7 unusual ice cream, gelato and sorbet flavours to try this summer

by Hugh Thomas25 August 2017

Hugh Thomas tours the UK to find the shops churning up ice cream flavours that go way beyond vanilla, strawberry and chocolate.

Hugh is a freelance food journalist and professional glutton. Previously, he has written for The Guardian, Time Out, Restaurant magazine, British Street Food, and inapub.

Hugh is a freelance food journalist and professional glutton. Previously, he has written for The Guardian, Time Out, Restaurant magazine, British Street Food, and inapub.

Hugh is a freelance food journalist and professional glutton. Previously, he has written for The Guardian, Time Out, Restaurant magazine, British Street Food, and inapub.

Hugh is a freelance food journalist and professional glutton. Previously, he has written for The Guardian, Time Out, Restaurant magazine, British Street Food, and inapub.

From roasted plum and brandy to seaweed and wasabi, gelato parlours and and ice cream traders are going more and more leftfield with their recipes each summer. And aren’t we all the better for it? Lap up some of the UK’s most exciting flavours before the British sunshine disappears for another year.

1. Gelato Village – ‘Richard III’

When you hear about some of the best gelato in the world, you expect it to come from somewhere like Palermo or Florence. Not, as it happens, Leicester. But that’s what Antonio De Vecchi – an alumnus of Italy’s Carpigiani Gelato University – and Daniele Taverna have achieved in Gelato Village. Locals are very much smitten with their dense, creamy, and luxurious gelato made from the milk and cream of local rare breed Red Poll cattle.

This goes for one flavour in particular. As you may recall, in 2012 King Richard III’s remains were found in what is now the staff car park of Leicester City Council, a mere eighty metres from the gelateria. Naturally, Antonio and Daniele came up with a dish inspired by the whole furore.

‘We add an infusion of rose blossom,’ says Antonio, ‘which represents the white rose of the House of York – King Richard's family. To that we run through a homemade fruit of the forest ripple, which is a nod to the bloody Battle of Bosworth in which Richard lost his life in 1485. It has become a firm favourite in Leicester and is one of the few gelati that we make year round.’

2 Saint Martins Square, Leicester, LE1 5DF. gelatovillage.co.uk

2. Poco Gelato – ‘Cereal Milk’

Drinking the milk leftover at the bottom of a bowl of Cheerios – a bit reminiscent of childhood, wouldn’t you say? Well, Poco Gelato in Leigh-on-Sea have repackaged that nostalgia in a frozen format. Based on their original roasted cornflake flavour, the result is a popular choice in and out of their shop – Hawksmoor, for example, have a penchant for using it in their milkshakes.

‘One day, an American lady came in to our shop and told me that Cereal Milk was a very popular flavour back home,’ owner Joe Donnelly tells me. ‘Basically, it's a smooth ice cream tasting exactly like the milk left behind in your breakfast bowl after having some cornflakes. So, I set about making a hot infusion of cornflakes, with our custard base, before straining and churning. The rest is, as they say, history.’

54–56 Elm Road, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, SS9 1SN. pocogelato.co.uk

3. Fabio’s Gelato – ‘Cadbury Tiffin’

Fabio’s certainly aren’t averse to taking flavours not familiar in the world of gelato, then sticking them in a wafer cone. See for example Guinness, doughnut, and Parma Violets. One of their more recent creations, Cadbury’s Tiffin, is based on a Cadbury’s recipe from 1937, which is set to make a permanent comeback this year. Fabio’s go off a base of their chocolate gelato which – as it happens – tastes not too dissimilar to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk already, following it up with a dash of raisins and shortbread crumble.

The results certainly hit the mark in terms of flavour, but are they true to the original? ‘The shortbread crumble for the biscuit element we have used as a guess,’ says Fabio. ‘We won't know what biscuit they use until its launched. I'm hoping ours tastes better!’

13 Hermitage Road, Hitchin, Herts, SG5 1BT. fabgelato.com

4. Nonna’s Gelato – ‘Roasted Plum & Brandy’

Like the savviest chefs in the savviest restaurants, Nonna’s Gelato get genuinely excited about what’s next in season. As founder Sophia is from British and Italian stock (her Italian grandmother is emblazoned on the cartons), each flavour takes full advantage of British and Italian produce.

‘The roasted plum and brandy is a new one,’ says Sophia. ‘We’ve used some new season opal plums that we handpicked from our friend’s garden just up the road from our house in London, and Italy’s finest Vecchio Romagna brandy. Just like our own nonna, we always add a dash of something alcoholic to most of our desserts and espressos.’ They’re at Broadway Market on Saturdays, but catch them at Spitalfields Market on Wednesdays, Victoria Park Market in Hackney on Sundays and at Kerb Markets across London.

Various markets, London. nonnasgelato.com

5. Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – ‘Cloudwater Chocolate Stout’

It’s widely accepted Manchester’s Cloudwater are one of the best breweries in the country at the moment – their range comfortably competes with even the strongest beers coming out of the US. Ginger’s Comfort Emporium, who in the past have not been ones to miss out on a dreamy collaboration with the city’s other small food businesses, joined forces with the brewery to take chocolate ice cream not one but a thousand steps further.

‘I love beer in ice cream,’ says owner Claire Kelsey. ‘It's a really complex flavour that the medium of milk and cream really accentuates. This tastes quite chocolatey, whereas drinking it is less so. We teamed up with Cloudwater for Manchester Beer Week – they took inspiration from our ice cream for their beer [a chocolate salted caramel imperial stout], then we turned that into ice cream.’

Afflecks Church Street, Manchester, M4 1PW. gingerscomfortemporium.com

6. Blu Top – ‘Carrot Cake’

With the exception of Eccles and Victoria sponge, are there many cakes more British than the good old carrot cake? Founder Richard of Blu Top, who slings his scoops from Barbara – a teeny little Piaggio Porter van – has been making ice cream into cakes and visa versa for a little while now. But his take on carrot cake is, judging by punters’ reactions, the best yet.

‘It's infused with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, and I replace all the sugar with dark brown soft sugar to give it that mellow malty vibe,’ says Richard. ‘I then bake a huge tray of handmade carrot cake and chop it up into cubes. The cake is folded into the ice cream and I pipe in hearty blobs of cream cheese frosting.’ He’s at Brocklet Market on Saturdays and Meating Point Market near Moorgate on Thursdays.

Various markets, London. blutopicecream.com

7. Jannettas – ‘Seaweed Sorbet’

When you’re part of a family business that’s been selling ice cream in the same neck of the woods for over a century, you’ve got to keep things fresh somehow. Jannettas may have had a few customers turn their noses up at the idea to start with, but their seaweed sorbet has become something of a delicacy among the people of St Andrews.

‘We first stumbled across the idea when collaborating with a local producer, Mara Seaweed, for a local food festival in Crail,’ says co-owner Owen Hazel. ‘We used their Shony Seaweed to create something new and interesting. Long before sweet ice cream was ever popular, the preferred choice was savoury, and it seems there is a bit of a revival for that – we’re regularly asked to create flavours like Strathdon blue cheese, garlic, red pepper and strawberry, maple syrup and bacon, to name a few.’

31 South Street, St Andrews, Scotland, KY16 9QR. jannettas.co.uk

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