary.

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Exmouth Market isn’t exactly short of places to eat well in which means anyone moving in there had better bring their A game and fair play to Grind, they’ve done that in spades. Book yourself in there now then tell me you’re not jealous that I get to call it my local…I won’t believe you.

An incredible snapshot of India through the small plates of Kricket…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll be aware of the excitement levels that get cranked up to def-con 5 when I find somewhere that I really like…

…well hold onto something sturdy and batten down the freakin’ hatches because here comes one of those posts. Yep, we’re only three months into a new year and London is absolutely smashing it out of the park right now when it comes to eating out. So far, 2017 has seen me go loco for tacos at Corazon, fall head over heels for the Italian gnocchi in Palatino and flirt outrageously with that sexiest of breakfast dishes, porridge, at 26 Grains; now folks, the time has come to slobber all over the deliciousness that is Indian-small-plate-inspired Kricket.

Starting life in a pint sized shipping container in Brixton, Kricket is a love affair with Mumbai told through the fragrant flavours of India and the seasonal ingredients of Britain. In a world that’s growing alarmingly obsessed with borders and distinctions of origin, this is a perfect example of blurring the lines between what comes from where and focusing instead on what lovely outcomes there can be from the marrying together of two different cultures.

Weeks before Kricket opened, I had already lost a little piece of my heart to the blush pink stools which border a bar curving around gently in the window, each one monogrammed on the back with a delightfully curly K. The metallic mesh nets that encircle oversized bulbs, the brick walls and the muted metallic colour scheme all helped my crush spread its wings and take flight.

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Think you know porridge? Take another – delicious – look at 26 Grains…

I really love porridge.

I know.

There are times when it’s hard to believe just how cool I can be but there you have it. I have a huge soft spot for the humble oat in all its glory and thankfully, so does Alex Hely-Hutchinson, the brains behind Neal’s Yard newcomer, 26 Grains. If you’re unfamiliar with this darling dinky pit stop in one of London’s most deliciously colourful spaces, and if the notion of porridge conjures up bowls of greying wallpaper paste from your childhood, it’s time to open your mind and reconsider your stance on this champion of dining. I’m not even gonna call it a staple of the breakfast table alone because the truth is, done right, it’s the perfect meal any hour of the day.

Started as a pop up in Old St tube a couple of years ago, this place is named after the number of grains cooked with by Hely-Hutchinson in both her restaurant and her book. This concept is not just a Scandinavian inspired homage to the oat but a way of introducing people to several other grains that can be used as the base for both sweet & savoury dishes.

Freekeh, buckwheat, quinoa & split peas all feature on a menu that heavily blends the flavours you know with the ingredients you might not. Dollops of Nutella, sprinklings of brown sugar and lashings of honey might give you a hit of sweetness at home – here it’s piles of crunchy, dark cacao nibs, dustings of cinnamon coconut sugar and pools of date syrup that will add flavour and texture. Almost too pretty to eat, heaping portions are served in swoon-worthy earthenware bowls that’ll make you curse the fact you weren’t born with effortless Danish cool.

Unless you were.

In which, I’m like 60% happy for you, 40% jealous.

Ok, maybe more like 90/10.

A Banana Cacao bowl was made with almond milk oats and topped with coconut yogurt, cacao nibs, sliced banana and date syrup. Like a glowing hearth on a winters’ day, it warmed me perfectly from the inside out and made me forget Storm Doris as she attempted to batter the capital into submission outside. Deeply delicious with wholesome, nutty flavours from the nibs, this was as far removed from your standard bowl of over-processed, fakely saccharine porridge as it’s possible to get and I loved it, crushing particularly hard on the coconut yoghurt which added a lovely cool creaminess as it melted into submission atop the oats.

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Muesli, granola and a seasonal smoothie bowl complete the cold offering while savoury palates can choose from the sriracha drizzled egg & kale oats or the hygge bowl, complete with chicory, artichoke and beetroot and if avocado toast is as far along the food trends tightrope as your breakfasting companions will comfortably tiptoe towards, they won’t go hungry here either with rolling hills of creamy green avo spread over rye bread. My need for a return visit just to try the black tahini yoghurt is like my occasional need to listen to Michael Bolton whilst cleaning the kitchen. It’s inexplicable to some but oh-so understandable to others.

Never one to shy away from trying the latest superfood ingredient I flagged down and jumped on board the turmeric band wagon with a spiced hot chocolate that was dark and savoury, gentle on the taste-buds and lingering in the nose. I love a twist on an old favourite as much as the next food obsessive – and you feel free to call me a philistine here – but there’s a place for superfoods and a place for marshmallows, squirty cream & a flake and I know which belongs on my cocoa.

At less than £10 for substantial portions of food & drink, 26 Grains is great value for money. I realise this is the point where some of you holler ‘Woman! They better be 24 carat gold plated oats for that price!’ and yeah, I get it. This is a breakfast that’s absolutely gonna cost you more than the sachet of Readybrek sitting squashed & forlorn in the bottom of your larder but the quality of ingredients used here are beautiful, the presentation is chocolate-box pretty, the vibe is relaxed and the staff are lovely…can you say the same of your breakfast al desko?