A Beatle and a Nobel Prize-winning writer is just the start of what makes Iwata Coffee Shop so famous.

About an hour’s train ride south of Tokyo, you’ll find the beautiful seaside city of Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture. Best known for its beaches, and its 13-metre (42.6-foot) high bronze Great Buddha, the city also has a vibrant cafe culture, with a number of long-standing, old-fashioned coffee houses dotted around the area.

One of the most famous coffee shops you’ll find here is Iwata Coffee Shop, which is said to be Kamakura’s oldest coffee house, with a history that dates back to 1948. Over the years, Iwata has served a number of well-known customers, including John Lennon from The Beatles and Nobel prize-winning writer Yasunari Kawabata.

That’s not all the coffee house is famous for, however, as they serve up thick, two-tiered pancakes so good they’ve made the cafe a bucket-list destination for sweets fans around the country. We’d had this place on our own bucket-list for a while now, so when we finally got to pay them a visit recently, we immediately placed an order for their pancakes, along with a coffee, as soon as we were seated at a table.

▼ The interior retains a cosy, retro feel, and even has the register used from 1957-2018 on display, which would’ve been used when Lennon visited with his wife, Yoko Ono.

Sitting on a spacious leather sofa seat, we looked around and saw that the most popular seats, at the window facing the leafy courtyard at the back, were all filled with happy diners. And despite the retro furnishings and light fittings, the place had a clean, modern feel to it, suggesting renovations had taken place sometime during its 73-year history. Then, just as we were wondering where Lennon and Ono would’ve sat when they came here, one of the waitstaff delivered our coffee to the table.

As the pancakes are a specialty item made to order, they take 20-30 minutes to make, so we leisurely sipped our coffee and soaked up the casual atmosphere while we waited for them to arrive. Time seemed to fly by, though, as it felt like only ten minutes had passed when this beautiful plate of pancakes was presented to us.

▼ Thick round pancakes, full of history and tradition, all for just 880 yen (US$7.99)

▼ We popped the two pieces of butter on top and slathered everything with a good dollop of maple syrup.

Faithful to the original recipe passed down from the Showa era (1926-1989), the pancakes are baked on a copper plate, giving them a gorgeous, even brown colour. While we were tempted to cut through the two tiers at once, each pancake was so thick it would’ve created a mouthful too big to chew, so we separated each pancake and gave them their own butter-and-maple-syrup topping.

Cutting through the pancake revealed its moist and airy interior. Unlike a lot of fluffy pancakes on the market today, these pancakes are made with a thick dough, which gives them a cake-like consistency similar to a castella sponge cake.

It’s a nice tip-of-the-hat to a bygone era, back when chewy pancakes were the popular order of the day. In fact, we ended up preferring this type of pancake, as the contrast between the crispy surface and the hot, chewy centre was truly superb, making it hard to pause between mouthfuls.

Butter and maple syrup were the perfect partners for these sweet, hefty morsels, and we’d rate them amongst the best we’ve ever tasted. It’s no wonder Iwata Coffee Shop is on everyone’s bucket list! However, it’s worth arriving early if you want to try these epic pancakes, as they often sell out due to popular demand.

If you’re staying at home these days and want to try making epic pancakes at home, you can always try out this recipe, which is as easy as throwing pancake mix into a rice cooker. Sure, it might not be the same as visiting a cafe visited by John Lennon, but the results are just as epic!

Coffee Shop Information

Iwata Coffee / イワタコーヒー店
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Kamakura-shi, Komachi 1-5-7
Hours:9:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Closed: Tuesdays, Every second Wednesday

Photos © SoraNews24
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