How Kirkcaldy’s Pancake Place missed the cafe culture boom

Pancake Place, Kirkcaldy
Pancake Place, Kirkcaldy

The abiding memory of the Pancake Place will be the screeching of wooden chairs across the old tiled floor.

Nothing much changed from the first time I stepped into the Kirk Wynd restaurant around 1987 to my final visit just last Friday.

Same decor, same wooden chairs and tables with the varnish rubbed off the corners and backs through constant handling, same muted wall lights. Same screeching which marked the departure of one set of diners, and the arrival of the next lot.

The old brown and yellow laminated menus may have been ditched, but the dullness seemed to cling to the place.

I was in for lunch last week. Just one other table was occupied until a bunch of students piled in, bringing noise to a place that simply lacked life.

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But there was a time when the Pancake Place was busy every day. It was popular with families, a haven for new parents to meet and relax, and it had the “ladies who lunch” seniors market pretty much sewn up.

Run for over 20 years by Mike and Jill Poxon, it had its many regulars - they were all greeted by name by staff. Long before the arrival of Wetherspoons and Costa, it was a well established meeting place for many, including my former editor who’d catch up over coffee with his contacts. Our news team used it as a second office, interviewing folk and listening to their stories.

If any business was well placed to tap into the coffee/cafe culture that is now a key, and growing, part of our High Street, it was the Pancake Place – but it missed the bus. The chain simply didn’t evolve with the times.

Where some businesses make tradition a key selling point - it can be retro and funky at the same time - the Pancake Place felt weighed down by its old fashioned look.

The changes which Dennis Alexander implemented after he took on the franchise gave it the kick it needed. Comfy couches, a kid-free area, live music nights, artwork on the walls, newspapers to read, and an attention to service made their mark, and Dennis, a well known singer and entertainer as well as businessman, was a perfect mine host.

Sunday breakfast was a busy time - full English, some newspapers and a chance to watch the world roll past in Kirk Wynd, but even then, the same plate of food was almost half the price at the newly opened O’Connell’s in the west end. Customers started to migrate.

Since Dennis passed away, the restaurant has gone through several sets of hands and, while many were sad to see it close, there was a view the quality wasn’t maintained.

The menu felt tired compared to what was on offer at brighter, newer places which started to open up in town. The bustle of the Cupcake Coffee Shop just yards away underlined the huge market for coffee/cafe culture, but one that seemed to by-pass the business.

As a kid I can recall going to the Pancake Place in Shandwick Place at the end of Princes Street in Edinburgh. It vanished years ago.

It’s sad to see the Pancake Place in Kirkcaldy going the same way.