Conversations: Alex Hely-Hutchinson of 26 Grains
8th October 2018
While Alex Hely-Hutchinson’s porridge obsession is a label that she wears with pride, her love affair with porridge actually came about, one winter in Copenhagen. During her year in the Danish capital, she became fascinated with the effortless minimalism of Danish life; a minimalism that branched out through Scandinavian design, food, and ‘hygge’ — a cozy concept that is also beginning to take roots in the UK. Particularly with food, and especially in the case of porridge — there's just an inherent warmth and nostalgia brought about by the simplicity of comfort food. An idea that Alex has capitalised on with her business 26 Grains.
Alex transforms oats into wonderfully hearty concoctions featuring only the freshest seasonal fare. Ever have a craving for an almond milk spiced oat porridge with blueberry compote? Then pop into Neal’s Yard and give them a visit.
In conversation with Alex, we chat about her year in Copenhagen and her hidden gems in London and Denmark. From the unpretentious canal-side location of La Banchina, to the consistently delicious offerings of Little Duck/The Picklery, Alex Hely-Hutchinson is a champion of everything down-to-earth; albeit realised on less ordinary terms.
Please give a short introduction on yourself and what it is you and your idea or business does?
My name is Alex Hely-Hutchinson and I run the café 26 Grains
in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden. We started as a small pop up in 2014 in Old Street station, before finding our first site in Neal’s Yard. We started with breakfast, most notably porridge, and we now serve a selection of seasonal dishes and specialty drinks.
Was there a certain spark or ‘eureka’ moment where the idea for your project/business was born?
It was probably when I was living in Copenhagen. I was blown away by the simplicity and the quality of the food. It was during the winter of living there that I started eating porridge again, something I’d not had since I was a child. There was something about the nostalgia and comfort of eating it again that made me want to bring it back to the UK market.
What is it about running your business that excites you creatively?
Being able to drive the business in the direction that you envision and you watching it develop and grown into that vision. Being able to build a team, brand, and a culture around something that started as a very small idea.
Who, what or where is grabbing your attention creatively right now in terms of the most interesting people, places, experiences or ideas?
I’m still very much drawn and excited by Copenhagen and the chefs there. There is such an emphasis on quality and authenticity, and it really comes across through their newly defined style of cooking. Rene Redzepi of course, is always doing mega things with Noma
, and I love the sound of his new all new veggie menu.
Where do you always find yourself going back to in London – (a specific restaurant, café, bar, pub, venue, hangout or other)?
and Little Duck/The Picklery
– seamlessly delicious food and wine.
When travelling to other cities, is there a particular space, B&B, hotel or apartment you’ve stayed that jumps out as being ‘less ordinary’ in any way?
Copenhagen. In a city like Copenhagen, just having the access to swim freely in the canals is magical.
As far as where you go or where you like to socialise in London, do you have any hidden gems you’d like to let us in on?
Windsor Castle in Lower Clapton, good pints, good people, good food.
Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies
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