My Old Dutch Pancake House
Located in Holborn (with branches in Chelsea and Kensington), a short walk from the British Museum, My Old Dutch Pancake House serves hearty savoury and sweet pancakes to a student and tourist crowd. With a buzzy atmosphere, large portions and prices on the better side of reasonable (especially at lunchtime), the only issue is whether you'll be able to finish everything you've ordered!
Founded in 1958, My Old Dutch Pancake House has obviously been doing something right to have survived so long. It's lively and busy (especially on Mondays when there's an all-day special offer - see below) with something of a continental beer hall atmosphere. The slightly rustic wooden tables and chairs are packed in across two floors: the bright airy ground floor, and a large basement which is a great place to eat on a chilly winter's evening. It's a good place for groups (who can make use of the semi-private barrel-vaulted 'snugs' in the basement), and a great option for families - not only are kids likely to enjoy the food, but they would have to be pretty badly behaved to stand out in the general bustle. Certainly our boys enjoyed it: see Jack and Tom's reviews below.
There's a general Dutch theme, but it's mostly quite subtle, with blue and white Delft tiles on the two big fireplaces, and a few tulip artworks and pairs of clogs dotted around. The cute little wooden tulips in a little vase on each table are a nice touch.
The Pancakes - sweet and savoury
We're not sure how authentically Dutch these pancakes are, but they're certainly huge, and attractively served on big blue and white 'Delft' plates. This is not gourmet food, but the extensive menu, from old favourites to something a little more adventurous, has something to please pretty much every taste.
There are nearly two dozen savoury pancakes on offer, ranging from the 'Amsterdammer' (sautéed apple and smoked bacon with maple syrup) and the 'Italian' (mozzarella, tomato, cheese, olives and herbs) to seafood and meaty options such as Chilli con Carne and Smoked Duck with Hoi Sin Sauce. Vegetarians have plenty to choose from and there's even a 'Halal Moroccan Lamb' pancake.
Depending on your tastes you may feel some of these would work better as pizza toppings then pancake fillings. We chose the Smoked Salmon & Mushroom and the Greek savoury pancakes. Unsurprisingly at these prices, the former included a lot more mushrooms then smoked salmon, but was pretty tasty all the same. The Greek - grilled aubergine, tomato, feta, halloumi, olives and oregano - was a bit unremarkable but fine.
For most people it's the sweet pancakes that are the main attraction. There are more than a dozen tasty options, including the traditional sugar & lemon, Nutella & icing sugar, apple & cinnamon, and Vermeer chocolate cream liqueur. Most come with a choice of ice cream or cream. Our Nutella pancake looked a bit ordinary but tasted good enough. The pear and cinnamon pancake was very tasty with lots of frothy cream.
For both the savoury and sweet pancakes there is also a 'you choose' option that allows you to tailor your pancake filling exactly to your taste (choosing from more than 30 ingredients). Tempting, but it looks like it could get expensive fast, costing from 75p to £1.50 per ingredient.
What is surprising is how very filling these pancakes are. Unless you have a huge appetite, you'd be wise to hold off ordering dessert until you've eaten your main course - you may well find you don't need more! We noticed that plenty of people seem to have eyes bigger than their stomachs, and a lot of food gets left. If you're with a companion then consider ordering one savoury option to share, and then either one of two sweet pancakes to follow, depending on how full you feel.
The children's menu has a reasonably selection of both sweet and savoury pancakes, including ham and cheese, 'meat feast', Nutella, and crushed Smarties and ice cream. Our boys were initially a bit disappointed about how small their pancakes were (at least in comparison to the huge adult ones) but after eating two, both declared themselves 'absolutely stuffed'!
Other food options
There are a number of options for the non-pancake inclined, including a range of salads and some interesting Dutch starters, such as kaasballen
(deep fried cheese balls served with soured cream), bitterballen
(meat balls served with mustard) and herrings. Vegetarians have again a fair choice of dishes to choose from.
On the dessert menu, the poffertjes
are worth trying - mini pancakes served with maple syrup and butter. Very Dutch! And if you don't fancy pancakes, then there are waffles with a variety of toppings, apple pie or good old-fashioned banana split and knickerbockers glory. Pretty much everything comes with whipped cream, chocolate sauce or both.
The drinks menu is surprisingly extensive and interesting. There are some nice non-alcoholic choices, including a good selection of generously sized milkshakes, fruit smoothies, and organic juices. Round off your meal with a liqueur coffee - not just Dutch, but Irish, French, Italian and Jamaican are on offer!
Beer drinkers can choose from a range of Dutch and Belgian beers, but what caught our eye were the fruit beers, including cherry, banana and passion fruit & mango (the Mongozo banana beer is even Fair Trade). Each is served in its own specific style branded glass.
Offers and meal deals
If you're looking for a real deal then Monday is the day to eat at My Old Dutch Pancake House - the 'Monday Madness' offer means that all savoury and sweet pancakes are £5 all day (note this doesn't apply to the 'you choose' option). This is a great offer, especially for the savoury pancakes which are mostly in the £7-11 range.
Unsurprisingly, the restaurant is packed out on Mondays, with queues out onto the street at lunch time and in the early evening. Fortunately these move fairly fast and it's usually worth waiting.
Tuesday to Friday from 11am to 5pm there is a £10 set menu available. We found this a little disappointing - it only includes a small selection of savoury pancakes, and no dessert pancakes, just ice cream. The set does include a glass of house wine or a soft drink, but generally you'd be better advised to choose from the main menu.
We're not keen on the 'optional service charge' of 12.5% that is added to the bill, although it's nothing unusual in London. The restaurant does state that the service charge is shared among all members of staff, which seems fair.
Unless you are in a large group, booking isn't really necessary - there is often a queue but it's a big place (as long as you don't mind sitting in the basement) and customers are usually seated surprisingly quickly.
Jack (7) and Tom's (4) verdict:
The Pancake House is great. You can choose from lots of different toppings, and they even sell waffles. First I had a ham and cheese pancake, then I had a Nutella pancake. I had a big Nutella milkshake too. It was delicious. We sat next to a big fireplace and the tiles on it were decorated with little windmills. Watch out that you don't eat too many pancakes, like I did. Otherwise you'll feel like you're going to burst because you are so full!
I really love these pancakes. They're yummy! But one pancake (from the children's menu
) filled me right up. I liked the chocolate milkshake too. And I like the remote control models shop
opposite the pancake house. You can play with the Scalextric track and look at all the cool trucks and helicopters.
Essentials: My Old Dutch Pancake House
131-132 High Holborn, Holborn, London, WC1V 6PS
221 Kings Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 5EJ
16 Kensington Church Street, Kensington, London, W8 4EP
High Street Kensington