As if I was going to miss out on Pancake Day just because I’m living in Tokyo. Family restaurant Denny’s does an all-you-can-eat pancake offer for just 999 yen. I heard it calling to me. The challenge was on…
It’s Pancake Day! Rejoice! Finally, we can give these simple floury, eggy, milky creations the full appreciation they deserve.
Why then, am I looking so anxious at the giant stack of pancakes in front of me? Because I had to eat them ALL in 15 minutes – that’s why.
Every Mardi Gras, The Breakfast Club really does take the day at it’s literal meaning – ‘Fat Tuesday’ – and presents customers with an ego-massaging, or ego-destroying, Man V Food eating competition. The rules are as simple as the ingredients: eat all the pancakes within the time limit and pay nothing; fail and pay £17.50 to Rays of Sunshine children’s charity (so basically, it’s a win-win situation).
Last year, I wolfed down 12 pancakes in 20 minutes, earning myself some applause and this wonderful footage of me gagging bravely struggling.
This year, the challenge was tougher: just 15 minutes for 12 pancakes. And they were definitely bigger and eggier than before.
I knew before I started that defeat lay ahead of me, but how much did I enjoy getting dirty?!
By ten minutes in, I settled for defeat. Quantity was not the problem so much as sweetness and dryness, and swallowing pancakes mixed with water was not agreeing with my stomach. By taking the sensible decision to quit, I a) didn’t feel ill all afternoon and b) got to take away what I didn’t finish – win! Pancake Day is lasting that bit longer for me and I’m looking forward to breakfast!
Apparently, there is no such thing as too many pancakes…
Pancake Day. Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Whatever the term… the day of pancake goodness approaches!
Simple though they are, pancakes are a comfort food that can insistently transport you back to your childhood days. They come in many different forms and many different guises. So if you want to branch out this Pancake Day, here are some top tips for shaking things up a bit…
The Functional: My Old Dutch
If you want pancakes, My Old Dutch has pancakes! The Holborn branch is a favourite haunt of LSE students, and it keeps things simple. It serves up a range of sweet and savoury treats at pitch-perfect prices – you can get a pancakey fix from £5.95. Or if you go for the Monday Madness, all pancakes are just a fiver. Bargain!
Try the apple/pear and cinnamon for the perfect amount of sweetness and the ability to smugly claim that you’ve just eaten one of your five-a-day.
Sitting on the Aldwych, The Delaunay is a fixture on the London dining scene for serving up good quality European fare in rather swish settings. However, The Delaunay is definitely not above serving the simple delights that are pancakes. On their brunch menu, there are the classic delights of bacon and maple syrup (£9.75) and blueberries and crème fraiche (£9.95), or the more unusual plum and cinnamon compote (£10.50). I’m not going to lie though – it’s all about the bacon. Who can resist that saltiness cutting through the sweetness, cushioned with some soft dough? Not me, anyway.
The atmosphere is far more laid back than you might expect from a place that has doormen and two people working front-of-house. Settle in and get your pancakes on order. Also, fear not: at the Delaunay, poshness does not equate to portion poverty. The pancakes are some of the heaviest we’ve ever sampled and they’re huge. You may well be defeated.
Savoury – Okonomiyaki by Sho Foo Doh, Pacific Social Club
Stop with the sushi stereotypes! There are pancakes in Japan too, and they’re delicious enough that you should definitely put them on your food radar. Famously un-Japanese in aesthetics is the incredibly messy okonomiyaki. This is a savoury pancake, made from the standard eggs and flour, but with cabbage, topped with a sweet sauce, mayonnaise, fish flakes and seaweed. It can have various fillings – most popular is squid or pork. Yes, it sounds like a catastrophe but trust us, it works.
For some seriously delicious and messy times, head to the Pacific Social Club on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night where Sho Foo Doh cooks up Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki (£8) which include NOODLES!! You can then add a range of toppings priced between £0.50 and £3.
If you absolutely refuse to take your pancakes savoury, then you need to get stuck in to dorayaki. These are similar to Scotch American pancakes but come with a gorgeous sweet filling sandwiched in between. In Japan, the filling tends to be azuki bean paste or custard, but a whole range can be bought from the Japan Centre, just round the corner from Picadilly Circus. Like this red bean and cream cheese mix. There’s also a really genius matcha (green tea) and mascarpone mix. Warning: these are addictive.
So yesterday was Pancake Day / Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras!
I’m going to call it Fat Tuesday for a very good reason. I got fat.
The Breakfast Club was running a challenge: eat 12 pancakes in 20 minutes and have them for free; or lose and pay £17.50 (which they then give to the charity Rays of Sunshine).
Given that I’d very much enjoyed my previous visit, and given that this challenge was so ridiculous, I just had to give it a try.
I have a confession though. I don’t like pancakes that much and I can’t eat tonnes of sweet stuff (even chocolate). This was going to be difficult and I had lots of pre-eating nerves. Plus I had a craving for bacon, and was trying hard not to back out and order a bacon-pancake lunch instead.
However, I hate losing – I didn’t want to be thought of as some silly girl who thought she could take on some manly pancakes in her puny stomach. So, on behalf of my gender if nothing else, I was gonna bloody well eat my hardest!
Watch the video of how I got on. (I didn’t have time to edit it so use the annotations to skip to relevant parts. If you want a summary, watch from 18 mins onwards.)
It was a struggle but I tried to remain cheerful through my chomping.
However, having made it with seconds to spare, I ended up a little like this:
The main problem was not the quantity but how the pancakes absorbed all of my saliva leaving me unable to swallow them, hence the copious amounts of water I drank. For the first five, this wasn’t an issue. But the next seven were tough. On completion, I didn’t feel euphoria. I felt zombiefied. And I really wanted something savoury. In fact, I still fancied some bacon.
Whislt I’d like to pretend I was triumphant all afternoon, I actually crashed and sat around in a sugary stupor until 8pm at night, when I dragged myself to muay Thai and tried to sweat those pancakes out of myself.
Happy Pancake Day, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or whatever you want to call it!
When I found out that The Breakfast Club was running a pancake challenge – eat 12 in 20 minutes – I couldn’t resist. After a lot of chomping, swallowing and embarrassingly some retching, I completed it with less than 10 seconds to spare (and to avoid the £17.50 forfeit – although the money goes to charity).
A full report with video footage is coming soon, as is a special report on Swedish buns traditionally eaten at this time of year – semlor (a semla). Watch this space!