Best ice cream parlours in London, from Amorino to the Soft Serve Society

·10-min read
No screaming required: Ruby Violet’s DIY sundae   (Ruby Violet)
No screaming required: Ruby Violet’s DIY sundae (Ruby Violet)

You say gelato, I say gelato — or ice cream, sorbet, soft serve or parfait. Whatever the name, there’s no denying the childlike happiness that blooms when slurping something sweet and cold and creamy on a sunny day.

But not all ices are churned equal and some cones are cardboard. And while the ice cream van’s jingle remains synonymous with the British summer, there are so many tastier vehicles for ice cream these days. Here’s where to head.

Amorino

 (Amorino)
(Amorino)

The most reliable and readily available source of ice cream in London is a corner shop. The most reliable and readily available source of good ice cream is Amorino, an international gelataria chain with 16 shops in London. The gelato is made with mostly organic ingredients, and served in cup or cone in a distinctive rose shape (or blended down into a milkshake; the rose will wilt). Scoop can even be topped with a gelato-filled macaron, and yet the best thing about Amorino is still the fact its outposts stay open till 11pm — allowing you to roll gently from dinner or drinks to a late dessert, as if you’re wandering the sun-baked streets of Sorrento rather than, say, Acton.

Across London, amorino.com

400 Rabbits

 (Nic Crilly-Hargrave)
(Nic Crilly-Hargrave)

Though the primary reason to visit 400 Rabbits is the sourdough pizza, once you’re in one of their light, laidback restaurants you may as well stay for the gelato, which is house made — or ‘hutch-made’, as they tweely put it —and delectably dense. White chocolate and raspberry and pineapple and coconut sound intriguing and look delicious, but when gelato is this good, sometimes it’s best to play it simple: the milk flavour is a smooth, gently sweet and delicately floral testimony to the talent of the makers and the quality of the organic milk.

Across south London, 400rabbits.co.uk

Gelupo

 (Bloomsbury)
(Bloomsbury)

This West End spot comes from Jacob Kenedy, the chef behind pasta restaurant Bocca di Lupo, which is across the street; its Italian larder gets raided for inspiration. Varieties include espresso, ricotta and sour cherry, and tiramisu, and gelato is also served inside pastry cannoli bites. Kenedy is such a fan of the stuff that last year he published Gelupo Gelato, a gloriously thorough compendium of ice cream recipes.

7 Archer Street, W1D 7AU, gelupo.com

Udderlicious

 (Press Handout)
(Press Handout)

Even if the ice cream was bang average, I’d love Udderliscious. Not only is the name utterly puntastic, it’s the realisation of a long held childhood dream for owner Raj Kotecha, whose dad owned an ice cream shop in Harrow and whose wife, Raj, shares the business as well as his name. They run regular competitions for the public to submit ideas for new flavours, and winning flavours are added to their enormous roster. It feels like too much to ask that the ice cream also be scrumptious, but it truly is: made in-house with organic milk from Somerset to dizzyingly inventive recipes, like chocolate and marmite, builders tea and digestives, and rosemary and vanilla.

N1, WC2, HA9, udderlicious.co.uk

Chin Chin Labs

Ice ice, baby: nutty nitrogen ice cream at Chin Chin Labs, set up by Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur and his wife (Justine Trickett)
Ice ice, baby: nutty nitrogen ice cream at Chin Chin Labs, set up by Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur and his wife (Justine Trickett)

Ice cream meets mad scientist meets high end ingredients in this extraordinarily hot take on frozen desserts. By pouring liquid nitrogen over their blend of ingredients and gently hand churning them, Chin Chin Labs create some of the smoothest scoops of ice cream ever savoured, in flavours that ratchet the classics up several steps (they see, for insance, vanilla, and they raise tonka bean, a deeper, warmer vanilla-like flavour). To top it all, they offer a miscellany of toppings and sauces, from the straightforward — chocolate fudge — to the sublime, like bee pollen and truffle. Tubs, therefore, seem sensible, but cookie sandwiches are available.

