Our round-up of the very best contemporary and gourmet ice cream parlours in the UK, including Ruby Violet and Ginger's Comfort Emporium - plus the scoop on honey and lavender, plum and star anise, peach and rosewater, and other artisan flavours
Looking for the best ice cream in the UK? What better way to cool down on a hot summer’s day than with a scoop or two of ice cream? Especially if it’s freshly hand-crafted from fine ingredients, to a creative recipe.
If you’d rather have a cone topped with damson ice cream or fig and ricotta sorbet than your classic rum ‘n’ raisin, here are eleven of the best ice cream parlours where you can chill…
Best ice cream shops in London
Ruby Violet, Kentish Town
Run with old-school glamour but contemporary flair by ex-food photographer Julie Fisher (the name is a nod to her maternal grandmother), this North London ice cream hot spot developed from a stall at a local market. As Julie says ‘ice cream makes people smile’ and Ruby Violet’s certainly does that. As far as possible, Julie subscribes to the fresh, seasonal, local philosophy; look out for peach and rosewater, damson, English strawberry, Seville orange marmalade ripple and Kentish Town honey.
Serving a mixture of classic and inventive flavour combinations from around the world – think Blood Orange, Honeycomb and Hazelnut, Ricotta and Sour Cherry and Bonet (a combination of coffee, rum, chocolate, egg yolk and amaretti), Gelupo is a Soho institution. In 2018, in celebration of Chinese New Year, the business also added a number of Asian-inspired flavours, such as Red Bean Paste, Black Sesame and Mango Sticky Rice.
Its gelato is made freshly every day by a team of skilled makers, resulting in silky-smooth textures and rich flavours. In a happy coincidence, the churning process used to achieve the right gelato density also results in a lower fat content, so bring on that third scoop!
London’s La Gelatiera has permanent shops in Covent Garden and Stratford but can also be found popping up at Brick Lane Market during the summer months. It focuses on unique and intriguing flavour combinations, from Blue Cheese and Walnut to Basil and Chilli.
Each scoop is made with natural, seasonal ingredients and Jersey milk and cream, with the dairy ingredients pasteurised on site for optimum freshness. If you want to keep it classic you can order a scoop of creamy Vanilla Mananara, but the Honey, Rosemary and Orange is recommended if you fancy something fresher with slightly savoury notes.
Ditch dessert at the restaurant and head to Marine Ices for late-night gelati instead. A 3-minute walk from Chalk Farm tube station, this long-established parlour (it was founded in 1931) makes its ice cream on a Suffolk farm just outside Bury St Edmunds.
It’s more gelato than ice cream – because of the dreamy, creamy texture – and flavours are well-balanced, genuine and delicate. Our favourites include banana (it tastes like those foam bananas you get in a pick ‘n’ mix) and roasted pistachio. The latter is a triumph – it uses real pistachio paste as its base, and as such it tastes exactly like the real thing. Coconut, white chocolate and blueberry muffin are all equally authentic.
If you’re sitting in, try one of their ice cream sundaes. There are 11 to choose from (including classics such as peach melba and Knickerbocker Glory), but we’d recommend the mighty Coppa Aldo: generous scoops of tiramisu and chocolate gelato, banana coins, hot fudge sauce and hazelnut nibs… good luck with finishing the whole cup!
This sleek gelato parlour serves a range of inventive flavours, all made by hand in small batches in the downstairs kitchen. Ingredients are carefully considered, be it coffee beans sourced from Essex-based The Coffee Officina or Pump Street chocolate used in the stracciatella flavour.
Come rain or shine there’s usually a queue down the street, but it’s worth joining. The menu changes daily but if they’re in stock, make the most of your cone with some hazelnut brittle, sweet-salty treacle or refreshing alphonso mango sorbet. You can also expect white peach, Greek yogurt and elderflower sorbet throughout the year.
In the summer months, you’ll find the cool Cambridge crowd gulping down scoops of rhubarb and rose sorbetti from the parlour’s tricycle, which travels around the city, but it’s worth a visit in the winter too for a scoop of the mince pie flavour. If you’re really peckish (or can’t visit on a regular basis), buy a 1L tub of your favourite flavour to store in your freezer.
