Ever since Messina opened back in 2002, Sydney has been head over heals in love with gelato. Which we always should have been, really, given that we are a seaside city that’s also stinking-hot half of the year – because what do beaches and heat equal? That’s right: ice cream. There are a thousand places to get it – from the gummy, overly saccharine crap, to smooth, silky excellence. Rest assured, though, that these guys are all in the latter category.
After a pastry or cake? Check out the best sweet treats in Sydney.
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The best gelato and ice cream in Sydney
The queues here are well known, and they're all in line for one gelato in particular: the mandorla affogato. It won this gelateria World’s Best Gelato at 2014’s Gelato World Tour in Rimini, Italy. It’s hard to argue with them, because this is a bloody delicious ice cream. From the cream base infused with Madagascar vanilla and smoky Kenyan coffee, to the smashed-up shards of crunchy almond praline and the smooth salted caramel sauce, it’s worth your wait in that queue, whatever the weather.
RivaReno does gelato the Sicilian way, even making sure to store the gelato in ‘pozzetti’ (covered, stainless steel containers). Because the pozzetti are lidded, it means you don't get that sense of the spectacular as you walk in (as per Messina) but for Riva Reno – and for Sicilians, for that matter – they believe it keeps the gelato at exactly the right temperature, keeping it silky and luscious, and the ingredients at their freshest. And we’re not about to disagree with them; this is ridiculously smooth ice cream – it feels soft and velvety, drifting about the palate in cooling, refreshing tempos.
Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the sand, but grabbing a cone at Pompei’s before wandering down to the beach feels like a Sydney tradition that should never be lost. The pistachio is that classic combination of acidic green colour and sweet, robust flavour, and the chocolate sorbet (made with Tuscan Amedei chocolate no less) is as clean and refreshing as it is full-bodied. And now that they’re doing house made choc tops, we’re all kinds of excited.
This fully plant-based gelateria uses coconut milk instead of cream to achieve a pretty similar result. Happily the very subtle coconut flavour you get in the ice creams here complements, rather than clashes with, the sweet caramel flavours in the dulce de leche gelato, which is a little more icy than a dairy edition but just as refreshing on a sweltering day.
Order the Not Your Grandma’s Cup of Tea here – it's a honey-toned, peach and cream-flavoured ice cream topped with soft little meringues, burnt butter crumbs and a trickle of Lady Grey flavoured jelly. The peach flavour is gentle – almost floral – rather than robust. It's like high tea for the 21st century. For something a bit more trashbag, go the Michelin Man. Valrhona chocolate ice cream is swirled with smoked vanilla and topped with crushed-up, Snickers-like peanut praline, chocolate fudge sauce and fluffy, pre-torched marshmallows.
All the gelatos in this Marrickville gelateria are great, but props have to go to the zabaglione especially – it blows Messina’s poached figs in marsala out the water in terms of elegance of flavour. The ice cream is toned ever so gently with Marsala, with a fine layer of Marsala-soaked sponge strewn over the top. If you don’t like the rich, sweet, almondy taste of Marsala you’re gonna hate this. But for those of us who love it, this is pretty much heaven in a cup (Sicilians, walk this way).
Ciccone and Sons is a humble affair: just a long, thin room with bunting on the walls, a couple of little church pews to sit on, rock ’n’ roll on the stereo and a chest freezer with ice cream up the back. In India they serve chilled buttermilk as a refreshing drink, and here at Ciccone they know the score. Their buttermilk and passionfruit flavour is possibly the most refreshing iced treat you could imagine – sweet'n'sour and slightly salty.
You can’t have a best gelato list without talking about Messina. For some people it’s become a bit too commercial, since they now have stores in seven different spots. But we still love its game (and hey, it’s more accessible for the peoples – how can that be a bad thing?). From the playful, of-the-zeitgeist flavours (remember ‘The Heisenberg’, replete with a topping of blue crystallised violets?) to all the classics, these guys are still killing it, and we’re still in love with their out-there moves. We salute you, oh Godfather of innovative Sydney gelato.
Here they have three flavours of soft serve that change fortnightly, plus your choice of white fairy floss, toasted marshmallows, popping candy and caramel popcorn as an extra topping. Sea salt may sound like an odd choice, but the bright blue soft serve is sweet and creamy with a gentle briny kick – more like salt panna cotta than salt caramel. Keep your taste buds on high alert by adding a swirl of lemon ice tea into the mix. It tastes like Lipton Ice Tea, but with a serious citrus tang.
It may look like a quiet suburban café during the day, but on Saturday nights the queues go round the block. If they’re not here for the thick, pudding-like hot chocolate (which you’ve really gotta try), they’re certainly here for the gelato. Try the gelato burger. It’s two scoops of house-made gelato (we like the zabaglione flavour, which is rich, eggy and icy-refreshing), a dollop of frothy whipped cream and a slick of Nutella sandwiched between a bouncy, buttery brioche bun. It’s a messy eat, but by God is it a fun one.
Got a sweet tooth?
We’re pretty lucky that here in Sydney we have some of the best darn pastry chefs in the country. From the genius that is the strawberry watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry, to that ginger tart at Bourke Street Bakery, here’s where to get a lil’sweet stuff in Sydney.