The best ice cream in London
This international chain’s best-placed branch is a wafer’s throw from Covent Garden piazza, but there are outposts across the capital, from Chelsea to Camden. The focus is on classic flavours (pistachio, strawberry, Madagascan vanilla), with a couple of more exotic options like coconut and lemongrass in the mix. The Dolmio-day décor could do with an overhaul, but the flower cones, which come with slabs of ice cream in place of petals, are highly photogenic.
Richard Makin’s ice-cream van, the star attraction at West India Quay and Brockley markets, has parked up at for the summer in Victoria Park. His flavours are the stuff of childhood dreams: think brown toast and jam, root beer and lemon butter meringue. Get them between your cookies of choice, or unadorned in a cup – either way, they’re eye-poppingly good.
Chin Chin’s Soho outpost (and they also appear at Street Feast at Hawker House) is home to wacky flavours like halva black tahini (baked sesame paste) and coffee with olive oil, but its ‘normal’ flavours are pretty killer, too – try burnt butter caramel and vegan raspberry sorbet.
World’s best science lab. Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur, Camden Lock’s very own Willy Wonka, broke the mould when he and wife Nyisha started making ice cream with liquid nitrogen back in 2010. Gimmick? Nope: because the custard base gets frozen instantly, the results are gorgeously dense and crystal-free. Toppings – grilled white chocolate, truffle crumble and caramelised pretzels – are appropriately out-there.
Four Winters on Gloucester Road freezes its ice cream by blasting it with nitrogen. The finished product, with no room for ice shards, or air, or anything, is a marvellously creamy scoop. The best toppings are the house-made cookie dough and spicy honey brittle.
Funny name, seriously good ice cream. In the heart of Borough Market, white-tiled 3Bis (the postcode of Italy’s first ice-cream factory, apparently) has a playful feel, with cabinets full of chocolate-splattered lollies and a whirring gelato machine that churns it in front of you. As in the rest of the market, quality doesn’t come cheap – a large cone won’t leave you with change from a fiver, but it’s totally worth it.
Peering into the chiller cabinet at Danieli, you feel a bit like a latter-day Howard Carter stumbling across Tutankhamun’s treasures. Richmond Green’s much-loved parlour serves gelato that’s truly a wonder to behold. Chocolate is a speciality, paired with everything from chilli to praline and Earl Grey tea. Happily, the sorbets don’t play second fiddle – try the pear or wild strawberry. There’s also a shop in Kingston and a second in Richmond.
Like mama used to make. The gelato at this cute café near the Royal Opera House is churned fresh every day in machines from Italy, kept in traditional lidded pots at the counter and served with a spatula – it’s so super-smooth there’s no need for a scoop. The flavours, too, are unashamedly old-school, and all the better for it: the nougat, panettone and gianduja are exceptional.
Jacob Kenedy’s gelateria, just across Archer Street from big brother Bocca di Lupo, is the one to beat. It’s tiny and draws a cool crowd around the clock, but standing in line next to the freezer cabinets of ice-cream cakes is no great hardship. The flavours are quirky but grown-up – try fresh mint stracciatella, blood-orange sorbet, and ricotta and sour cherry.
If putting a smile on people’s faces was an Olympic sport, La Gelatiera would definitely go home with a gold. Their spot in E20 is more sociable than the Covent Garden original, with a ‘theatre’ where you can watch the gelato being made. They switch the menu up daily, but the 90-odd flavours on rotation (extra-dark chocolate sorbet with Calabrian chilli, Sicilian pistachio) are all intriguing. They also appear at Brick Lane Market every Sunday during the summer.
Kitty Travers’s ice-cream truck has been hailed as Britain’s best, and if you manage to track the tiny three-wheeler down in at Spa Terminus market on Saturdays, you’ll see why. It dispenses a weekly-changing selection of seasonal frozen treats, with an emphasis on the fruity – think nectarine and lemon verbena sorbet, or kumquat custard ice cream.
The clue’s in the name. This Borough Market stalwart sells lick-and-go cones and cups full of ice cream made by four friends from the milk of goats on a small farm in Essex. It’s lactose-free and naturally lower in calories than cow’s milk ice cream – but even if #clean anything gets your, um, goat, you’ll be back for seconds.
A little piece of Florence in Fulham. Café and takeaway Ice & Slice specialises in rectangular pizzas and dense, intensely flavoured gelati. Made daily in tiny batches, these run the gamut from an ultra-creamy salted caramel to cornflake crunch. The take-home tubs are good value, and if slurping is more your style, they’ll blend any two flavours into a bespoke milkshake.
Grab-and-go. This no-frills joint at the top of Greek Street doesn’t lend itself to lingering, but there’s no nicer way to while away an afternoon than with a cone of its gelato in nearby Soho Square. The billowing tubs are made in the time-honoured way on site from fresh milk and cream. Sorbets are a strong point, too – get the Mediterranean lemon or Sicilian mandarin.
Chalk Farm may be miles from the seaside, but this place lives up to its name – if it doesn’t put you in a holiday mood, nothing will. Marine Ices has been scooping since 1931, moving out of its original premises on Haverstock Hill in 2014 to a new, smaller parlour with a retro look. Malted milk, coconut ruffle and tutti frutti give the menu a ‘Famous Five’ feel, and the staff are all smiles.
