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Pancake Day: The best in London, from Where The Pancakes Are to Fuwa Fuwa

My Old Dutch: the Holborn cafe opened in 1958 (My Old Dutch)
My Old Dutch: the Holborn cafe opened in 1958 (My Old Dutch)

Pancakes aren't just for Pancake Day— why confine the joy of a bacon-laden stack of carbs or a syrup-drizzled crêpe to just 24 hours a year? — but Shrove Tuesday does make for a perfect excuse to indulge. This year, it falls on February 13.

The dish is one of the world’s oldest: the Ancient Greeks are said to have eaten them (maple syrup not so much) with ‘pancakes’ referenced in poems from the time. The word itself is decidedly more modern, but still fairly long in the tooth, having been used since the 15th century.

History aside, if your pancake-tossing skills fall a little flat — is that one from last year still stuck to the ceiling? — then leave the batter in the hands of a professional. Whether you have a sweet tooth or feel the need for cheese, fancy a brunch fix, or an all-day feast, there are pancakes of all kinds across town.

My Old Dutch

 (My Old Dutch)
(My Old Dutch)

London’s oldest pancake house is as traditional as it gets. Stacks come in fives and combinations include berries and cream, banana and caramel, and chocolate chip with chocolate sauce. There are also “build your own” options with more inventive and modern toppings (Biscoff, for example). Visit the original, which opened in Holborn in 1958 — there is a second site in Chelsea — for the best experience.

131-132 High Holborn, Holborn, WC1V 6PS, myolddutch.com

Where The Pancakes Are

As is perhaps obvious, the menus at this pair of pancake houses consist entirely of battered treats, with stacked portions teamed with anything from Welsh rarebit to banana, from smashed avocado to pulled-beef pastrami. Want to go deep dish? Try their Dutch Babies, an American take on a German pancake that somewhat resembles a Yorkshire pudding.

W1 and SE1, wherethepancakesare.com

Balans

 (Balans)
(Balans)

Soho’s late-night spot brings pancakes with warm maple butter and crispy bacon, or with crushed berries and cream. Then there’s a fried chicken number which sees stacks punctuated by kimchi and Korean honey. New this year is a limited edition crêpe stuffed with mandarin jelly alongside a vanilla and lime compress, orange segments, and a Grand Marnier caramel sauce.

60-62 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UG, balans.co.uk

What is Shrove Tuesday?

Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

The 40 days leading up to Easter are called Lent, and are known as a time of fasting.

Shrove Tuesday was the last chance to use up eggs and remaining ingredients beforehand.

On Shrove Tuesday, Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confessions and were absolved from their sins, or “shriven”.

A bell would be rung to call people to confession, which was known as the “Pancake Bell” and is still used today.

Shrove Tuesday always falls 47 days before Easter Sunday, so the date varies from year to year and falls between February 3 and March 9.

Polo Bar

 (Polo Bar)
(Polo Bar)

East London cafe Polo Bar is well-known for its generous stacks of fluffy pancakes, whether prepared simply with lemon and sugar or American-style with streaky bacon and maple syrup. This year, the old school joint is serving limited edition “fry up pancakes,” a savoury twist on the classic with sausages, bacon and hash browns. And a cup of bacon beans on the side.

176 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4NQ, polobar.co.uk

The Delaunay

For elegant surroundings in which to enjoy a well-stocked pancake menu, there are few places that beat The Delaunay. This European-style grand café from the Wolesley Hospitality Group serves up buttermilk pancakes with three types of toppings: get maple syrup with bacon or without, or go for blueberries and crème fraiche.

55 Aldwych, WC2B 4BB, thedelaunay.com

Fuwa Fuwa

Many pancakes claim to be light and fluffy – but those hopefuls have met their match with Fuwa Fuwa. In the hands of Japanese pastry chefs, the pancake becomes the soufflé pancake: more than an inch tall, these desserts have a seriously aerated, wobbly centre. Fuwa Fuwa — fluffy fluffy — is their first permanent London home, where they are served with toppings including blueberry and yuzu cheesecake, and a heady mix of honeycomb butter, whipped cream, and maple syrup.

Brunswick Centre, WC1N 1AE, fuwafuwapancakes.com

Chez Lindsay

This Breton-style Richmond bistro goes aux francais for its pancake menu, offering an extensive menu of traditional buckwheat galettes. Fill these folded parcels with traditional fillings like egg, cheese, and ham — known as a Complète — and a speciality Roquefort, celery, walnuts, and onion sauce, or go rogue with a king prawn and leek option. Alternatively, keep it simple, with a plain pancake and a glass of buttermilk on the side, or head to ‘Les Desserts’ for the sweet choices. Top value, too.

11 Hill Rise, Richmond, TW10 6UQ, chez-lindsay.co.uk

La Petite Bretagne

If you go crazy for crêpes, then you’re in good company at La Petite Bretagne. At their Hammersmith home, enjoy savoury crêpes inspired by Alpine favourites like Tartiflette (Reblochon cheese with potato, bacon, crème fraiche, and onion) or Savoyarde (raclette cheese with gherkin, ham, potato, and onion). Sweet treats come in myriad forms including a flaming Crêpe Suzette and one filled with Speculoos, a Belgian biscuit spread. There’s also a set menu to follow, with the choice of any savoury followed by any sweet.

5-7 Beadon Road, W6 0EA, lapetitebretagne.co.uk

Hoppers

Hoppers probably isn’t what you’re expecting from a pancake restaurant — but the dish is so important to this South Asian favourite, it’s actually named after one. A hopper is a Sri Lankan coconut (sort of) pancake that is traditionally served as an accompaniment to curry. At these popular hotspots — ready yourself for a bit of a queue to get in — the crisp, bowl-shaped pancakes are served either plain or which a runny fried egg at the centre, ripe for dipping into the likes of fragrant crab ‘kari’ or an indulgent black pork version.

N1, two locations in W1, hopperslondon.com​

Granger & Co

Granger & Co may only do one pancake, but boy is it a pancake to contend with. The Aussie breakfast connoisseurs love a superfood or two, but that doesn’t mean a little indulgence isn’t appreciated every now and then. Mornings at Granger & Co mean a stack of ricotta hotcakes, topped with slices of banana and a good drenching of honeycomb butter.

SW1, EC1, N1, W11, grangerandco.com

Senzala

This Brixton Market café takes its French crêpes and galettes on a little tour of São Paulo before they reach the plate. Their Brazilian-influenced menu takes French classics as well as the Brazilian El Egg Ranchero (chorizo, egg, onion, tomato chutney, beans, jalapeños, guacamole, and parsley). To finish off, throw a sweet-toothed fiesta with the Coco Loco – Belgian chocolate with coconut, ice cream, and a splash of rum.

42 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8PS, senzalacreperie.co.uk