Why not try something a little new this Pancake Day? Here are some great spots to try a new type of pancake, touching on some of the global cuisines represented in Oxford’s bustling culinary scene.
Honorary mention: The Dosa
Being South Indian, I am not going to call a dosa a pancake even if people do mistake it as a savoury crêpe (which is somewhat valid), however the dosa is a great place to start when trying South Indian food. The dosa is a crispy, thin crêpe-like food made from fermented rice and ground black gram batter, often stuffed with mashed masala potato and served with coconut chutney and sambar, a lentil-based vegetable curry. This is also a great starting point if you are vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free as, like much of South Indian food, the dosa is plant-based and uses rice flour. If you’re looking to try a dosa, or South Indian food in general, check out Dosapark, a tucked-away restaurant located near the Oxford train station.
The French Crêpe
The crêpe is probably one of the first pancakes you think of when you think of… pancakes. Traditionally served in France on Candlemas (February 2nd), the word crêpe derives from the feminine Latin version of the word crispus (crispa), meaning curled, wrinkled, or having curly hair. A great place to try both sweet crêpes and savoury galettes (savoury pancakes) is at the Crêpes O Mania van, usually found on Broad Street. The van offers classic options, such as chocolate and lemon and sugar, but you can also try something a little more meal-worthy, such as La Forestiere (mushroom, onion, bacon, bechamel sauce, cheese), La Toulouse (sausage, onion, cheese) and La Vegetarian (mushroom, onion, cheese).
The Brunch Pancake
Brunch pancakes take on the traditional British pancake but flip them towards a more filling meal option. Located on St. Michael’s Street, The Handlebar café is a sweet little eatery located above Oxford’s oldest bike shop. They offer a classic buttermilk pancake stack and a more eccentric coconut pancake stack with both options either being served with fresh fruit or bacon.
The Duck Pancake
The Peking duck pancake might be the pancake underdog. Originating from Imperial era Beijing, the Peking duck is characterized by its thin, crispy skin and is often served on sheet-like spring pancakes with spring onions, cucumber and sweet bean sauce. This was revised in British Chinese cuisine, becoming the crispy aromatic duck pancake, often served with plum or hoisin sauce. Although it primarily serves Thai cuisine, located on Hythe Bridge, Bangkok House includes a great crispy duck pancake!
The placki or the placek is an Eastern European pancake, predominantly found in Poland, but also in Hungary made from finely grated potatoes, eggs and onions, being a great option for the crispy potato lover. Placki can be served lightly with smoked salmon or a Polish salad, or as a more filling meal, for example with a beef, pork or vegetable stew. Located slightly further out from central Oxford in Iffley, Polish Kitchen offers a diverse range of placki, being served with a variety of options as discussed before, they also serve sweet pancakes with either strawberry sauce, sweet white sauce or Nutella and also a vegan option of placki, made from carrots and celery, served with vegan yogurt.
The Mille Crêpe Cake
Even though ‘gâteau de crêpes’ have existed in France for a long while, the modern mille crêpe cake was invented by the Japanese pastry chef Emy Wada in the 80s. Translating as ‘a thousand crêpes’, the mille crêpe cake combines several layers of the thin pancake with different cream fillings, such as vanilla, chocolate, mango or matcha – it’s the perfect cold, sweet treat! A personal favourite and hidden gem of Oxford is the DoreDore Bakery and café, located between St. Peter’s and Westgate, which serves ‘handmade Asian-style cakes and pastries’, including chocolate, matcha and mango mille crêpe cakes.
Hoppers are bowl-shaped pancakes made with coconut and fermented rice flour, originating from Sri Lanka and South India and being named after the pan that they are cooked in. Hoppers are the perfect base food, as they can be packed with a great variety of fillings, including savoury options, such as a fried egg, fried vegetables or vegetable curry, or sweet options, such as fruit salads or fruit chutneys. Also slightly further out, located on St. Clement’s Street, The Coconut Tree specialises in Sri Lankan food and serves both plain and egg hoppers. Like the dosas, plain hoppers are great for people who are vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free as the base is rice flour.
Image credit: Polina Tankilevitch @ Pexels
Image description: Crepes on white plate with raspberries, blueberries and maple syrup.