A single attractive girl heads out to a French restaurant in the city for dinner. Across the dining room, her eyes meet the eyes of her waiter. It’s clear right away that they’re destined to fall in love. Cue a montage of life-affirming scenes and uplifting music, and like all the great love stories, it culminates in something everyone loves – Hanky Panky! Only this isn’t the synopsis of the latest Richard Curtis rom-com; this happened right here in Chester, and even better – we all get to join in.
Chester isn’t a large city, and yet it continues to surprise me with its hidden treats. Frankly, I could do with a map to navigate the hidden gems of this city. You’ll discover Hanky Panky, a dedicated Pankcake eatery, situated on Commonhall Street, off Upper Bridge Street. Is Hanky Panky new? No, it’s not far off celebrating its fourth birthday, and yet it seems that I’m unfashionably late to the party.
Why pancakes? A familiar song, the scent of a fragrance or the taste of something you love, will never fail to trigger a memory of something nostalgic. The genesis of Hanky Panky, for one-half of HP’s owner’s, Stephen, began with his father and the scotch pancakes he made for him every Sunday for breakfast as a child. Fast forward to a trip to Brittany some years later, and while enjoying a coffee in a town square with is wife Rekha, they realised that every restaurant in the square was a very busy Crêpery. They knew immediately what our city needed.
It’s proven that the best ideas are often the most simple, and the simplicity of the humble pancake as the hero of the dish offers the flexibility to adapt to changes in tastes, trends and dietary requirements. In an industry where restauranteurs tirelessly look to reinvent the wheel, Hanky Panky seeks to reignite our love for something simple, executed with imagination and flair. A pancake house is hardly revolutionary, but there is something radical, or at least radically simple about pancakes being the foundation of your business. Meltingly rich, judiciously syruped, and perfectly crisp – It’s why America is built on pancake houses and why we give over an entire day each year to the eating of them.
If you have children, finding somewhere to eat that ticks the boxes for both adults and children can be a real challenge. Whether you have a sweet or savoury tooth, HP has something delicious to flip for both younger guests and those who are still young at heart. I opted for a vegan pancake of jalapeños, sun blushed tomatoes and spinach, which was generous in flavour and yet light enough to leave sufficient room to indulge in a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream. Gemma chucked the diet plan out of the window and dived into the ‘Tira-mi-lush’ – comprising of chocolate chips, mascarpone, cappuccino ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and amaretto. For approximately three minutes, I appeared to lose her, as she glazed over and was elevated to a boozy, pancake nirvana.
The interior has an informal, ‘seaside’ feel with brightly multi-coloured deckchair upholstery, a digital collage of Blackpool postcards and a colour scheme of sunshine yellows and orange. It’s just the right amount of kitsch, and I love it. The sunny disposition of the interior is echoed by the owners and the staff, who, in matching Breton’s and huge smiles, really care about making you feel welcome.
HP opens late on a Thursday evening for Ukulele Jukebox. How does it work? Pay £1 (charity donation) and choose from a catalogue of songs; anything from Single Ladies by Beyonce, to The Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen. Our interview took place with brilliant ukulele renditions of our favourite songs, playing in the background – so much fun! Come along to their next evening on 8th March (this night typically takes place every Thursday, but they’re enjoying a little break so that some of their performers can take some well-earned holidays).
What else has Hanky Panky got planned for the future? They’ve previously hosted special themed nights, ‘An Evening At The End Of The Pier’ – comprising of a three-course set menu for £30. Enjoy discovering your inner flower child with a groovy menu inspired by the 60’s, or have your senses intoxicated by the splendours of an ‘Arabian Nights’ themed menu. We’ll keep you posted on their next exciting event. If you love attending outside events, Hanky Panky has flipped a caravan into the most incredible food van. We’ll let you know where you can find them next.
For now, and at this time of the year, when the weather is grey, Hanky Panky, 20 Commonhall Street, have the sunshine turned right up. Pop in and enjoy ‘Home On The Range’ – Hanky Pancakes topped with bacon & maple syrup. Fancy something lighter – Go old school, with the ‘Classic Citron’, made elegantly perfect with lemon and sugar. Of course, we all have own idea of what constitutes the perfect bit of Hanky Panky, so why not choose from over eighty individual options to create the masterpiece that really tickles your fancy… and fall in love – just like we did.