NW1, W1, chinchinicecream.com

Nardulli

Nardulli serves coffee gelato so good, Miriam Margoles named it her favourite ever dessert last year on the hit podcast Off Menu. Anyone in need of further persuasion should consider the length of Nardulli’s well earned — and fast moving — queue on a sunny day. Like it’s eponymous owner, Nardulli is Italian, and the gelato is flavoured accordingly, with high quality ingredients sourced mostly from Italy: Bronte pistachios, Marsala from Sicily, liquorice from Tuscany, hazelnuts from Piemonte, Ily coffee and so on. This is not the place to be inventive; this is the place to choose two classic scoops, shut your eyes and imagine you’re on a Sardinian beach.

29 The Pavement, SW4 0JE, nardulli.co.uk

Gelateria Danieli

The ice cream at Gelateria Danieli is quite literally fit for a Queen: this gem of a gelato joint has sites two neighbouring sites Richmond — one of which sits in a particularly pretty spot on the green — and its vanilla creation is so good it was served at the Queen’s 80th birthday party in Kew Gardens. Granted, a fair while ago now, but the standard remains as good as ever; the pistacchio is particularly fine. Health-conscious ice cream cravers will also be pleased to know that the gelato here is all low fat, with frozen yoghurt, dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, high-protein and gluten-free options available too. Beware the delicious chocolates; they may undo all good intentions.

Two in TW9, gelateriadanieli.com

Ruby Violet

 (Ruby Violet)
(Ruby Violet)

The original Ruby Violet was found in Tufnell Park, born after years of founder Julie Fisher serving homemade churned ice cream from a stall outside a pub on Saturdays. That this comfortable, quirky outpost has since closed is lamentable for locals, but Londoners elsewhere have profited from the arrival of an equally characterful parlour conveniently placed next to Granary Square in Kings Cross. There are aged mirrors and reclaimed tables and lights, so it’s a pretty parlour to slurp in. The ice cream is often locally sourced, always made in small batches, and very seasonal. Oh and the name? Fisher’s maternal grandmother.

3 Wharf Road, N1C 4BZ, rubyviolet.co.uk

Gelatorino

In Covent Garden, queues often form here. There’s something pleasantly old-fashioned about its looks, at least inside, but that helps it feel rather authentic — you almost imagine it could be hidden away in a small seaside town on the Amalfi coast that most people just drive through. It’s made the old way here, with eggs, and so the gelato really is very good, all very natural and traditional, with flavours to match. Try their coffee, too.

2 Russell Street, WC2B 5JD, gelatorino.com

Oddono’s

Oddono's (Stephen Joyce)
Oddono's (Stephen Joyce)

For some 15 years, Oddono’s was a treat mostly kept a secret for South Kensington types, but its popularity meant that a rapid expansion across the capital took off a little while back. Now there’s an Oddono’s everywhere from Battersea to Hampstead, all serving Christian Oddono’s gelato, inspired by the stuff his nonna used to make. Flavours have ranged from boozy vodka lemon to thr best-selling chocolate and nocciola, made with hazelnuts from Piedmont. “Life’s too short to eat bad ice cream,” they say. Hard to disagree.

Across London, oddonos.com

Happy Endings

 (Press Handout)
(Press Handout)

Happy Endings’ signature serve — a malted milk ice cream sandwiched between oaty biscuits half dipped in milk chocolate — calls to mind a Maxibon, only made infinitely better. The biscuits are baked to a recipe from Happy Endings’ founder, the award-winning baker Terri Mercieca. The chocolate is single origin. The malted milk ice cream is the perfect depth and texture for an ice cream sandwich: creamy, soft but with just enough structural integrity. Since Merceica began Happy Endings in 2014, her sandwiches have spread to a handful of restaurants in London, where their appearance on the menu is as much a marker of quality as any official badge of honour. The Malty One (as it is called) will always have my heart, but there’s some strong contenders in Tres Leches (dulce de leche and milk parfait sandiwhch between sponge); and the Strawberry Shorty (strawbbery cheesecake parfait and marshmallow in shortbread).

