Saturday, 16 January 2010

Pancake fix - requiring a re-visit of Bistrotheque (Bethnal Green, London)

I've been hankering after all things pancake, pikelet or crumpet oriented of late.

I still remember that first bite of fresh Nutella crepe from a street side Parisian stall, on my first trip to Paris many moons ago. The way the stall man spread the batter thinly and swiftly across the big round hot plate. Watching transfixed as it bubbled and fried, while the sweet smell wafted up into the cool night air. The quick "can-this-really-be-happening-to-me" inhale as spoon after spoon of Nutella was lugged onto the mix. The "if-only-I-knew-someone-here-to-bowl-over-and-hug" incredulity as he agreed to add just a little bit more on request. Aaahh, yes....the moon was shining, the Tour d'Eiffel was twinkling, and soon my trusty tres chic winter fleece and I were turning heads in all our sloppy brown, smeared glory.

Move forward to London, winter, 2010. It's snowing, and the Eiffel Tower has been replaced by the Fitzrovia Telecom Tower. C'est la vie. But plenty of opportunities for sweet, batter-ey goodness abound.

I've already raved about my love for Bistrotheque here. But I kept dreaming about the pancakes, so I needed to return. On the double.

Battling snow, sleet and wind, The Peanut Gallery and I, solid troopers that we are, made our way there on Sunday morning. Newspapers? Check. Strong coffee? Check. Gorgeous pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup to warm the cockles and tantalise the sweet tooth on a cold winter's morning? CHECK.

At £5, these babies are just such a good deal. While they're not quite up to the level of the fluffy breakfast pikelets at St John Bread & Wine (Spitalfields) (served with delish home made strawberry jam), if the speed at which I inhaled the tidy little 3 stack is any indicator, they certainly went a long way to addressing my Sunday morning fixation.

They were slightly heavier and less fluffy than I remembered them (having previously sampled their voluptuous sisters, the pancakes with blueberries and ice-cream). Although, both the TPG and I quite like them on the hardy side. There's also an option to have them with maple syrup and bacon should you feel so inclined.

Generally, a main difference between pancakes and pikelets is that pancakes are made with plain flour and pikelets are made with self-raising flour (or plain flour and baking soda) so the latter rise. However, some preliminary research reveals the nature of your pancakes and pikelets may vary widely depending on where you're coming from. American pancakes are more likely to contain a rising agent. There are also heady issues of size, stack multiples, cooking method and accompaniments to consider. In fact, there's a whole can of worms of opinion out there on the how, what, where and why of pancakes. Love it.

And then, of course, there's your thin and lacy French crepes - served best with a full jar of Nutella (and maybe some nuts or banana if you want some beefing up). Be warned that the Crepe Affair people are kidding themselves if they think their standard scraping of Nutella is sufficient - I gave up on them long ago. Lemon and sugar is also alright by me.

No matter. I'll be having a rendezvous with the whole crepe genre in Paris in a few weeks time - Monsieur Crepe Man, here I come.

Bistrotheque, 23 - 27 Wadeson Street, Bethnal Green, London E2 9DR

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