Why Do We Eat Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?
Shrove comes from the word ‘shrive’, which relates to the Christian acts of confession, penance and absolution. Shrove Tuesday is the last day before the Christian observance of Lent (a period of fasting and abstinence which lasts 40 days). On Shrove Tuesday, Christians would go to church to be ‘shrived’ (absolved of their sins), before cleansing the household of any rich foods in preparation for Lent. It was seen as a final day of indulgence; as such, in other parts of the world, Shrove Tuesday falls within a period of carnivals and festivals, which originated from this need to have a ‘final hurrah’ before Lent.
During Lent, Christians would stick to a strict diet, abstaining from all luxurious foods (like butter, eggs and sugar). It became customary to try to use up all such ingredients on Shrove Tuesday, therefore – and what better way than to make stacks of delicious pancakes?!
Pancake Day isn’t only popular in the UK: in fact, it’s celebrated across the world. The term ‘Mardi Gras’, which is synonymous with carnivals, actually originates from the French name for Pancake Day: ‘Fat Tuesday’. In France, they mark the day by holding a coin in one hand, flipping their pancake with the other, and making a wish. In Scandanavia, people tuck into special versions of ‘semla’: rich baked buns filled with almond paste and cream. Australians eat smaller versions of pancakes called ‘pikelets’, which are traditionally topped with jam or butter.
Pancake Day isn’t only about eating, though. You could take part in one of the UK’s oldest traditions instead: pancake racing! This activity has been popular since 1445, when the first race was held in the town of Olney (which still hosts pancake races today). Competitors run with a pan in their hand, flipping a pancake (and catching it!) several times as they go. Whoever crosses the finish line first wins.
If you’d prefer to spend Shrove Tuesday in a less athletic manner, however, never fear: our recommendations of where to find the best pancakes in London can be found below! Read on to learn more…
A London institution, this nostalgic haunt – an ode to the grand cafés of Europe – is a great place for breakfast on any day. Diners can choose from an extensive menu featuring pastries, Eggs Benedict, kedgeree, and even haggis! However, Shrove Tuesday or no Shrove Tuesday, the pancakes at The Wolseley stand out: fluffy, plump morsels stacked up high, covered in juicy berries and lashings of cream. Yum!
Granger & Co
No pancake line-up would be complete without mention of Bill Granger’s ricotta hotcakes, which set tongues wagging when his first UK restaurant opened in Notting Hill in 2012. Since then, another three London restaurants have followed – in Chelsea, Kings Cross and Clerkenwell – and pancakes remain a staple across the menus, which aim to bring a bit of Australian sunshine to the UK’s shores. Granger & Co’s pancakes are served during the day, and make a perfect treat for breakfast, brunch, or even a late lunch (we won’t tell if you don’t). The portions are big, too: you’ll get a full plateful of pretty little rounds, topped with banana and a mindblowing honeycomb butter. Simply delightful.
My Old Dutch
A kooky yet enormously popular pancake chain with branches in Holborn, Chelsea and Kensington, My Old Dutch has been a hit with hotcake-lovers since 1958. Don’t be fooled by the garish orange frontage or slightly uncool interiors: when it comes to pancakes, the My Old Dutch team are pros. The enormous menu comprises sweet, savoury, ‘lite’ (less than 450 calories), dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options – and all are delicious. Somewhere in between an American-style pancake and a crepe, these huge hotcakes will satisfy all your cravings.
It may come as no surprise to hear that pancakes are a big thing at Christopher’s, the famous American-style diner in the heart of Covent Garden – but the delicious options here have to be experienced to be believed.
Christopher’s don’t only offer pancakes, you see: they offer a ‘build your own pancake’ service which allows you to choose from a large checklist of options and concoct your dream creation. First, there’s the base: buttermilk, blueberry buttermilk, or buckwheat. Then there is the first layer of toppings (that’s right, we said first): mixed berries, coconut yogurt, or Nutella. Then there is ice cream: choose from staples like butterscotch or inventive flavours like matcha green tea. Finally, you have the option to douse your pancakes in maple syrup, chocolate sauce, or berry compote.
If that sounds like too much choice, on Pancake Day itself (Tuesday 5th March), Christopher’s are putting on a range of extra-special menu items: a cinnamon doughnut pancake stack with salted caramel ice cream and milk chocolate sauce; a white and milk chocolate oreo pancake stack; and more. Pancakes really don’t get any better than this.