FEATURE: A (Pancake) Day in the Life of Cafe

Words and images by Yadan Sun

Hanky Panky Pancakes, which is tucked away on Commonhall Street, is busy, full of chatter and the smells of hot oil and batter.

As one of the most popular pancake restaurants in Chester, the number of people in Hanky Panky Pancakes peaks today (February 25), which is Pancake Day.

I have been in the UK for just four months. As a Chinese student, I have never heard about pancake day.

An American-style breakfast pancake

When I feel the first pangs of hunger while hanging out in Chester, it occurs to me this is a great chance to have some traditional British food.

I notice people come and go through a lane and follow them to my destination.

The friendly staff welcome us in, and after 25 minutes (it’s very popular!), we finally get our own table.

Hanky Panky Pancakes opened in 2014, run by a couple, Stephen and Rekha Fowler, who have concentrated on making pancakes for 15 years.

Surrounded by slow rock music, I feel comfortable in the room, with its faint yellow walls decorated with pictures, which include collages of postcards and envelopes.

Every table has two or three fresh flowers, in other words, it looks like a large dining room at home.

Hanky Panky Pancakes welcomed its first customer at 8.20am, and it is full of people by 10.00am, with clusters of customers waiting outside.

“We have 45 tables in all which contain four people each one, and the groups of customers have changed at least 10 times today,” says Nick Gleadmill, a staff member, as he hurries by.

A savoury gallete style pancake

Dr Bob Sankarayya is a big fan of pancakes and is a regular at Hanky Panky Pancakes. He drives here every Tuesday from Boughton to enjoy some leisure time.

He says: “They have a variety of pancakes here and they taste really brilliant!

“This is one of my favourites, made of chicken and walnuts… and some special sauce, it called… oh, The Italian Job!”

“This is the busiest day of the year, from 8am to 9pm,” says Rekha Fowler, who runs this restaurant with her husband.

She walks between the front door and the kitchen back and forth, greeting new customers, ushering them to their seats and serve the dishes. She is flipping passionate and always keeps a smile on her face, no matter how busy she is.

Pat Fowler is a loyal regular of Hanky Panky Pancakes, and she also has a special status, as the mother of one of the owners.

She says: “I really enjoy the atmosphere here. Even though they are busy, but I can feel their happiness.”

Pancake day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the last day before the beginning of Lent, 40 days before the crucifixion of Christ.

It has a long history and is one of the traditional festivals of Christianity. The date is different from year to year.

People would use all of the delicious foods in their home before Shrove Tuesday, such as eggs, sugar and butter, to make some pancakes, before they gave up on luxuries for a month.

A pancake is a kind of small, flat traditional cake in the UK, which made of batter and always with various syrups on it.


It’s nearly 8pm, night has fallen, but the room is still brightly lit, with people sitting, eating, chatting and laughing.

Tiredness is visible on the on staff member’s faces. Some of them are wiping the floor and doing the final clean.

Today is over, and almost 2,000 pancakes have been served. Tomorrow will be more of the same. As the couple say, every day is Pancake Day at Hanky Panky’s.

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