London-wide delivery and various restaurants, happyendingsldn.com

Gelateria 3Bis

For the briefest of moments, 3bis disappoints. The mountains of ice cream are confined to sealed steel canisters and hidden under lids; the flavours are written on plain labels, not in the ripples of coulis or studded peaks of pistachio. Yet the invisibility of 3bis’ gelato is in fact a good sign: it is protected because it is so good and because it consists solely of the ingredient, sugar, frozen cream and frozen milk. If it were piled up beyond the cusp of the container, it would melt quickly — meaning the makers must either add stabilisers, or make more to compensate for the wastage. All this is to say 3bis’s gelato is sumptuous. Like Nardulli, it’s made with high quality, mostly Italian ingredients. Opt for the Chocoshot, a short cone with either coffee or chocolate at the bottom; it’s like a Cornetto but, well, really good.

W11, SE1, gelateria3bis.co.uk

Bears

While everywhere claims to serve the best ice cream in town — and Bears do too — they do at least have a sense of humour about what they do. Ice cream here is fun: all sorts of flavours (with the owners clearly having a sweet tooth), often piled high with hundreds and thousands, brownie bites, Lotus biscuits, Smarties, and sauces galore. The child-friendly, one scoop “little bears” — served with chocolate ears and noses, built to look like, you guessed it, baby bears — are particularly adorable. Gelato, sorbet and soft-serve are all available.

W6, W3, W12, bearsicecream.co.uk

Snowflake Gelato

For properly posh gelato, head to one of Snowflake’s “boutiques”. They made a splash a few years back with the avolato, an avocado-shaped ice cream dessert made with the millennial-favoured fruit. Times and fads have fortunately changed though, but diners can still tuck into their crepes, milkshakes and sundaes — these days, they’re more a dessert parlour than than ice-cream parlour, but there’s still plenty of choice to tuck into.

Across London, snowflakegelato.co.uk

Mamasons

In Sicily they serve something called brioche con gelato, which is just as you’d imagine. In the Philippines they serve something called dirty ice cream, which manifestly is not what you’d expect. It is the nickname for an ice cream sold by street vendors containting carabao milk and indigenous ingredients like guanabana, yam and lime, and served in a milk bun. It is not dirty, it’s delicious — and now available from Mamasons, who are carrying on the Fillipino tradition to great acclaim. The yam is a must-order, though lime is also a strong contender. The milk buns are soft, yielding and generously filled, making these a delightful challenge to eat.

NW1, WC2H, W12, dirtyicecream.co.uk

La Gelatiera

Seasonal ingredients are at the focus of La Gelatiera, so flavours tend to change most weeks; as such, return visits can be attributed to curiosity over greed. These are flavours for those who think vanilla is, well, a little vanilla: honey, rosemary and orange zest is a fragrant favourite, there’s a savoury choice in Cornish blue with walnuts, and the refreshing, reviving watercress with lime. Calabrian licorice is for the brave. Jersey cows supply the milk for the ice cream, but vegan alternatives are available too.

N8, WC2, E20, SE1, lagelatiera.co.uk

Bake Street

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

Founded by siblings Amirah and Feroz Gajia, Bake Street has a well-earned place in the hearts of Hackney residents, thanks largely to its bakes, which are the work of Amirah, and its brunch, the work of Feroz. In summer, however, they add another string to their bow by making soft serve ice cream with Estate Dairy milk and a wild range of ingredients. The Indian kesar mango is strong, if it’s on; ditto the roasted pineapple — though the true highlight is the snozzberries and cream, because, well, snozzberries.

58 Evering Road, N16 7SR, @bakestreetldn

Soft Serve Society

Nostalgic for a 99 from the van? This sweet spot whips up soft serve in unexpected flavours — vanilla and coconut are joined by the likes of matcha and charcoal — or served in towering “freakshakes”. A step up from the man-in-a-van, albeit it without the catchy jingles.

E1, WC2, softservesociety.com

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