As UK customs go, they don’t get much more British than pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (9 February). The day before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent and, thus, 40 days away from Easter), it’s celebrated by people making, flipping and eating pancakes – dating back from a tradition when housewives would use up all the remaining dairy and other products for a big feast before the fasting of Lent began.
It’s also a centuries-old convention to participate in races while flipping pancakes in frying pans. If all that sounds like fun and you’ll be in London for ‘Pancake Day’ this year, here’s where and how you can you get in on the action…
London’s perfect pancakes
British– for traditional UK pancakes (that is, with lemon juice and sugar rolled up inside), try Shoreditch’s Shutterbug creperie
American – those puffy, buttermilk efforts from the States are to-die-for, not least when drizzled with syrup or topped with bacon, and you can’t go wrong with the output at The Breakfast Club cafes throughout the city,or at Camden and Shoreditch’s The Blues Kitchen or Fitzrovia’s Riding House Cafe
French – if you prefer those fancy French crepes and galettes, you’ll find many a stall throughout the city that does them, but those served up at Richmond’s Chez Lindsay are delicious, as they are at Hackney’s Creperie du Monde, Hammersmith’s La Petite Bretagne and Brixton’s Senzala Creperie
Gluten-free – as most French-style galettes are made with buckwheat flour, they’re naturally gluten-free, which means you might head to Shoreditch’s Shutterbug again or Brixton’s Senzala Creperie. Hackney’s Creperie du Monde and(again) Hammersmith’s La Petite Bretagne will also make pancakes with buckwheat, whileChelsea, Holborn and Kensington’s My Old Dutch restaurant branches will go gluten-free on request.
London’s pancake races
The Parliamentary Race – a true once-a-year sight, this event sees Members of Parliament (MPs), members of the House of Lords and media correspondents race one another all in the name of charity; for social care organisation Rehab – and bragging rights. Starts at 9.45am at Victoria Tower Gardens right by the Houses of Parliament, so ideal for popping along to should you be around for Pancake Day in London and staying in the West End; say, at the Shaftesbury Hyde Park International.
Flippin’ Good Fun Pancake Race – taking place the Saturday before the big day (6 February), this one based around Greenwich Market actually features heats before a grand final and even a ‘Valentine’s Day race’ for those inclined. Prizes are on offer for winners and best fancy dress. Starts around 12.00 noon.
The Great Spitalfields Race – with proceeds going to London’s Air Ambulance, this fancy dress-themed effort’s bound to hit the heights. Starts at 12.30pm in the Brick Lane vicinity of East London
The Better Bankside Race – kicking-off in Borough Market’s Jubilee Place, it’s only open to entrants who actually work in the Bankside area, but you’re perfectly welcome to come along and watch. Again, it’s charity based, with money raised going to Paintings in Hospitals. Starts at 12.30pm.