North Point Cafe is an old standby for St Andrews students. With a very loyal following within and without the student community, the café with its bright and familiar red façade is a spot of joy at the end of North Street on a gloomy winter day. The café is already well-known for its fluffy American-style pancakes and affordable breakfast and lunch menus, so it’s no surprise that come Pancake Day (Tuesday February 25th 2020) the little dining spot was packed nearly the whole day. However, the star of the Pancake Day show was Pancake Night: an evening event put on by North Point for one night only. With extended hours from 8:30am to 8pm and an exclusive pancake-only menu from 5pm onwards, Pancake Night was a fantastic addition to North Point’s regular offerings.
For those new to the holiday, Pancake Day is traditionally held on Shrove Tuesday, or the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. As Lent requires a 40-day fast, households regard Shrove Tuesday as a means of using up rich perishable ingredients before the fast. In connection with Carnival festivities, it’s sometimes called Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday.” As pancakes require eggs, milk, and butter, they are a simple and effective way of clearing out any animal products or by-products in the cupboard in one fell swoop. In Britain, a version of Pancake Day began as early as the 16th century; now, it’s become somewhat of a more gastronomically-based holiday than a Christian ceremony, but nonetheless remains prominent in the public eye regardless of origin. In St Andrews, it’s yet another reason to visit North Point and indulge in a full plate of pancakes.
I have to confess, I hadn’t perused North Point’s pancake menu prior to my Pancake Day trip. I’m from North America, and not only do we not have a widespread celebration of Pancake Day, we have very specific ideas of pancakes and flapjacks and the like. Coming from Canada with its dual French and English influences, I have a lot of opinions on fluffy pancakes, crêpes, and the differences therein. I love a crêpe when it’s called a crêpe, and have been silently dreading the thin British pancake since my arrival to the UK two years ago. However, trying to find a good fluffy pancake can be a journey once overseas. Joined by two fellow North Americans, we set out to judge for ourselves the merits of Pancake Day abroad.
The Pancake Night event menu was divided into three sections: sweet pancakes, savoury pancakes, and a new vegan pancake selection, all available in half (two pancakes) or full stack (four pancakes) sizes. Alongside their regular banana-Nutella and toffee bit sweet pancake stacks, North Point also offered an option with raspberries, fruit coulis, and ice cream, along with a decadent chocolate chip pancake topped with chocolate buttons, ice cream, and toffee sauce. A blueberry and maple syrup pancake rounded out the sweet menu. The savory menu was decidedly shorter: aside from the year-round maple syrup and bacon stack, a scrambled egg and maple version was launched for the event.
What caught my attention was the vegan pancake menu. North Point rolled out a dedicated vegan specials board in mid-February, something which has largely flown under the radar. While not plant-based at present myself, I recall how difficult it can sometimes be to find fully vegetarian or vegan meal options–not desserts or small bites–in smaller cafés and restaurants. This new vegan specials board includes a soup of the day, a special dish, a “quick lunch” option, and a daily sweet treat. For Pancake Day this vegan board was expanded into a three-dish roster including vegan versions of the blueberry and raspberry pancakes also listed under the sweet section, as well as a unique stack of pancakes topped with a tomato and avocado salsa, only available after 5pm.
Between our three-person group of self-styled Pancake Sleuths, we ordered a half-stack of toffee and cream pancakes, a full plate of banana-Nutella pancakes, and a stack of bacon and maple syrup pancakes (I’m the only Canadian in the Pancake Sleuths group; no prizes for guessing which one I ordered for a taste of home). We were pleasantly surprised to see how beautifully arranged our order was–to be quite fair, breakfast food, especially breakfast food ordered in the middle of the day, is always attractive but our pancakes arrived resplendent with artfully drizzled streaks of toffee sauce and little clouds of whipped cream. If ever there was a breakfast spread deserving of a flat lay, the mark of student satisfaction, we may have found it in St Andrews.
The Pancake Sleuths dug in after a photo op (pictured above). Our pancakes were heavy enough to be filling–only two of us finished!– but remained delightfully fluffy, and dare I say, squishable in the best sense. My fellow Sleuths kindly did not judge me as I proceeded to butter and flip each individual pancake in the stack–Reader, I ask, how else are you supposed to ensure butter equality?–and we made our merry way through our first Pancake Day. The pancakes themselves were lovely, and, given that North Point sold 1,046 orders of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, we are not the only ones to think so. While we won’t have another official Pancake Day until 2021, I can happily say that a midday pancake here and there wouldn’t be amiss as a treat in 2020 even if you missed North Point’s Pancake Night.