I find that pancake fantasy often trumps reality.
When I was a kid, visits to Edinburgh’s Pancake Place, were always met with great excitement, followed by a feeling of (perhaps apt) flatness.
Those were the days when anything American - Michael Jackson, Judy Blume, Disneyland, Madonna, ET, M&Ms, Cabbage Patch Kids - was the coolest.
I thought that US-style pancakes drizzled with maple syrup should be as thrilling as a moonwalk. In reality, they weren’t that different from a drop scone.
Anyway, it seems that they’re in vogue again, possibly due to the rise in brunch, or linked to mass regression after a traumatic couple of years. (I am 11 and three-quarters again).
This Scottish chain already has four branches in Glasgow, and one in Livingston. It's also just opened a 140 cover space in the former premises of pandemic casualty, Jamie’s Italian, in Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms. The Still in its name refers to the booze element of the business, since this place doubles as late night espresso martini bar, Insomnia, which is currently open weekends only.
We took our two nieces, since all kids are supposed to like pancakes. (Except, she informs me, the eldest. Oh well).
According to this restaurant, you can create over 12-million different combinations of pancake dishes. That scares me - the odds that I concoct something edible are about the same as winning a small prize in the lottery. Thankfully, to ease the pressure, there are a few ready-made assemblages. You can also choose from various pancake species - buttermilk, low fat, buckwheat, protein and gluten-free.
Us grownups went for a couple of Fevertree Ginger Beers (£3 each), and two Savoury Signatures - the Tikka Stack (£10.50) with two pancakes, and the Smoked Salmon and Avocado (£8.50) stack, with a single buttermilk.
Our dishes landed on our tables in about six minutes. At that speed, there must be someone flipping in the kitchen like a freshly landed trout.
There was a decent amount of fish on the salmon option, plus cusp-of-ripeness avocado, a thin quilt of cheese and chive omelette, and a blob of creme fraiche.
However, the best bit was - surprisingly - the pancakes, which were thick and light, the sort that go plap, when you drop them onto a plate, rather than plop.
They’re also very sweet, which was okay along with the salty smoked salmon, but wrong when it came to the tikka dish.
This was essentially curry as dessert. Everything was too sugary, with a mild and orange-coloured chicken curry, minted yoghurt, pickled onion, mango chutney and mint, plus poppadom crisps suspended on the sauce like satellites. He ate his skinny fries (£3.50) instead.
The nieces had ordered a pair of Appletisers (£2.50 each) and made their own assemblages, from a mind-boggling choice of 38 savoury toppings (fried egg, chickpea salsa, smokey bbq pulled jackfruit etc) and 36 sweet ones (hot fudge sauce, granola, grilled peaches and so on).
We didn’t notice that their main menu refers to a kids menu for £4.95 until it was too late, so we’d have paid less if we’d been more observant.
The eldest went for the double buttermilk (£4) and added lamb doner kebab (£2.50), halloumi fries (£2.50) and feta (£1.50). The grey sheaths of kebab meat were spicier than she’d anticipated, so they were rejected, and she concentrated on her set of five halloumi fries and crumbled feta.
Our tiniest restaurant-goer also had double buttermilk (£4), but with crispy (yet chewy) bacon (£2.50) and grated mozzarella (£1).
She wouldn’t order more than two toppings, since she’s a purist. I am too, as I would have preferred Stack & Still’s pancakes in the nude with nothing but a dab - like Marilyn Monroe and her Chanel Number 5 nightwear - of maple syrup (£2.50).
For pudding, you can have more pancakes, like a Strawberry Cheesecake Stack or Toffee Apple Stack, or even a Peanut Butter & Blueberry monster shake.
We shared the Nutella Biscoff Sundae (£5.50), which was a mush of brownie and vanilla ice-cream, Nutella, choc chips, Biscoff spread, Lotus Biscoff biccies and caramel and chocolate sauce. It wasn’t sophisticated, but I kept dipping my spoon into the sugary tombola and digging out gloopy clots of stickiness. My dentist would be spinning in her grave (if she wasn’t still alive).
I wouldn’t say this place is for me. I don’t really need all the choices.
Go, if you’ve always fancied a pancake served with Lorne sausage and piri-piri sauce, but a plain old buttermilk is enough to make me moonwalk.
Assembly Rooms, 53 George Street, Edinburgh (0131 322 6630, www.stackandstill.co.uk)
Places to try Nearby
Superico Bar and Lounge, 99 Hanover Street, Edinburgh (0131 225 8200, www.superico.com)
Head here for cocktails in a beautiful space, which was created by local designer, Ja Coco! and is shortlisted for an international award. We recommend the Garibaldi 2.0 with Campari, sloe gin, orange and pineapple juice.
Chez Jules, 109 Hanover Street, Edinburgh (0131 226 6992, www.chezjulesbistro.com)
For easy and cheap Edinburgh Festival Fringe eats, don’t forget this old dependable. They’re still serving their classic surf and turf of steak, lobster and chips, as well as espresso martinis galore.
This contemporary Italian restaurant is a new addition to the area, in the former premises of Martin Wishart’s The Honours. Dishes include their saltimbocca di pollo, with Goosnargh chicken breast, San Daniele ham, sage, broad beans and peas.