16 January 2017

Brunch at Where the Pancakes Are

Southeast London has no shortage of small restaurants and bars located inside old railway arches, but that doesn't mean I didn't welcome the arrival of Flat Iron Square last year. Located just off Southwark Bridge Road, sandwiched between Bankside and Borough, Flat Iron Square occupies several arches and a large-ish open square, which is home to a flea market on Sundays. I discovered the market while I was walking home from Covent Garden one day and was pleased to find a coffee cart run by The Gentlemen Baristas, whose lovely café is just across the road.

The food and drink venues have been arriving gradually, from various street food options that pop up in vans and in a marketplace-style space in one of the arches, to more permanent restaurants like Portuguese Bar Douro and Where the Pancakes Are, which makes no secret of its cuisine. I thought the latter would be a great venue for the monthly brunch club my friends and I organise and we booked a table for last Saturday. In case you are unsure of the geography of Flat Iron Square, there are helpful signs to guide you along.

Although it was a cold and sleety day, the restaurant was full throughout our time there, so it was lucky that we had booked (yes, they take bookings!). Where the Pancakes Are occupies a relatively small space, although there is also a mezzanine level with a few extra tables. The design is lovely too, with plenty of light wood, pastel accents and some really stunning lighting fixtures.

We ordered some coffees and juices while trying to decide what to order. I had a macchiato (£2), which was pretty good and pleasingly short. The menu is divided into sweet and savoury options, and you can also order "Dutch babies", which look like giant Yorkshire puddings stuffed with a filling. I was actually most tempted by "The Australian" (£11), which involved polenta corn fritters, crème fraîche, lemon and avocado, but felt that for my first visit to this restaurant, I ought to stick to one of the eponymous dishes.

Three of us came up with a good strategy: we would order savoury pancakes to start and then split a sweet order for 'pudding'. I should have realised that I wouldn't have room even for only a part of a second stack, but ordered a classic instead: "The American", with bacon, blueberries and maple syrup (£9.50). It was the best of both worlds, I suppose! There was a little false start when after pouring syrup over my pancakes and taking a bite, I realised that they had given me lime syrup (which goes with one of the sweet dishes) instead of maple syrup, and although the result didn't taste terrible, it wasn't quite right either. Luckily, the staff were able to make me up a fresh batch for me (which also had better, crispier bacon — probably because the chefs weren't trying to make eight dishes at once).

I usually prefer savoury brunch dishes to sweet, but I did have a bit of food envy while I was waiting for my replacement pancakes as two of my friends had ordered "The Hummingbird" (with cinnamon, poached pineapple, lime syrup, pomegranate and toasted coconut), which looked amazing. In the end, though, I was very happy with my first choice. The pancakes were fluffy and light, the bacon crispy and the Canadian maple syrup delicious. Naturally, none of us had room for any dessert!

Most of the dishes are around £10 and there are various extras available if you'd like to customise your dish. We paid about £18 each including food, a couple of coffees and/or juices each, and service. There was a lively, fun ambiance and the service was very good, even though it was busy and there were several big groups present. What's more, Where the Pancakes Are is open every day (either until 4 pm or 6 pm), which is of great use to anyone wishing to satisfy weekday brunch needs.

Where the Pancakes Are
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Where the Pancakes Are. Arch 35a, 85a Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 0NQ (Tube: Borough or London Bridge). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

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