It's Shrove Tuesday on 4 March. In days gone by we'd have been preparing ourselves for the rigours of Lent, but in these more secular times the main element that's lasted is eating up all the lovely eggs and milk. Hence pancakes. If you can't be bothered to make your own, here are some places that will do it for you any day of the year. (Note: this article was first published in 2014 and prices reflect that.)
Granger & Co
We went for brunch at Bill Granger's Notting Hill outlet last year, and have just started salivating at memories of the honeycomb butter that accompanies its ricotta hotcakes. (Seriously, it's like Pavlov's dog around here.) You get three hotcakes, with maple syrup and a slab of banana. They are gorgeously fluffy and the ricotta gives a deliciously sour note to take the edge off the sweet, making them unlike any other pancakes we've found. The place gets very busy so don't be surprised if you have to wait.
Granger & Co is at 175 Westbourne Grove, W11 and 50 Sekforde Street, EC1. Breakfast is served until 12pm. Price: ricotta hotcakes and tea £14.50
We went to Shutterbug with good intentions to have a savoury crepe – the chorizo, cheddar and avocado if you must know – but then the chap behind the counter pointed to the sweet crepes that are also available at lunchtime. Londonist is weak and can happily report the apple, cinnamon, salted caramel and walnut is a beautiful combination, slices of slightly sour apple wrapped in the pancake combining with a hit of salt in the sauce. Other imaginative combos include Rocky Road, Red Velvet and cookies and cream, all for £5.50 or less. (Savoury crepes go for £5.70-£8.) During the evening you can have a cocktail with your crepe as the small but suitably-Shoreditchy space with artfully thrown together wood furniture turns into a bar. How about a Mezcal Bloody Mary?
Shutterbug is at 1 Rivington Place, EC2A. Price: sweet crepe and cup of tea £6.70
The Breakfast Club
We first tried to visit The Breakfast Club's Soho joint on a Sunday morning. That was a stupid idea, as we saw the queue snaking down the street. So instead we headed to a branch down a tiny side street opposite Liverpool Street station (also the location of the secret Smeg fridge that gets you into a cocktail bar) on a Tuesday afternoon. Much quieter. They serve white flour buttermilk pancakes with bacon so crisp you could snap it in half, and on our visit they left us with the maple syrup bottle. (We can't guarantee that would happen at busier times.) For the ultimate comfort food combo, get a hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.
The Breakfast Club has branches in Angel, Soho, Hoxton, Spitalfields, Battersea Rise and coming to London Bridge in May 2014. Brunch is served until 5pm. Price: pancakes with bacon and a hot chocolate £11
The Book Club
It's straightforward buttermilk pancakes for breakfast at The Book Club: beautiful fluffy ones, with a slightly chewier texture than found elsewhere and none of that uncomfortable food-baby effect later. They come scattered with bananas, strawberries and blueberries, and no skimping on the maple syrup. Add bacon for 50p if you like. With a homely chipped mug of Earl Grey and Erma Franklin over the speakers, this is the best start to the day we've had for a while.
The Book Club is at 100 Leonard Street, EC2A. Breakfast is served until 12pm. Price: pancakes and tea £7
Creperie du Monde
An achingly artisanal corner cafe in Hackney with wonky chairs and rough hewn tables, Creperie du Monde does bloody fantastic crepes. With the choice of 'white' or 'brown', we opted to cut down on the sugar intake and picked a savoury crepe with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella in a rich, herby tomato sauce that wouldn't be out of place in a top notch Italian restaurant. Never mind just talking about pancakes, these crepes take some beating in the general realm of lunch.
Creperie du Monde is at 51 Chatsworth Road, E5. Price: savoury crepe and pot of tea £8
Hipster gastronomy centre Brixton Village is where you'll find Senzala, and it's where you should head if you're vegan but still like the taste of pancake. All Senzala's galettes (crepes made with buckwheat flour, which is also gluten free) are vegan and they do several vegan savoury toppings. If you're in the mood for something sweet, just ask and they'll make a vegan crepe to order. Being a tad hungover on our visit we opted for a white crepe with caramelised apple, cinnamon, maple syrup and creme fraiche, the latter being a stroke of genius; a cool, slightly sharp zest to offset the lake of syrup the crepe swims in. And definitely recommended as a day-after restorative.
Senzala Creperie is at Brixton Village Market, 41-42 Coldharbour Lane, SW9. Price: apple sweet crepe and cup of tea £8.70
La Petite Bretagne
Everything about this Hammersmith creperie is French: the recipes, the decor, the music, the staff and the clientele. It's also another ideal venue for coeliacs as all the savoury crepes are wheat and gluten free, and sweet crepes can be gluten free if you ask. The price below is somewhat misleading as we opted for the most expensive thing on the menu: we cannot resist tartiflette, particularly not in such francophile surroundings. Savoury crepes start at £6.90, sweet crepes are no more than £5.50 and everything's significantly cheaper to take away. We also love the crepe misconceptions section of their website (though beware: the site has sound).
La Petite Bretagne is at 5-7 Beadon Road, W6. Price: tartiflette crepe and cup of tea £11.70
My Old Dutch
It could be easy to sniff at My Old Dutch, with its bright orange frontage, tiny yet strangely comfortable wooden chairs and mock-Delftware plates. It is defiantly, sweetly, uncool. But the pancakes work. They are the sort you make at home – thicker than crepes, eggy and no buttermilk. You get just the one, but it is enormous enough to be satisfying without a distended stomach. We went for a sweet pancake and chose our own topping: banana, maple syrup and cinnamon. The smell is divine. We also like the way the bananas clearly went in the pan first, batter filling around them, so the undersides were slightly charred and caramelised.
My Old Dutch has branches in Holborn, Chelsea and Kensington. Price: pancake, pot of tea and service £10
Disclaimer: we review anonymously and pay for all our meals / drinks.
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