The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - The Telegraph Magazine
Patricia Trijbits, chef and founder of Where the Pancakes Are restaurants, creates decadent and delicious dishes for Shrove Tuesday
‘In Holland there are pancake restaurants everywhere. In villages, in towns, in forests, even on boats,’ says Patricia Trijbits of her native country. The founder of Where the Pancakes Are, a small chain of restaurants with three branches in London, believes good food is ‘part of her DNA’ – and arguably pancakes are, too.
Her mother was a fishmonger and her father would take charge of Saturday meals, for which he would ‘cook away the day with a great feast of ingredients’, Trijbits recalls. Her love of pancakes in particular took hold in childhood – regular family outings to a favourite local restaurant meant a fix of a baked ‘Dutch baby’ (puffed up like a large Yorkshire pudding), loaded with aged gouda and bacon or with fruit – but was fuelled by crêpes enjoyed in Paris and stacks of American-style pancakes eaten in California, where her career took her. By the time she came to London, Trijbits had ‘produced films, dabbled in charity management and now had two toddlers in tow’, she says, but, ‘I realised that the universally loved pancake was really hard to get here.’
Bringing up a family of her own, Trijbits began to hanker after the culinary experiences she had enjoyed as a child. ‘There’s nothing better than really good, simple food to share with people,’ she explains, and this mantra inspired her first to start cookery clubs at her children’s school and then, as she puts it, to make pancakes ‘her life’s work’. Having experimented with ingredients to produce a perfect batter, and witnessing her creations fly off her stall at the school fair, she started with a pop-up on the banks of Regent’s Canal in Hackney, followed by a permanent restaurant in London Bridge in 2016. There are now three outlets (their name inspired by Where the Wild Things Are –a family favourite), the most recent opened at Battersea Power Station last year.
American-style pancakes are Trijbits’s speciality, made ‘with heaps of TLC, but also with great ingredients’. Her signature buttermilk batter contains 12 ingredients – that’s about eight more than the basic combination of flour, eggs, milk and fat you might make at home – meaning it ‘carries huge flavours and is fantastic from a nutritional and digestive point of view’. Her son, now in his late teens, is sensitive to dairy so she also created a ‘3-in-1’ batter that’s vegan, dairy-free and wheat-free. Both contain buckwheat, whose properties are known to lower cholesterol and bloodsugar levels. Her specific blend of flours is a fiercely kept secret but the names of her suppliers are proudly shared: Shipton Mill in the Cotswolds provides the organic flour, Yorkshire-based butcher Swaledale produces the bacon, and the maple syrup that’s drizzled generously over her bestselling ‘American’ (starring rashers of streaky and a tumble of blueberries) is sourced from a collective of farms in Quebec.
Despite the business having served more than 160,000 pancakes since the opening of the Battersea branch alone, and with plans to launch more outlets across the country, Trijbits still loves to cook them at home. ‘I’ve always done it,’ she says. For pancakes as good as those she shares here, you’ll soon see why.