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Where to Eat Ice Cream — in Its Many Forms — in London Now

15 of the city’s best places for all things cold and sweet

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Snowflake Gelato x Rococo Chocolates

Ice cream first appeared on English tables in the 17th Century, though only on the tables of the very wealthy because the average household didn’t have an ice box until after 1800. The dessert was a cooler version of the popular sweet creams and custards and it was referred to as an “iced cream” initially. By 1850 opportunistic sellers would drag around carts lined with salt, ice and hay — to insulate the mounds of ice cream — crying “penny lick”, the Greensleeves of its day, to announce the tantalising cold creamy treat that could be purchased for a penny on a returnable glass stem.

Gelato, however, began being consumed as early as the 14th Century in Italy. And it turns out gelato is not just the Italian word for ice cream. There are distinct differences between the two, starting with the ingredients: ice cream includes more cream and eggs as standard. Ice cream is also served colder than gelato, which means you’re less likely to experience sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia (brain freeze). Because of the colder temperature, and the higher proportion of fat, ice cream also tends to have more air churned in to be able to scoop it. Most like to consider ice cream as the parent of the group that includes both, plus sorbets and frozen yoghurts, too. Here’s the definitive list of where to eat ice cream — traditional, gelato, softserve and sandwiches — in London right now.

Ice cream

Chin Chin — Making ice cream fresh with liquid nitrogen makes it ridiculously smooth and means you can use less sugar. The ice cream here is as smooth as gelato and uses incredible quality ingredients. A “Brownwich” with their homemade chocolate cookie/brownie hybrid and salted caramel gelato is the thing that ice cream dreams are made of.

Ruby Violet — Julie Fisher has been making traditional ice cream since 2011 and hasn’t stopped creating flavours. The list is over 150 now, though there’s usually about twenty in the parlours at any time. You probably won’t love all of them. You very probably will love the chocolate praline which is usually in the mix to avoid customer riots.

Shake Shack — Ice cream is made from a custard base, but the Frozen Custard name here helps distinguish it in the US from the their terrible ice cream imitations. This American import make an excellent ice cream dessert with delicious mix-ins from local partners like Paul A Young and St. John Bakery.

Good and Proper Tea — At their cafe in Farringdon's Leather Lane, the fine tea purveyors have launched a summer collaboration with small batch organic ice cream makers Poco Gelato. There are three bespoke tea-inspired flavours on offer throughout July and August — wild Rooibos and vanilla, spiced Assam and raisin, and a refreshing lemongrass and ginger.


Gelupo — Jacob Kennedy couldn’t find a gelato supplier he liked when he opened Italian restaurant Boca di Lupo in 2008. People loved his house-made gelato so much he took the space across the road from the restaurant to open a dedicated gelateria with everything made onsite. During blood orange season the chefs spend weeks juicing so they can have fresh sorbet year-round (or until it sells out). The chocolate sorbet, Bonet and the fresh mint stracciatella are their famous classics that you won’t find better anywhere else, but don’t miss the cones kept in the freezer where they coat the inside of the cone in chocolate and then dip the scoop in. Like Cornettos, only better.

La Gelatiera — was founded by the grandson of a Calabrian gelato maker and his French friend. Where possible they buy all of their ingredients direct from the producers and they like to play around with flavours. In summer you’ll usually find a beer sorbet and something with blue cheese. The pistachio sorbet is extraordinary and was awarded the Best Food in London and the South East by the Great Taste Awards in 2015. The salted caramel, peanut and chocolate gelato is unmissable, too.

La Gelatiera

Gelatorino — is tucked away in tourist-central, it is less well known than Gelupo. They are Italian-owned and their flavour range is shorter and more traditionally Italian. If the zabaglione special is on it’s a must try, as is either the passionfruit or prosecco sorbets. Their chocolate gelato is the probably the best in town, made with award-winning chocolate and containing tiny flakes of chocolate that linger after the gelato has melted. If topped with the liquid gianduja that runs from the tap in the counter it will induce a chocolate coma.

Rococo x Snowflake collaboration — During this summer the Rococo chocolate shops have a range of bespoke gelati, using their chocolate, created by Snowflake. The white chocolate, pistachio and cardamom and the sea salt milk chocolate are both must-try.


Candy floss and popcorn on matcha softserve at Milk Train

Milk Train – If you’re in it for the Instagram pic then this is the place to go. Your soft serve can come floating on a cloud of candy floss and topped with biscuits or sprinkles. There are only three flavours of soft serve: vanilla, matcha and hojicha (roasted tea). The latter two are better than you’d expect from the novelty appearance and their savoury notes probably requires the extra sugar from the candy floss for most people.

Tsujiri – here there’s no vanilla, just matcha and hojicha soft serve flavours, still an acquired taste to most. But from a Japanese company that’s been selling tea for 155 years it’s unlikely to get more authentic, especially as the extras here are distinctly Japanese: red beans, chestnuts, chiffon cake and chewy mochi balls.

Softserve Society — A newcomer to Shoreditch’s Boxpark and a brand seemingly very much in the business of providing desserts that are Instagram-ready. Charcoal softserve is, apparently, a food stuff designed entirely to look photogenic in square-format on a smartphone. Somewhat remarkably — and even without decorative popcorn, popping candy or candy floss — Softserve’s charcoal/coconut variety is fabulous and the grit is good.

Ice cream sandwiches

Yolkin – Another Instagram favourite but also purveyors of unique and delicious flavours, too. The most beautiful ice cream sandwiches you’ll probably ever see, in creative flavour combinations that change fortnightly. These are only available for a short time at market stalls on the weekend. Expect queues.

Dominique Ansel Bakery — Dominique Ansel is always inventing. And his team have come up with a kiwi sorbet bar that refashions an actual kiwi fruit (albeit in rectangular form) — managing to replicate the fuzzy textured skin. Inside there's kiwi sorbet with a vanilla ice cream and poppy seed 'core', plus a milk chocolate 'skin'.

kiwi sorbet bar at dominique ansel london, one of london’s best bakeries
Kiwi ice cream sandwich at Dominique Ansel

Happy Endings — Ice cream sandwiches made by one of London's most creative pastry chefs on Druid St Market. Notable flavours include the Malty, combining oat biscuits with chocolate malted milk ice cream, dipped in malt crumbs and dark chocolate from Original Beans. Or for the savoury-inclined there's salted caramel miso ice cream sandwiched between slices of chocolate and Guinness cake, which is also available on ramen restaurant, Tonkotsu's dessert menu.

Blu Top — The ice cream sandwiches here are stuffed between brown butter chocolate chip cookies. There's a huge variety of seasonal and classic flavours, including 'brown toast and jam', combining brown bread ice cream with raspberry jam and crunchy cinnamon rye bread crumbs. The popular carrot cake variety has just made a return too. Available at various Kerb markets, as well as regular markets at Brockley, Victoria Park and CityPoint Square.

Jennifer Earle is a food writer and leads Chocolate Ecstasy Tours in London.