How many pancakes can you eat in one sitting?
Two? Five? More than 10?
Ok, now ask yourself, how many could you eat in just 15 minutes?
Truthfully this wasn’t a question I’d ever given much thought to, but I recently discovered the answer and it’s fair to say I found out the hard way.
To celebrate Pancake Day (February 25), Polo Bar in London’s Bishopsgate puts on a special challenge, where customers are invited to try and tackle a tower of 12 pancakes, with the filling of their choice.
You can have the Royale (berries and cream), cookies and cream or banoffee and if you finish the entire thing in just 15 minutes, the pancakes are free and you win a bottle of prosecco.
Many people have undertaken the challenge and many have failed, however there have been a few that have beaten the beast with competitive eater Leah Shutkever scoffing the lot last week in under six minutes.
I was recently invited down to give it a go and I had to admit, I was intrigued – how would I fare in comparison to the pro that had just gone before me?
I left our Canary Wharf office and made my way to Liverpool Street, my stomach rumbling the whole way there, having tried not to each too much in anticipation of what I was about to do.
I arrived at Polo Bar and selected the Royale Stack of pancakes for my challenge, each layer of which was laden with vanilla cream, a mixture of berries and raspberry coulis.
The pancakes were flipped, stacked high and brought over to my table and even though I knew what I had been letting myself in for, my mouth still dropped when the tower was placed in front of me.
Considering I was known to struggle finishing a regular serving of pancakes, I suddenly wasn’t feeling very good about my chances.
But I had come all this way and I was going to give it a shot.
Pulling the first two pancakes off the stack, I got stuck in and managed to get through them no problem.
“These taste great,” I gleefully told the chef, who was watching while I ate.
But my joy went away when I hit the third pancake, as the sweetened cream started to get a bit much.
By the fourth one I was feeling incredibly full but was determined to keep going.
Now, let it be known that at this point, I was convinced the tower consisted of 10 pancakes – not 12. That’s because Polo Bar’s menu features a different challenge you can do every other day of the year, not just on Shrove Tuesday, and that’s what I thought I was doing.
So when I made it to the fifth one, despite feeling like I was about to throw up, I was pretty proud of myself – I’d made it half way!
My time was almost up as I forced a few more mouthfuls of the fifth pancake in, so I turned to my colleague and told her I was going to stop after this one and I’d settle for eating half of the whole thing.
She looked at me as if I’d suddenly grown a second head.
“You still have one more to get half way,” she told me. “There are 12 pancakes.”
I pointed incredulously at the menu, which stated the challenge featured 10, but she shook her head. This wasn’t the regular challenge, she reminded me, this was the Pancake Day challenge and there were definitely 12 pancakes on my plate.
I did a quick re-count.
Damn! I was desperate to get to that middle mark, but there was no way I was going to be able to face another one, the mere sight of what I had left was making my stomach churn and I had to get on the tube after this. Not ideal.
Oh well, I thought. At least I’d tried.
The Polo Bar team were very nice about my pitiful attempt at the challenge and even stuck around to tell me where I’d gone wrong.
My first mistake, they said, was eating breakfast earlier that morning.
Knowing I wasn’t doing the challenge until 4pm, I had decided to have a bowl of cereal before heading to work as I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through the day otherwise, but according to the staff I should have left my stomach completely empty.
My other error was in being too ladylike and opting to use a knife and fork.
Apparently the key is just to tear into the tower with your hands and not worry about getting covered in food.
I personally didn’t fancy going back to the office with coulis in my hair, but it’s good advice in case I ever get the urge to take on another Man v. Food-style challenge.
So there you have it folks, I failed miserably at the Polo Bar Pancake Day Challenge and left the café feeling very, very sick.
If you think you can do better than me (and let’s face it, you almost certainly can) visit http://polo24hourbar.co.uk/ or call 02072834889 to find out more.