Porridge sales double since 2008

Why are we obsessed with porridge - and are we obsessed enough to make a porridge cafe work?

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Porridge Bowls

London is getting its first ever porridge cafe this March. The rather prosaically named 'Porridge Cafe' is opening in the spiritual home of novelty cafes: Shoreditch.

It has immediately drawn comparisons with the Cereal Killer Cafe on its doorstep (selling just cereal), and the crisp cafe (selling crisp sandwiches). And while it claims to be more than a one-trick pony, it's a bizarre and unexpected conclusion to the rise and rise of the hearty, oaty breakfast.

It may be unkind to claim that this cafe sells 'just porridge', because after being inspired by the creative porridge dishes of Scandinavia, the owners are really pushing the boundaries of what can be classified as porridge - and are essentially crossing the divide into risotto too.

So as well as offering a baked apple, raisin and cinnamon porridge made from rolled oats, they are also selling a lemon, fennel and mushroom spelt porridge; a roasted pepper, chorizo and chilli barley porridge; and a beetroot, feta, capers and poached egg spelt porridge.

Prices range for £2.35 for a straightforward bowl of porridge - which you could argue is an impressive mark-up - to £7 for some of the fancier dishes.

The pair behind the cafe, Nik Williamson and Elly Harrington, already have a reputation for successful cookery, as they run the event catering firm Bow Street Kitchen, specialising in 'British Street Food'.

They claim that after visiting Scandinavia and seeing so many varieties of porridge on the menu, they were surprised to find that nobody in London was running one already.

The rise of porridge

They have a point. The past few years have seen an extraordinary rise of porridge. Between 2008 and 2013 the value of porridge sales almost doubled - to £243 million. Mintel found that some 49% of people now eat it regularly - and that one in four claim to eat it every day.

The vast majority of it is eaten at home, where it is favoured by people who want to make the most of the health benefits of a cholesterol-reducing breakfast with the ability to keep them feeling full. It also appeals to the many millions who are trying to keep spending under control - as it costs less than a quarter of most other cereals.

The same report found that increasingly we're choosing to eat porridge when we're out and abut too. Last year, Pret A Manger revealed that its £2.35 bowl of porridge is actually its best-selling item. It sells an incredible 9,000 bowls of it a day. Porridge sales are rapidly increasing too - and were up 10% at the chain last year alone.

It even has its place onto the menu at upmarket restaurants and hotels - where the one at Claridges will set you back £8.50 and at the Wolseley £4.75 (a bit of a bargain when you consider that another staple on the breakfast menu - the caviar omelette - will set you back £67).

The porridge cafe is the culmination of an obsession with porridge that has gripped the nation. The question is, would you want to eat there?



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