A 99 with a flake from an ice cream van definitely has its place in the world but London is bursting with brilliant ice cream, from traditional Italian gelato and Japanese treats to nitro ice creams and madcap desserts. These are the best places to get a scoop (or two).
Beloved in Japan, mochi – a chewy exterior made from pounded and steamed rice flour with an ice cream centre – is slowly spreading over London, and the capital’s first dedicated mochi bar has recently opened inside Whole Foods Market Kensington. The sweet treats come in a range of flavours, including mango, matcha and toasted sesame, and you can get them in a set of three to eat on the spot or a bigger box to takeaway. If a trip to the Mochi Bar is a little too out-of-the-way at present, Little Moons can be found in the frozen aisle at Waitrose.
Just across the street from Bocca di Lupo, one of the best Italian restaurants in London, and run by the seam team is Gelupo. Classic flavours of Italy are at the heart of this ice cream bar, with ricotta and sour cherry, pistachio, and mint stracciatella all featuring, and even white truffle when it’s in season. Gelupo has done collaborative flavours with other London restaurants in the past, so look out for any special editions if you’re after something more unusual.
This award-winning ice cream shop isn’t afraid to experiment when it comes to their flavours, which range from porcini mushroom and chocolate, to basil and chilli, to watercress and lime, and they also have a range of sorbets, so there’s plenty for vegans to enjoy. Everything is made fresh daily meaning varieties are constantly changing, and you can even watch the gelato churn in their in-house lab. There’s also a branch of La Gelatiera in Stratford’s East Village so East Londoners need not venture too far in search of their fix.
Everything at Udderlicious, which is run by husband and wife team Raj and Raj, is handmade in-store using organic milk from grass-fed cows and natural ingredients. Although they’re in charge of creating the flavours, they actually let customers decide what gets sold in the shop as people can vote on their favourites, which encompass classic combos like banana caramel and raspberry cheesecake and the more inventive chocolate & marmite and seaweed. They even make ice cream cakes too for when you can’t possibly choose between the two.
Ruby Violet was inspired by and named after founder Julie Fisher’s grandmother and there’s definitely a traditional feel to this place; you can get the ice cream in a shake or retro soda float as well as regular scoops. Ruby Violet is also a real community operation, growing from a market stall outside the Tufnell Park Tavern to a proper parlour in the same neighbourhood to a second site in King’s Cross. The latter even hosts a pudding club on Friday and Saturday nights where you can indulge in ice cream and desserts with the very welcome addition of booze.
Liquid nitrogen is the freezing method of choice at South Kensington’s Four Winters; it ensures that every scoop is super smooth and creamy as well as being theatrical. In addition to classic single flavours like strawberry and coconut, Four Winters also creates fusions (strawberry mango, cinnamon crunch) and special seasonal varieties, like autumn’s pumpkin, maple syrup and lotus biscuit concoction.
Unsurprisingly, Soft Serve ice cream is the name of the game at this Shoreditch spot but they don’t just churn out any old cones (although you can go for a simple matcha, coconut or charcoal serve). The sundaes, like the Cloud 9 complete with a halo of candyfloss, and the freakshakes, which come topped with pretzels, muffins, pocorn, cakes and all sorts, just beg to be snapped for Instagram…and then promptly devoured.
Chin Chin Labs is the Willy Wonka factory of ice cream parlours in London. Not only do they use liquid nitrogen to freeze their ice cream to order but in their Dessert Club in Soho, they whip up choux bun and brownie cookie ice cream sandwiches, tiramisu sundaes and sweet ice-cream filled tacos made from blue corn waffles. Even if you do go for a regular cone (though why would you with all these mad creations on offer?) the flavours range from burnt butter caramel to avocado to coconut sticky rice.