London’s Best Ice Cream
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Words: Joanne Gould
When it’s hot in the city there’s really only one thing for it: ice cream. We’re not talking your run of the mill 99 with a flake; London has so, so much more to offer in the ice cream department. There’s a full gamut of Italian style gelaterias, so we’ve picked out the very best of these, plus a few leftfield choices like a post-clubbing Argentine joint, a dairy-free goat ice-creamery and even one made from unicorn tears. Whatever type of cone floats your boat, we’ve got the scoop below.
In a town mainly devoted to Italian style gelaterias, Freggo off Regent Street is a breath of fresh South American air. It looks pretty different too; an intensely purple frozen late-night haven best frequented after a sweaty night of dancing in the nearby clubs, so you can properly appreciate the disco ball-filled interior.
Whenever you pop in, be sure to try at least one variety of dulce de leche ice cream – with or without pancakes. There’s also a nice line in banana split flavours and we’re all over the Malbec and berries ice cream. Have one of their great Monmouth coffees as a sharpener too and possibly some alfajores (Argentinian biscuits) if you’ve room. No, it’s not cheap, but look, this is Piccadilly.
Freggo, 7-9 Swallow Street, W1B 4DE
Amorino was started by two Italian friends with a long-term passion for the gelato of their native country. Somehow, the first branch opened in the centre of Paris, and today there are dozens of successful shops throughout Europe and around the US. Their mission is to create beautiful handmade ice creams without artificial colourings or flavourings and using organic and natural ingredients in line with the traditions of gelato production.
Choose from speculoos, Sicilian citrus, Alphonso mango and fior di latte, which will then be magically transformed into a rose made of gelato. And the best part is that you can choose as many flavours as you like – for the same price. We love the Amarena. Oh, and you can stick a macaron on the top if you like too. If a cone isn’t your thing, then waffles, crepes, and brioche are all available in various gelato guises.
Amorino, 12 London locations, see website for details
For many, Scoop is high up there as one of the best ice cream places in town and the queues out the door, whenever there’s even a hint of sun, are testament to this. The fact that there are branches dotted around the capital has done little to reduce the wait time – the flagship Seven Dials shop in particular.
As with most of the places on this list, Scoop source the finest ingredients and are strict in terms of provenance – think exquisite Sicilian imported pistachios, Piedmont hazelnuts, the works. As a result, their signature Stracciatella is top notch and up there with some of the most authentic this side of the Alps; definitely one for the gelato purists. Choose one of their delicious nutty cones to really amp it up. The Malaga flavour is also pretty special with Chilean sultanas aged in Marsala – rum and raisin on crack.
Scoop, see website for locations
9. Greedy Goat
For something a little different, head to lovely Borough Market for a taste of goaty goodness. Greedy Goat is a stall in the back carpark section of the market and – as the name suggests – is stocked with ice cream made from goat’s milk which happens to be dairy free, lactose friendly. There’s also a bit of a lower fat content, should you care.
We’re more interested in the fact that the ices are 100% British with a really fantastic array of weekly changing flavours. We enjoy the honeycomb and Billy Vanilli which are fairly constant on the roster but they really push the boat out with jazzy and seasonal varieties like gin and tonic, carrot cake, strawberry and balsamic or raspberry and chilli. If you can’t get over to the market look out for them on Leather Lane and Piccadilly Circus station too.
Greedy Goat, Green Market, Green Dragon Walk, Borough Market, Bedale Street, SE1 9AL
8. Chin Chin Labs
It looks like Camden Market has had a visit from Heston crossed with Willy Wonka; Chin Chin Labs over by the lock uses all sorts of molecular gastronomy to create startling show stopping ice creams that tourists and Londoners alike can’t get enough of. It was Europe’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream operation and the lab workers here will freeze your choice of flavour right in front of you with the accompanying billowing clouds of nitrogen smoke aplenty.
It’s not all just theatre though as their flavours are accomplished and adventurous (alongside a usual chocolate and vanilla there tends to be two specials) which in the past have included tea and scones, Guinness caramel and smoked salt or griddled watermelon. They also have a new site, Chin Chin Club, in Soho.
Chin Chin Labs, 49-50 Camden Lock Place, NW1 8AF and 54 Greek Street, W1D 3DS
7. Fortnum and Mason
In case you didn’t know, Fortnum and Mason invented the knickerbocker glory back in the ice cream heyday of 1955 and since then have gone from strength to strength in the frozen treat department – even more so following their revamp ten years ago. Their parlour takes a decadent 1950’s style and will always feel like a huge indulgence thanks to the sheer level of luxury and attention to detail.
Here, you’ll find ice cream in cornets, coupes, traditional – gluttonous – sundaes and of course lots of individual flavours. Our minds are blown by the ‘ultimate white chocolate gold’ variety which is a ruinous combination of salted caramel white chocolate ice cream with honeycomb, dark chocolate sauce, OTT gold lead and – wait for it – Baerri caviar. Sure. All ices are handmade using ingredients from the food hall below, and as the Queen’s Grocer, if it’s good enough for royalty…
Happily, you can have a nice glass of wine with it too.
