It’s hot and we want to cool down. With food, preferably. And while there’s nothing wrong with a 99, we’ve spent the last few days trotting between London’s ice cream parlours to sample their wares and find the best. We now feel faintly bilious, but confident that these places won’t disappoint – though bear in mind that gelateria often chop and change their flavours to keep it interesting. And if we’ve missed your favourite, let us know in the comments.
When we asked around for ice cream recommendations, Gelupo kept being mentioned. Turns out we know some smart people: Gelupo was the last on our tasting list and, to be frank, we were starting to feel literally sick of the idea. Then we had a mouthful of melon sorbet with hints of cinnamon and jasmine which was so light, refreshing and damn tasty that our faith was restored. We don’t want to say this is definitively the best ice cream in London but we can’t imagine what could beat it.
Where: 7 Archer Street, Piccadilly Circus
How much: £3 / £4 / £5.
Anything else? Cakes, flatbread sandwiches and an Italian deli in the back of the shop.
Most outlandish flavour: Ricotta chocolate and black pepper? Blood orange? Cherry and sambuca?
Chin Chin Laboratories
These guys use liquid nitrogen to freeze the ice cream, which makes their Camden Market shop look more like a lab than a gelateria. Pondicherry vanilla and Valrhona chocolate are always available, plus two specials, and you can choose a topping (held in science beakers) or sauce for one-size-only £3.95. We had the rich, smooth vanilla topped with heather honeycomb, like posh Crunchie. It’s the only one on our list to get near the home-made experience, where cream temporarily cloys to the roof of your mouth (that’s just what happens when cream gets cold). While The Icecreamists are off the high street Chin Chin Labs is the most ‘Heston’ you’ll get.
Where: 49-50 Camden Lock Place, under the bridge.
How much: £3.95, extra toppings 45p each.
Anything else? Nope.
Most outlandish flavour: Pineapple and choc chip.
Yeah yeah, burgers, whatever. What caught our eye when Shake Shack opened was its frozen custard – ice cream heavier than gelato, in other words. You can get vanilla, chocolate or flavour of the day (see website for details) or ‘concretes’: tubs of ice cream with added bits. We went for a single Union Shack, a chocolate ice cream more putty-like than concrete (though this could have been down to the heat), with St JOHN Bakery brownie, Paul A Young chocolate chips and fudge sauce. Unsophisticated but a lot of fun.
Where: 24 Market Building, Covent Garden.
How much: £2.50 / £3.50 for single flavours, £4 / £6.50 for concretes.
Anything else? Er, burgers.
Most outlandish flavour: Blackberry Buttermilk.
Sardo Cucina is the cafe offshoot of restaurant Sardo in Fitzrovia, and the ice creams aren’t the focal point at all – look for the freezer cabinet tucked into the corner. But we tried the vanilla flavour and where Shake Shack talks about frozen custard, this one genuinely tasted of rich, eggy custard. We’ll be making detours to try it again.
Where: 112 Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia.
How much: £3.40 / £3.80 / £4.70.
Anything else? Sandwiches, cakes, everything deli.
Most outlandish flavour: Tiramisu – it’s not really that kind of place.
Paul A Young
If you want chocolate ice cream, where better than a top chocolatier? Only the Camden Passage and Royal Exchange Paul A Young shops sell ice cream; we visited the latter and found tubs of ready scooped dessert waiting in the freezer. Time saving. We opted, naturally, for the chocolate sorbet, which tastes like they’ve taken 70% dark chocolate, churned and frozen it. Which they sort of have. We’d only suggest replacing the wooden spoons with plastic: wood drags on the mouth and slightly spoils the velvety texture.
Where: 20 The Royal Exchange, Bank; 33 Camden Passage, Islington.
How much: £4.50.
Anything else? Masses and masses of chocolate.
Most outlandish flavour: The chocolate is pretty outlandish.
Of course Borough Market would have a proper Italian gelateria, and 3Bis has its roots in Rimini. You can choose from two flavours in the two smaller sizes, or three flavours for £4.60, plus you get a wafer and the option of liquid chocolate drizzled into the base of your cup. We tried the coconut bounty flavour which has bits of coconut and chocolate mashed into the ice cream and feels gimmicky compared to our other choice, the velvety smooth mascarpone and figs. That’s a proper, grown up ice cream.
Where: 4 Park Street, SE1.
How much: £3.20 / £4 / £4.60.
Anything else? Some cakes and drinks.
Most outlandish flavour: Kinder.
We made an involuntary grunt of pleasure on tasting the biscotto gelato, though that might also have been part relief at successfully negotiating the Covent Garden store’s chaotic queueing system. It comes piled high at even the smallest price of £3.50 and is creamy yet light, quality definitely not sacrificed for quantity.
Where: 40 Short’s Gardens, Covent Garden; 53 Brewer Street, Soho; 16 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington.
How much: from £3.50. Prices get a bit complicated when you start factoring in things like chocolate dipped cones.
Anything else? Waffles, crepes, churros.
Most outlandish flavour: Green tea made with matcha powder from Kyoto.
Oddono’s: gelato is made daily in South Kensington, including its surprisingly woody award-winning pistachio. East Dulwich prices £2.30 / £3.30 / £4.30 / £5.30.
14 Bute Street, South Kensington; 69 Northcote Road, Battersea; 8 Flask Walk, Hampstead; 147 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich; Selfridges; Whiteleys.
Black Vanilla: uses local, independent producers for its ingredients and the creamy cinnamon is excellent. A personal favourite, but in SE London only. £1 / £3 / £4 / £5.
32 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath and 5 College Approach, Greenwich.
Amorino: they make your cone in the shape of a rose, which is adorable. Try the speculoos sorbet. £3.50 / £4.50 / £5.80
41 Old Compton Street, Soho; 7 Garrick Street, Covent Garden; 67A Kings Road, Chelsea.
Tesoro: huge array of gelato flavours and genuine Italian customers relaxing outside; a good sign. £2.50 / £3 / £3.50 / £4.
39 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia.
Disclaimer: We review anonymously and pay for all our meals/drinks.
See also: The Best Rooftop Bars in London