I learnt how make them at a really early age; from a smash-and-grab recipe (smash into the pantry, grab what you can find) handed down through the generations – originally found in a New Zealand Woman’s Weekly or an Edmonds Classic cook book, but read from a tattered and battered once-leather bound recipe book, handwritten in pencil but gone over in ink, scribbled out where the imperial measurements turned to metric, and corrections made in the columns as necessary. This was the one recipe I stored in my memory when I moved out of home, and it saw me through many a hangover, burnt dinner and everything in between. Those pancakes are my childhood. Those pancakes are my comfort.
Would I go as far as to say I am a pancake fiend? Yes. I suppose I would. So, when I heard that the folks over at Polo Bar on Bishopsgate reckoned that their pancakes were the ones to (b)eat this Pancake Day… well, I had to see for myself.
There was literally no need to Google the restaurant prior to arrival, because as soon as you get to the top of the elevators on the Bishopsgate side of Liverpool Street Station, it’s… right there. Nestled between a 7/11 and a betting shop (I’m surmising)(it’s pretty accurate though) is a big, bright window, and a tiny, narrow door. That’s it. That’s Polo Bar. That’s the restaurant.
Upon entry you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the wrong place. I certainly did. From the dude in chef’s whites (assume he was the chef..? again, surmising) standing in the middle of the walkway, smiling at us, to the employee with his head popping out from under the innards of a coffee machine waving for us to take a seat – this didn’t feel like the top notch restaurant glamour that we’d grown accustomed to when out roving for the mag. This felt more like ‘twenty minutes to kill before the next 149 to London Bridge, wanna grab a coffee?’
With the menu boasting a range of all-day-breakfast as well as the standard burgers and fries, we pointlessly mulled over our choices before finally settling on… something that wasn’t even on offer. There was only one thing I wanted, and the waitress was gracious enough to see to it that I got it. WHO DO I THINK I AM? With my order of pancakes with bacon and maple syrup (and almond slivers!) placed, and the prosecco in retro champagne glasses in hand, we enjoyed the quirky retro-modern decor and waited. Not for long though – in a matter of minutes, our food had arrived…
…and was devoured. We’re told a standard serve comes with three pancakes, but ours came with four. Four smallish pancakes. Four smallish and pretty thin pancakes. I mean, I’d hate to say I was disappointed, but I was. With the amount of Americanised restaurants saturating the food scene in London, you can just about get a short stack on every street corner. So to hit up an all-day-breakfast bar specifically for pancakes, and not even have them served in a stack… WUT?
Don’t get me wrong; they tasted great. They were great tasting pancakes. Their presentation was just a little… un-pancakey for my liking.
With three large rashers of bacon and a side pot of maple syrup, plus the almond slivers and random powdered sugar, my pancakes were sweet and salty – just the way I like them. The thing I didn’t like about them though, was how quickly they disappeared. I usually get owned by a short stack; I fill up on the thick and fluffy morsels, and just leave that one, tiny mouthful at the end that drives my boyfriend mad (“IT’S ONE MORE MOUTHFUL! JUST EAT IT!”). These though, were gone in under five minutes. They just didn’t fill me up, at all.
They were nice. They weren’t game changing. And they didn’t stop us discussing whether or not it would be disgusting or not to follow pancakes up with a curry on Brick Lane. But, if you’re around Liverpool Street this Pancake Day, and have 12 minutes and £5.50 spare before your next bus, consider Polo Bar. Have the maple and almond, and ask for bacon for a quid extra.
Alternatively, try and get your hands on an Edmonds cookbook from the 60s, and go at it yourself. At home. With wine.