Fortnum and Mason, 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER
Udderlicious is a pastel-hued independent ice cream parlour in the heart of Islington with a solid fan base not unique to north Londoners. The husband and wife team behind it had always dreamt of having an ice cream business and learning from ice cream gurus along the way.
The result is a slightly magical space – there’s even a swing seat. They say the secret ingredients to their sumptuous creamy ices are unicorn tears, cloud laughter, and rainbow drops, though we prefer to think it’s probably their commitment to the best sourcing, whisking and churning. They’re well-known for their slightly off-the-wall combinations like avocado and stracciatella or chocolate and marmite – we can only imagine the umami. There are more vanilla flavours for the less adventurous.
Udderlicious, 187 Upper Street, N1 1RQ
5. Heddon Street Kitchen Ice Cream Bar
Adults and children alike delight in the ice cream dessert bar at Heddon Street Kitchen tucked into the little foodie alley that is Heddon Street. Gordon Ramsay and his crew have sorted out a really quite impressive station where you can create your own ice cream/lolly hybrid with a choice of flavours like raspberry, lychee, and rose, coconut or the divisive salt and vinegar ice cream.
Apparently, it’s actually a winner – and we’d expect nothing less from Gordon. Once you’ve made your choice, top it off with a selection of imaginative toppings like doughnut crumbs or charred pineapple. Then it’s over to the sauce section for the toasted marshmallow flavour or Finlandi vodka caramel for the grown-ups. Yes, please.
Heddon Street Kitchen Ice Cream Bar, 3-9 Heddon Street, W1B 4BE
4. Ruby Violet
In the slightly off-piste location of Tuffnell Park, you’ll find super-kitsch 1950’s-esque Ruby Violet, a highly acclaimed ice cream parlour with more than a small sense of magic and wonder and a dash of glam thrown in for good measure. The owner and founder, Julie Fisher, has attempted to channel happy memories of long, hot, ice cream filled days mixed with fresh new ingredients and flavours, making small batches of the stuff daily on the premises with Duchy Original organic milk, free range eggs and seasonal fruits.
Everything is sustainable, fresh and local where possible and flavours are treats like elderflower and prosecco or rhubarb and verjus (a kind of acidic grape juice). We’re more than a little bit interested in the ‘Antarctic’ rolls of ice cream in sponge and if you’re not prepared for a journey that far up The Northern Line then don’t worry, just get off at King’s Cross instead for their new post next to the big Waitrose.
Ruby Violet, 118 Fortess Road, NW5 2HL and Midland Goods Shed, 3 Wharf Road, N1C 4BZ
3. La Gelateria
La Gelateria in Covent Garden’s cute little New Row is one of the most authentic slices of Italy we’ve encountered and we can’t emphasise enough how terrific their gelato is. Italians take their ice cream so seriously they have entire University courses dedicated to the art of making it, and we bet Calabrian chef Antonio was schooled in it.
He comes from a distinguished line of gelato makers back in the motherland and his creations are genuine works of art. It’s not just us that think so; many of La Gelateria’s flavours have been awarded Great Taste status. The honey, rosemary and orange zest is delightfully delicate, fragrant and subtle, otherwise, there are more in-your-face flavours like basil and Calabrian chilli. Whichever you go for, we guarantee you’ll love it.
La Gelateria, 27 New Row, WC2N 4LA and 1 West Park Walk, East Village, E20 1DH
A second entry for a Borough Market-based ice cream vendor, Gelateria 3BIS is another Italian inspired operation and it easily lives up to its gastronomic surroundings. There’s a big emphasis on the artisanal side, and true to form, tiny batches are produced throughout the day in order to maintain the correct consistency, density, melt-point and all the things that truly well-crafted gelato demands; plus, these guys are Italian so should know what they’re doing.
There’s organic milk and the best imported Italian ingredients they can get their hands on, so you’re guaranteed a decent scoop of flavours like liquorice from Calabria or seasonal British goods like rhubarb, gooseberries and clotted cream. We can also report that the original in Rimini is equally excellent, so you’re getting a proper taste of Emilia Romagna.
3BIS, 4 Park Street, SE1 9AB
Is it any wonder that the younger sibling of the always-brilliant Bocca di Lupo would be superb at making ice cream? Not really. Gelupo is directly opposite the restaurant and is an all-day operation, meaning it is ridiculously tempting to stop in for a refreshing morning lick, a post-dinner dessert or a little pick-me-up after an evening at one of the neighbouring theatres.
Most Londoners will concur that Gelupo serves the best ice cream in town, with chef Jacob Kennedy all over the quality control so that the ever-popular ricotta and sour cherry is always tremendous – apparently down to their extra-cautious churning methods. There’s a veritable carousel of flavours with anything from black pepper, saffron, and jasmine entering the mix, ensuring you’ll never get bored.
Gelupo, 7 Archer Street, W1D 7AU