This sleek North Laine parlour makes its own gelato daily, using milk and cream from a local Sussex dairy. Don’t go expecting a simple strawberry or vanilla cone; the current range stretches from sea salt caramel, and black truffle and honey gelato to sorbettos of alphonso mango, earl grey tea, or even vegan-friendly coconut milk.
If that still sounds too tame, go with an empty stomach and fill up on their latest invention; the ice cream burger (actually ice cream in a hot brioche bun).
One of the most popular gelato outlets in the southwest, with branches in Bristol and Bath, Swoon serves its superior take on classic Strawberry, Vanilla and Chocolate ices alongside a popular range of Italian-influenced flavours (Neapolitan coffee, Pistachio, Bacio – chocolate and hazelnut – and an outstanding Chocolate Sorbet) and Swoon on a Sticks (think posh Magnum).
The fact that you can order its gelato in ‘bambino’ sizes wins them brownie points with parents. And its dedication to coming up with an ever-changing range of seasonal flavours is what keeps the regulars coming back. Recent favourites include Panettone, Hot Cross Bun, Peanut Butter and Chocolate and Ricotta and Blueberry.
Three sisters are at the helm of this charming ice cream parlour, which is set within a pretty cobbled courtyard on the family’s Cheshire farm. Must-order scoops include sweet Cherry Blizzard (white chocolate, Oreos and cherries), refreshing Tropical Twist (a mix of mango sorbet and vanilla ice cream), Raspberry and Liquorice and Yum Yum (creamy vanilla ice cream swirled with pecans, chocolate, biscuit and toffee).
The on-site kitchen means every element of the ice cream is homemade, including the parlour’s chocolate brownies, pavlova meringues and crisp crème brulee sugar. There’s always a good range of seasonal flavours on offer, too; in the winter look out for delicately spiced Christmas Pudding (with brazil nuts, pecans, currants, sultanas, walnuts, prunes, raisins, oranges, lemons, cherries, candied peel, spices, Guinness and brandy) or Sloe Gin and Damson.
From gin & tonic gelato made with the Edinburgh Gin Distillery’s Seaside Gin, to a salty, crunch-packed maple, bourbon and bacon flavour and a popular cardamom bun flavour made with local brand Peter’s Yard’s famous baked goodies, this West End parlour uses natural ingredients to produce really stand-out, hand-crafted gelato.
Many are seasonal (look out for fig & ricotta sorbet) and the shop runs an ice-cream cart at events around the city. It’s also famously pooch-friendly, providing dog-only gelato.
Set in a former filling station outside Stroud, what started out as a mobile ice cream parlour, selling from a gleaming Airstream trailer, is now a stylish farm shop and café, and a must-visit in the local area for gourmet burgers-to-go. But it would be daft to visit without trying some of the chilled stuff.
Ice cream is still a major part of the business, and made with some of the poshest ingredients around (Madagascan vanilla pods, artisan coffee, honey from owner Harriet’s own farm, Valrhona chocolate, forced rhubarb from the Yorkshire Triangle). Flavours are seasonal but look out for beetroot and raspberry, honey and lavender, plum and star anise, gooseberry and elderflower and date, coffee and cardamom.
A mobile ice cream van plus a sit-in diner on the first floor of Afflecks, an emporium of independent stores in the city’s Northern Quarter, Ginger’s specialises in refreshingly creative flavours (mint and fennel, plum, gin and juniper and blackberry, rose and sage sorbet, pear and tonka bean) and equally unexpected ice cream desserts; the French Elvis is legendary, a medley of hot French toast, filled with salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream, Skippy peanut butter, fresh banana and homemade raspberry sauce.
This modestly named ice cream parlour in the centre of Hawkshead is as charming as it sounds. All its ice cream is made on a local farm, using milk from its small dairy herd, and the flavours are comforting classics.
The current range includes Jamaican Rum and Raisin, Rhubarb and Custard and various takes on familiar desserts – think Grandma’s Apple Pie and New York Blackcurrant Cheesecake. It wins extra points for the logo-stamped wafers that come with each cone.