From the moment I walked in, I knew this was going to be a pretty special experience. Forget all the fitness studios you've been to - 1Rebel takes the boutique fitness concept to a new level. Both in terms of design and service this is as good as it gets. When checking in for your class you're given a complimentary bottle of water and shower towel. If you want a cold towel you can get one from the Smeg fridge in the changing rooms. You don't have to worry about having a pound coin or holding onto a key during your class, because the lockers work by code. You also don't need to stress about the fact that you forgot your deodorant again - because there are plenty of toiletries and cosmetics for you to use both in the showers and at the vanity desks. The showers are probably the most impressive area: they look like a part of some kind of industrial water works. And unlike many gyms, they're not strictly communal as there are panels between each to protect your modesty. Didn't bring a protein shake with you today? No problem, Roots & Bulbs have your post-workout shake covered. Lunch time classes even come with a complimentary juice or lunch box. Now, I've not even mentioned the class yet, but you already want to check this place out, don't you? I thought so!
The class itself was hard work. I could handle the spinning, but when we started using dumbbells the going got really tough! I'm not sure how heavy they were but it was a really good workout using them for a couple of intervals whilst cycling. You could feel it working your core, and also targeting your triceps and biceps. They lend you cycling shoes to use during the class (which were Specialized nonetheless - no scrimping here!) which means you can pedal more efficiently by both pushing and pulling. The soundtrack was flawless and the 45 minutes whizzed by.
Having worked up a serious appetite, I headed up the road to the Porridge Cafe, a pop up restaurant serving sweet and savoury porridge-style dishes (some of which could be called risotto, if we're being completely honest). But I love the concept, as whether it's porridge or risotto, these are all wholesome, filling and comforting foods that can play host to a range of different flavours, textures and ingredients, making for some pretty exciting results if you do it right. I'm also a big fan of breakfast in general - I think it's the most underrated of meals. I never understand how people can skip it or simply eat a couple of 'breakfast biscuits' on their walk to the bus stop. So the very name Porridge Cafe puts a smile on my face, as it pays breakfast the due respect it deserves!
|Inside the Porridge Cafe. The framed prints are by East End Prints.|
Every day the cafe serves three different sweet options, and two savoury: over the course of the week that's a pretty impressive selection. On the menu when I went, there were three different sweet porridges, each made with a different grain and milk:
Baked Apple, Raisin and Cinnamon (oats with semi skimmed milk)
Blueberry, Ginger and Cashew Butter (rye with almond milk)
Passionfruit, Coconut and Banana (barley flakes with coconut milk)
|A selection of the grains used in their creations: oats, rye, rice, spelt, quinoa|
I didn't see any savoury options on the menu, but I suppose these come out at lunchtime. I was initially planning on trying an unusual flavour option that I would probably never go to the effort to make at home... but then I was seduced by the classic apple, raisin and cinnamon option and got that to take away. The porridge pot was absolutely massive and really put those tiny porridge pots sold by other cafes/shops to shame.
|Baked apples, raisins, cinnamon, and lots of porridge|
The porridge looked and tasted home made. Which I mean in a good way - I felt like I'd gone around to a friend's house and been lovingly served breakfast by their grandma. The bowl had so much character and flavour that it bared no comparison to the aforementioned rather bland and gluey porridge pots. The apple and raisin topping provided just enough sweetness to run right through the porridge underneath. The only improvement I would make would be to add more cinnamon because I'm a cinnamon fiend! I ate my breakfast on the train to work, and I'm pretty sure I made my fellow commuters rather jealous with the sweet smell of cinnamon wafting through the carriage of the 8.57 to Strawberry Hill.
As well as the porridge, the customer service in the cafe was also great. I got in touch with the cafe on twitter before going, as I wanted to see if I could pick up a pot of Pip & Nut nut butter whilst I was there. Elly kindly put one aside for me and had it ready to go when I arrived. That was a nice touch that I really appreciated.
If you're as crazy about nut butter as I am, you really have to try Pip & Nut if you haven't already... they taste sensational, and are made without palm oil, added sugars or additives. I discovered the brand when Pip had a pop up shop in Boxpark Shoreditch a few years ago, and was hooked straight away (on the coconut almond butter in particular). After a successful crowdfunding campaign, the business has gone from strength to strength, and the nut butters are now available to buy in a number of places including Selfridges (swanky!) and Perfectly Paleo if you want to buy online.
Back to the Porridge Cafe: it's run by the aforementioned Elly, and Nick who together are Bow Street Kitchen.Their porridge pop-up is not only a great concept, but also executed really well: so I look forward to seeing whatever venture they have planned next. If you want to check out the Porridge Cafe, you'd better move fast, as it closes this Sunday!