Canberra’s pancake game is strong. Cafés and brunch spots have taken this breakfast staple way beyond boring batter: think lemon-spiked ricotta rounds, plate-sized, pumpkin-sweetened versions and pancake-baklava hybrids that shouldn’t work but definitely do. By Alex Greig and Diana Streak.
On the Kingston foreshore, Local Press prides itself on serving healthy wholefoods. You’d hardly notice, though, because the menu doesn’t scream salubrious. Rather, it makes for an intriguing read, running through anchovy bruschetta on a rye and quinoa muffin to breakfast tortillas with pork and pickled jalapeños. But zero in on the summer menu’s Savoury Pancakes. The airy pancake is made from mixed vegetables and is topped with full-on flavours in the form of chickpea and lentil relish, coconut and cashew chutney, coriander and mint, plus a poached egg. It’s full of nutrition – and yet it’s hard to feel virtuous after such a meal.
81 Eastlake Parade, Kingston; (02) 6162 1422
The Elk & Pea
A respectable menu of tried-and-true brunch standards, including a mortgage-shirking avo on toast and Huevos Rancheros (this version served with corn chips), such as that offered at Elk and Pea would be remiss not to include pancakes. And there they are, simply listed as Pancakes among the other eccentrically named dishes such as Society 1944 and BRAAAWP Wrap. The austerity of the name doesn’t translate to the plate: you’ll get a thick stack of pancakes topped with berries, sprinkled with vanilla icing sugar, drizzled with maple syrup and served with a side of bacon. Any red-blooded American would approve. Order yours à la mode (that’s American-diner speak for “with ice-cream”) – you won’t regret it.
21 Lonsdale Street, Braddon; 0436 355 732
If you’re planning to try Penny University’s Pumpkin, Walnut & Flaxseed Hotcake, bear in mind it’ll take a good 15 minutes to get to you. Why? Well, this is no flimsy crepe; we’re talking a prodigious, fluffy cake that takes up most of a dinner plate. The sweetness of the pumpkin-infused batter is tempered by creamy whipped buffalo ricotta and a spiced apple and goji berry compote. Totally worth the wait.
15 Kennedy Street, Kingston; (02) 6162 1500
If you’re a sweets-for-breakfast type, you’re going to have a rough time tossing up between Apple Pie Pancake and the red velvet waffle at Space Kitchen. Allow us to make the case for the former: a tender apple pancake over which boysenberry compote and vanilla bean mascarpone is dolloped. This is then sprinkled with nuts and seeds before crisp, honey-drizzled wedges of baklava pastry are arranged, tepee-like, over the lot. Finish with green apple maple syrup and, well, is there any competition?
3G/12 Furzer Street, Phillip; (02) 6281 6668
Leafy Ainslie’s recently rejigged Pulp Kitchen has young guns at the helm – and they’re not afraid to work weekend mornings. Now open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, the restaurant is turning out the kind of satisfying, ease-into-the-weekend dishes that put Bill Granger on the map. Case in point: Lemon & Ricotta Hotcakes. The silkily supple rounds are spiked with tangy lemon and soak up the perfect amount of sweet maple syrup. Smear each forkful with crème fraîche to induce food envy in unfortunate dining companions who opted for eggs.
1 Wakefield Gardens, Ainslie; (02) 6257 4334
Pancake-loving vegans need not despair. Canberra’s hipster magnet, the sprouting suburb of Braddon, is home to Sweet Bones, the offbeat eatery that has become a mecca for non-carnivores in search of treats. Entering its rustic rock‘n’roll interior is a bit like stumbling into a fantasy movie set – except the food is very real. Top of the pops is the Sweet Bones Short Stack (made from a soy milk and aquafaba base) served with seasonal fresh fruit, lashings of (real) maple syrup and housemade coconut whip and laced with maple-soaked cinnamon goji berries.
Shop 8, 18 Lonsdale Street, Braddon; 0413 067 890
Playful, fresh and flavourful, Coffee Lab has garnered a following among those in search of unusual dishes, sublime coffee and scrumptious all-day breakfast (good news for late-risers). The blackboard menu in this award-winning city joint changes daily but one constant is the spongy buttermilk pancakes. What does change weekly is the trimmings; homemade butterscotch or salted caramel, anyone?
Canberra Centre, 26 Narellan Place; 0419 129 957
Fox and Bow
Why is the pancake at cool Farrer café Fox and Bow called Princess Fiona? It’s one of life’s great mysteries but the answer somehow ceases to matter when you’re presented with a cushiony blueberry hotcake lashed with lemon curd and Pepe Saya mascarpone. Oh, it’s also strewn with almond brittle and burnt orange caramel.
Farrer Shops, Farrer Place, Farrer; (02) 6286 4816
The Pancake Parlour
Canberra’s beloved grand dame of pancakes hasn’t aged a bit in the three decades she’s been delighting students, families and late-night revellers. The downstairs rockabilly diner-style venue with its funhouse mirror and cosy leather booths is as idiosyncratic as ever. The menu is dazzling in its variety: buttermilk pancakes for desserts; slightly heavier buckwheat French-style filled with combinations like spinach and feta; and even vegan plantcrepes with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings. Toppings are rich and varied but the best by a country mile is the classic Short Stack served with whipped butter and syrup.
122 Alinga Street, Canberra; (02) 6247 2982
Top image: Fox and Bow