26 Grains, Covent Garden: restaurant review

Alex Hely-Hutchinson's much-loved brunch spot has just launched its first ever supper menu, foregrounding beautiful produce and simple but effective dishes on its three-dish set menu

26 Grains Review:

What's the draw

26 Grains began its life in Old Street station, where founder Alex Hely-Hutchinson served porridge pots – both sweet and savoury – in the sticky City summer heatwave of 2015. It may sound like a recipe for disaster, but disaster it was not. Despite the temperatures, she'd spotted a niche in the market and tapped into London’s craving for the lowly oat bowl. Since then, the team has set up shop in the colourful Neal’s Yard, serving fruit, nut butter and seed topped porridges and more seasonal veg based dishes daily and attracting many a celebrity (Andrew Garfield, Michael Fassbender and Maggie Gyllenhaal, to name a few) with its simplistic, locally sourced fare, and now they've opened their doors in the evening for a Scandinavian-inspired supper service, too.

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What to drink

Surprisingly, for a restaurant with lovingly-produced, locally-sourced food at its very core, there are more drinks options than dishes on the menu. Think a crisp and delicate organic 2016 Provence rosé from Vignerons winemakers; a fresh, zesty 2018 verdicchio from Ciu Ciu in Italy, and a smooth, warming Morrelino di Scansano, an organic sangiovese from Antonio Camillo. For non-wine drinkers, there are cocktails, mocktails and beer on offer: the mocktail is made with hibiscus and soda, and the cocktails spruced with just a splash of London-distilled gin or Our/London vodka. If you're after a beer, grab a Keller lager from Leicestershire-run Braybrook, the passion project of chef-turned-brewer Cameron Emirali.

What to eat

An emphasis on quality, not quantity, resonates throughout 26 Grains – it has to, as Hely-Hutchinson and co. have opted, rather boldly, for just three menu options, spanning a seasonal starter, homemade pasta main and fruit sorbet dessert. Even the detail on the menu is sparse: there’s no fancy hyperbole dressing the dishes here because, frankly, it’s not needed. Food is simplistically superb, to the point of faultless. The starter, a towering ball of creamy, gooey burrata, drizzled in olive oil, fresh basil leaves and charred, creamy hazelnuts, melts in the mouth atop warm, soft, crusty sourdough from nearby Little Bread Pedlar bakery in Bermondsey, the toppings adding the perfect bitter-sweet crunch to what would have been a standout dish without the seasoning.

If a whole burrata pre-main doesn’t make you ecstatic enough, the homemade pappardelle, generously coated in creamy, decadent, comforting arrabbiata sauce and topped with Neal’s Yard crème fraîche and toasted pine nuts nuts will. I was left smiling through my forkfuls and genuinely speechless (a very rare occurrence). It’s a heartwarming and delicious reminder that you can’t beat seasonal, locally grown and organic produce, glowing with the love that the farmers have put into growing them. With food this good, you don’t need a big menu: the three dishes here are magical enough.

Prices from £18 per person for two courses, drinks from £4.50; 1 Neal's Yard, WC2H 9DP;