London has no shortage of great ice cream, but that doesn’t always guarantee a great sundae. Sometimes the best gelaterias are just too purist about their ice cream to properly sully it with wild excess the way a good sundae demands you do.
Lightness of touch and delicacy of flavour is a great thing when you’re after an unadorned scoop of artisan fennel-seed gelato. For a sundae, though, you need a lavishness of spirit and a No-Tomorrows attitude to how much dairy, chocolate or sugar one person can handle.
With that in mind, here's a guide to London's best ice cream sundaes on offer right now.
The Hot Paklava Meltdown at Persepolis
This Persian grocery shop has a tiny, vegetarian café set up in between the shelves of Middle Eastern spices. Resist the call of the Saffron Banana Split and Turkish Delight Sundae, hard though it is to do. The real star of the menu is the Hot Paklava Meltdown.
'Evil in a sundae glass', as described by owner Sally Butcher, this is layers of hot baklava, kaymak (a clotted Turkish yoghurt) and ice cream — the challenge being to get through the sundae before the baklava melt it all to a creamy syrup. Like all the food at Persepolis these are ridiculously good-value — the sundaes are £3.50 each, and the Knickerbocker Glory and Hot Paklava Meltdown can both be vegan on request.
Persepolis, 28-30 Peckham High Street, SE15 5DT.
Apple Pie Sundae at The Parlour
The perfect place to swing by if you have an empty stomach and full wallet. In true Fortnum & Mason style, The Parlour has old-school British glamour absolutely nailed with Instagram-worthy decor, marble counters and whimsical caricatures adorning the walls. And on the menu? The Apple Pie sundae packs a welcome boozy punch thanks to the rum'n'raisin ice cream base, and from then on it's a full-out celebration of the humble apple: sorbet, compote and dried. Sweet pastry rounds it off and before long you'll be eyeing up your second.
The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER.
The Chocolateer Sundae at Creams Café
Sweet Jesus there's a lot to pig out on here. So many sundaes, in fact, that they've been divided into subsections: fruity, choc/toffee and the intriguingly-named 'exotic'. You have to be a pretty tough cookie to pick just one, but for chocoholics there's nothing finer than their Chocolateer sundae.
Two types of gelato — chocolate chip and Maltesers — form the base and then are unceremoniously piled with vanilla ice cream, milk chocolate sauce, milk chocolate curls. And to finish? It's all served in a milk chocolate cup. They sure know how to stick to a theme at Creams.
Creams Café, 560-564 Kingsland Road, E8 4AH. See website for other locations.
Sundae de Maiz at COYA
You know how they say good things sometimes come in threes? While ceviche, Pisco sours and corn ice cream might not be the most natural trio in the world, trust Londonist writer Ruth Hargreaves when she says they're a perfect match at COYA in Mayfair.
This Peruvian restaurant has mouth-wateringly delicate ceviche down to an art. But rather than lamenting it when it's gone, you can look forward to their Sundae de Maiz dessert instead. It's pretty much just corn ice cream topped with caramelised popcorn, but you'll soon be a convert as it's a sweet-but-not-too-sweet masterpiece.
COYA, 118 Piccadilly, W1J 7NW.
Oreo Cookie Chocolate Sundae at the Draft House
It's a universal truth that all Oreo cookie spin-offs are much, much better than actual Oreo cookies.
The Draft House Oreo sundae is no exception, starting with an Oreo cookie base and layering cookies-and-cream ice cream, vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup on top. It's only served at three of the Draft House restaurants at the moment — Paddington, Battersea and The Tankard — the latter of which has a top notch roof bar with views over the Imperial War Museum. Perfect spot for an oozy, chocolatey sundae.
Open all day, it’s still better to hit the Draft House for an evening sundae so that you can fall asleep in an acceptable place when the sugar crash hits two hours later. For those two hours in between, you'll essentially be Lord Flashheart from Blackadder: an exuberant, charismatic god with a suspiciously sticky face and zero awareness of social boundaries.
The Draft House, 111 Kennington Road, SE11 6SF. See website for other locations.
The Knickerbocker Glory at Morelli's Gelato
The Knickerbocker Glory at Morelli's is as retro as you'd hope for from an ice cream dynasty reaching back to 1907 — the Morelli family has been selling homemade gelato for more than a century, and opened their first seaside parlour in 1932.
Their sundae menu is long and elaborate, but for an old-school, seaside classic you can’t beat the Glory. Hard to tell if what you’re feeling when you scrape up the last spoonfuls is the weight of tradition, or the kilo of cream, strawberries and syrup you've just eaten.
Morelli’s Gelato, 20A The Market, The Piazza, Covent Garden, WC2E 8RB.
The Matcha Sundae at Tombo Café
This is a divisive entry. A mash-up of matcha ice cream, azuki paste, date syrup and granola sounds less like a sundae than it does like a Prêt breakfast pot, despite a token amount of (matcha) brownie in there.
It doesn’t taste spartan though. And the nu-rave green of the ice cream is appealingly weird, like snacking on cartoon ectoplasm. Whether or not you can get past the fact that it might actually be doing you some good, we leave up to the individual conscience.
Tombo Café, 29 Thurloe Place, SW7 2HQ.
Endless Love at Motown
Most of the sundaes on the menu at this small dessert bar are ornate and chocolatey — there’s more Ferrero Rocher in The Temptations sundae than at one of the Ambassador’s parties. But for something as simple and lovely as its name go for the Endless Love, a red velvet cake, ice cream and cream combination.
Motown, 157 Bethnal Green Road, E2 7DG. See website for other locations.
Crispy Sundae at Tsujiri
Other than the odd flake, there's not usually enough crunch in an ice cream sundae to warrant giving it a name like 'crispy'. But here enters Japanese tea house and green tea dessert masterminds, Tsujiri. There's nothing traditional about their sundaes but that doesn't make them any less tasty.
The crunch in their Crispy sundae comes from a perkily-placed rice wafer, nestled atop a swirl of soft serve matcha ice cream. Soft and chewy chestnut, deliciously sweet red bean paste and a bed of rice crispies finish off what may well be the most unusual sundae on this list. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it, it's a matcha made in heaven.
Tsujiri, 47 Rupert Street, W1D 7PD. See website for other locations.
Peanut and Chocolate Brownie Sundae at Joanna's
Lucky Crystal Palace residents. Not only do they have well-executed, classy British fare in a warmly-welcoming environment, they also get the pleasure of Joanna's Peanut and Chocolate Brownie sundae too. It's a divine way to finish off a meal at this local treasure, topped with oodles of salted caramel sauce and crunchy peanut pieces for good measure.
Joanna's, 56 Westow Hill, SE19 1RX.
Afters in Tooting (and other locations) for the sheer size of their sundae menu — 24 as standard, and the option to bespoke your own.