Milk Train’s famous ice cream cones were a big deal in Taiwan long before they came to Covent Garden. Order a scoop of roasted green tea (our favourite) and watch as a skilled candyfloss technician wraps it in a fluffy, sugary cloud.
A family affair. Morelli’s is a fourth-generation business – great-grandfather Mario apparently brought the cappuccino to Britain – and its tiny jewel of a store in Covent Garden sparkles. You can get a cone of their gelato to go, but it’s worth sticking around for the sundaes, which come in glorious Italian glassware festooned with swizzle-sticks, whipped cream and wafers. Probably the most fun you can have sitting down.
On sunny Saturdays the queue for Nardulli stretches most of the way back to Clapham Common tube station. You won’t find any techy whizz-bangery here: just classic gelati (Valrhona chocolate, liquorice, macadamia nut) made the old-fashioned way. There’s a handful of tables, but we’d recommend you give them a miss – get out onto the grass and pretend you’re on (a Roman) holiday.
This vintage bicycle with a freezer on the back is a firm Broadway Market favourite (keep an eye out for it at Church Street Market in Stoke Newington and at Kerb across the city, too). Nonna’s is named after founder Sophia’s Italian grandmother, and the menu, which changes weekly, blends Continental techniques with best-of-Blighty ingredients; give the Kentish cobnut, salted toffee apple or Eton mess a go.
An oldie, but a goodie. Looks-wise, Oddono’s in South Ken has nothing on the new generation of bare-brick gelaterias, but there’s still a whiff of Continental chic about it. Maybe it’s all those French mums who pop in for an affogato after dropping their enfants off at the Lycée Français up the road. Tried-and-trusted flavours such as mango, strawberry and coconut will see you right. Not fancy enough to make it to SW7? There’s other branches in Battersea, Hampstead, East Dulwich and Chiswick.
Chocolatier Paul takes the sweet stuff seriously, so when he decided to start selling ice cream in his Camden Passage and Royal Exchange shops (he also has a Wardour Street outlet), he called in the experts. East London’s gelato wizards Hackney Gelato make three flavours for him, using the same top-notch ingredients that go into the truffles. Ask for all of the toppings: cocoa nibs, dark chocolate pearls and hot chocolate sauce.
A twinkling gem on Tufnell Park’s main thoroughfare, Ruby Violet is decked out with vintage tiles and furniture. Flavours tend towards the weird and wonderful (Seville orange marmalade, liquorice with blackcurrant ripple), but less adventurous tastes are amply catered for too. There’s also an offshoot in Granary Square, just behind King’s Cross station.
A hipper Mr Whippy. Boxpark’s dessert bar in Bethnal Green, which feels like a cross between a skate shop and a Tokyo tea house, has reinvented soft-serve ice cream for the Snapchat generation. Really, though, it’s just a backdrop for toppings – the photogenic likes of blue bubblegum crunch, smashed Pocky biscuits (basically Mikado, those little chocolate sticks) and Oreo gravel are arranged in petri dishes on the counter ready for sprinkling.
Scoop’s flagship in Seven Dials (there are three others, at Old Street station, Harvey Nicks in Knightsbridge and South Kensington) is cute and colourful, but it’s the voluptuous tubs of gelato behind the counter that are the real draw. Provenance is the thing here – the milk is the Channel Islands’ finest, the pistachios are from Sicily and the peppermint extract is flown in from Piedmont. Purists, rejoice.
This light, bright, faintly space-age parlour has come into its own since Exhibition Road’s pedestrian-friendly revamp; South Kensington is now one of the nicest places in London to stroll with a cup of the cold stuff. There’s an astonishing 50-plus flavours of gelato behind the counter at Snowflake, plus chocolate-dipped mini cones, waffles and crepes. Where to start? We recommend an A to Z approach – kick things off with a scoop of amaretto, apple or almond. Can’t get to South Ken? Pop into their Soho, Marble Arch, Bayswater and Selfridges branches.
This is easily the jolliest place on Upper Street. Decked out with bunting and swing-seats, it has a devoted local following – customers can suggest a Flavour of the Month, and the person responsible for the winning one gets a free scoop every day for four weeks. There’s a second branch in Seven Dials, too.
A portal to Portobello, this cheery gelateria makes a great starting point for a stroll. There are 13 staple flavours, plus guest stars (they’ve been known to whip up the odd batch of Vegemite gelato). Can’t choose between a cone or a cup? You don’t have to, thanks to their portable – and edible – wafer baskets. There are branches in St John’s Wood and Fulham, too.
Plant-based ice cream? We can take it or leaf it (sorry, not sorry). But the stuff at Yorica, London’s first dairy-, egg-, nut- and gluten-free ice-creamery, is an exception. With locations in Notting Hill and Wardour Street, it feels like a Sydney surf shack, all blonde wood and super-smiley staff. You choose your ice cream – made with rice milk – or vegan frozen yoghurt, top it with fresh fruit, brownie bits or marshmallows, then dig in. And no, it doesn’t count as one of your five a day.
Find show-stopping ice cream in London
Are you tired of eating the same old ice cream, with only the ‘how long to brain-freeze’ game to keep things interesting? What you need is a hand-picked list of the best signature flavours, from the capital’s finest ice-cream makers, so you can spend all summer sampling and judging them for yourself.