Lemon juice at the ready, and prepare to get battered — Shrove Tuesday is on 17 February. Using up leftover milk and eggs before fasting for lent might no longer be a priority, but pancakes certainly still are. Whether you’re after a race, a restaurant or a recipe — or even gluten-free options — our guide tells you everything you need to know about celebrating Pancake Day in the capital.
Pancake Day races
Pancake races are a great British tradition, and London has a host of them lined up for the big day…
The Great Spitalfields Race
Assemble a team of four, don your fancy dress (there’s a prize for the best) and toss your way down Dray Walk and Brick Lane at this free race, or just turn up to watch others looking silly. Either get yourself sponsored or make a donation — all proceeds go to London’s Air Ambulance. It starts at 12.30pm, details (and registration) here.
The Better Bankside Race
You can only enter this race if you work in the Bankside area, but it’s free for all to come and watch. It starts at 12.30pm in Borough Market’s Jubilee Place, and given it’s Borough Market you can expect an array of stalls selling pancakes too — from the classic with lemon and sugar to more exotic offerings. Those taking part will donate to the Paintings in Hospitals charity, which buys fine art for clinical settings. Details (and registration) here.
The Greenwich Market Race
There’s an hour of racing from midday to 1pm at Greenwich Market on the Saturday before Pancake Day (14 February). Register a team in advance, turn up as an individual or couple on the day — or just watch the action. Several prizes are given for the winning racers, including a ‘lovers race’ award for the best couple. Well, it is Valentine’s Day after all. Details (and registration) here.
The Parliamentary Race
Gather at Victoria Tower Gardens by the Houses of Parliament from 9.45am to witness this one-of-a-kind annual spectacle. Politicians, lords and political correspondents run with their pancakes in the name of making money for Rehab, a charity that works with disabled and marginalised people. As it’s a good cause, we’ll refrain from making a joke about tossers. Details (and registration) here.
Pancake Day challenge
Eating pancakes is a sport in Canary Wharf on Shrove Tuesday. Plateau restaurant will be challenging diners to make their way through a stack of 20 pancakes adorned with maple syrup and bacon in just an hour. The successful scoffers will win a free three-course brunch with fizz for two at the restaurant, while losers will have to cough up the £15 price of the pancakes as well as digesting a portion of Shrove Tuesday shame.
London’s best pancakes
There are three mainstream styles of pancakes out there, so we’ve picked our best in show for each category. You can visit these any day you’re in need of a pancake fix, not just Shrove Tuesday itself.
Proper (patriotic) pancakes
We know it’s contentious, but we’re labelling as 'proper' those good old-fashioned pancakes you roll up with lemon and sugar inside — not their thinner French relatives or puffier American cousins. And you know what? They’re surprisingly hard to find. You’ll get them from pancake specialists Shutterbug in Shoreditch (even though they describe themselves as a crêperie), but other than that you might need to ask your mum.
Crème de la crêpes
London has quite the appetite for France’s delicately thin crêpes and galettes. As well as numerous stalls on markets and street corners, there’s a good deal of specialists. A highlight is Chez Lindsay in Richmond, where they’re a natural part of a menu based on the food of — and cooked by people of — Brittany. And yep, crêpes suzettes is on the menu. Also try Creperie du Monde in Hackney, La Petite Bretagne in Hammersmith or Senzala Creperie in Brixton.
America’s puffy buttermilk pancakes have come to dominate the genre. But who could refuse a pile of them drizzled with syrup, topped with bacon, lavished with blueberries or adorned with all of the above? We certainly wouldn’t say no to the excellent examples they churn out at The Breakfast Club across town (be prepared to queue), The Blues Kitchen in Camden and Shoreditch, or at Fitzrovia diner Riding House Café.
Last year we visited and tried eight of London’s best pancakes, all of which still stand — read about them here.
These aren’t as hard to come across as you might think. Most French-style galettes are actually made with buckwheat flour, which is naturally gluten-free. As such, there’s plenty of choice at Shutterbug in Shoreditch and Senzala Creperie in Brixton, though this usually applies just to the savoury options. Both Creperie du Monde in Hackney and La Petite Bretagne in Hammersmith can make any variety with buckwheat (including sweet) if you ask, and the My Old Dutch branches in Chelsea, Holborn and Kensington will also make you gluten-free pancakes on request.
Special Pancake Day menus
Available on Pancake Day only (or otherwise as specified), you'll need to catch these while you can.
Where The Pancakes Are pop-up
Due to open their first restaurant in the summer, the team behind Where The Pancakes Are have cannily picked the week of Shrove Tuesday to launch their first pop-up. Based at The Proud Archivist in Haggerston, they’ll serve a menu of sweet and savoury American-style pancakes. These include stacks drizzled in varying syrups, or topped with the likes of poached fruits, boozy creams, smoked salmon or coriander butter. It's around from 14-22 February.
Shrove Tuesday breakfast at Foxlow
Foxlow — Clerkenwell sister restaurant to Hawksmoor — is marking Pancake Day with an early start. It's open from 8-10am serving three different pancakes: the Montecristo featuring cheese, ham and icing sugar; a bourbon caramel pancake; and a traditional lemon and sugar version. Each portion costs £10 and comes with a tea, coffee or juice. Read our review of Foxlow’s brunch menu.
Biscuit pancakes at The Diner
The eight branches of US-styled chain The Diner is laying on three biscuit-themed pancake puds from 17-22 February. Opt for either ‘Jaffa panCakes’ with a tangy orange and dark chocolate sauce, a ‘Reeses Pancups’ slathered with peanut butter and biscuit crumbs, or an ‘Oreo Cookie Cake’, consisting of chocolate pancakes, crumbled Oreos and cream. Plain pancakes are also available.
French fancies at Boulestin
If you like your crêpes with a generous side order of choice, then Boulestin — a bastion of French cooking in St James’s — could be for you. On the day, you can tuck into either buttermilk pancakes laced with maple syrup or blueberries for breakfast; crêpes parmentier (potato pancakes) with smoked salmon, crème fraiche and caviar for a decadent lunch or dinner; or crêpes suzettes for an evening pud. You could even have them all.
Posh pancakes at ETM pubs
Gastropub group ETM is laying on different filled crêpes at each of its pubs on Shrove Tuesday. These will include one filled with crab, chilli, cucumber carpaccio and a lemon and lime gel at The Jugged Hare in the City; a smoked salmon, dill, avocado, pickled fennel, caviar and truffle number at One Canada Square in Canary Wharf; a pork fillet, prosciutto, maple-glazed apple and cider jus offering at The Cadogan Arms in Chelsea; and a goat’s cheese, squash, pine nuts, rosemary and potato version at Chiswell Street Dining Rooms in the City.
Cook your own pancakes
If you fancy making your own pancakes, then you might as well aim high. That’s why we’ve picked this recipe from The Breakfast Club — the place where the pancakes (and other dishes) are so popular it’s rare to walk past when there’s not a queue. These are puffy American-style pancakes which would be excellent drizzled with syrup and topped with crispy bacon. Let us know how you get on...
200g self raising flour
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp unsalted butter (melted) plus a little extra for cooking
2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
To make the batter
Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl
Add milk and eggs and whisk until smooth
Add the remaining ingredients and whisk again until smooth
Cover the bowl and chill for a minimum of two hours (overnight is even better)
To cook the pancakes
Pre-heat a hob to a medium-high temperature and melt a little butter to grease the base of the pan
Neatly use a ladle to pour the batter onto the pan, in the size of pancake you require — a full ladle would be on the larger side
Choose your toppings and enjoy!
Have any other Pancake Day suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.