Oudt Leyden ‘t Pannekoekenhuysje was just a stone’s throw away from my little home in Leiden, and one of the first places I was encouraged to visit. The pancake house has been operating out of the center of the town since 1907, serving up the Dutch delicacies with precision to such guests as the Dalai Lama, Charles de Gualle, and Sir Winston Churchill.
It’s hard to believe now, but at that time I had only been abroad for about 2 days (solo) and was quite overwhelmed by the whole experience… and frankly a bit scared! I walked across the canal and loitered near the door of this adorable shop for a couple days before I finally ventured inside. For some reason, I was too afraid to go in and order because I could not speak Dutch–an irrational fear, really, as just about everyone in the Netherlands speaks impeccable English!
The inside of the shop was dressed with dark wood paneling matching the old-style dark wood tables and chairs, complemented by gilded mirrors and fake candle chandeliers dangling from the ceiling and walls. Traditional Delftware vases boasted their blue and white scenes containing a single sunny yellow flower on each table. From my seat, I could see the blackboard scribbled with daily specials, and seasonal lunch and dinner dishes. I was the only customer, arriving only a few short minutes past opening time, and the waitress jumped with a start when she walked into the dining room from the kitchen.
For me, pancakes had always meant one thing–thick morning cakes slathered in excessive amounts of butter and drowned in a golden stream of maple syrup. But this wasn’t America, and as I opened the menu the waitress left on my table, I was suddenly reminded of this fact. The ingredients you could choose in your pancakes were all new to me–pineapples, cheese, bacon, onions… the list was unending! I was also suddenly feeling a bit sheepish with my previous fears, understanding now how similar Dutch and English actually are (I studied linguistics, I should have known this!). Easily navigating the menu, I chose a delicious sounding Banaan & Poedersuiker (bananas and powdered sugar) pancake, and eagerly awaited its arrival.
When it arrived, the waitress laughed as I gasped at the sheer size of this Dutch pancake, although much thinner than our American version. Lightly browned in patches, filled with warm, gooey banana slices, and dusted with sugary goodness, it was every bit as delicious as I had hoped. I was also pleasantly surprised that my dish was served on a traditional Delft porcelain plate. As I ate away my meal bite by bite, I slowly revealed the beautiful Dutch scene underneath.
I will never say they’re better than mom’s, but sometimes I get an unquenchable craving for yummy Dutch pancakes, and they will forever be connected in my mind to the land of Rembrandt, tulips, a million bicycles, canals, and windmills. Oudt Leyden became one of my favorite spots which I learned was famous for a very good reason…
Check out Oudt Leyden’s website here: http://www.oudtleyden.nl/en/