Sunday, 22 August 2010

Summer Treats - Amorino & Gelupo, Soho

I've gone a little ice cream mad lately. Actually not just any old ice cream but that lusciously beautiful stuff that the Italians are so proud of - gelato. I love ice cream, I LOVE dairy .... I could quite happily eat ice cream and whipped cream by the bucket load ... did someone mention clotted cream? Oh yeah ... bring on tub down with you.

Unfortunately, dairy don't love me.

Amarino - Soho, London

Every now and then I turn a blind eye to this love-hate relationship and indulge for all its worth. First stop, Amorino on Old Crompton Street in Soho. I've poked my head in a couple of times for a good look at the lavishly displayed offerings and walking away with muttered reminders to return another day. Not that I've ever made it back for a tasting until DT showed up in London on a short notice holiday and suggested dinner. DT, it turns out, is a big ice cream fan so Amorino seemed like a pretty good dessert stop.

Amarino - Soho, London
The back wall of Amorino is lined with glass cases filled with boxes of beautifully coloured sweets for sale but look at the price!

I stayed on the safe side and got myself a small tub and got my two favourites - Alphonso mango sorbet and hazelnut. I wasn't thinking of great combinations when I got those flavours mixed. I never miss out when there's Alphonso mango on the menu and well, I kinda love anything that has hazelnuts in it. Both flavours were good but I was hoping they would blow my head a way a little more than they did. It's pretty hard to get hazelnut wrong so that was fine but there just wasn't enough 'umph' to the mango. When you put the name Alphonso in front of mango, I expect a great big hit. Then again I sometimes do expect too much .....

Amarino - Soho, London

DT got a large cup with crème caramel and pistachio (what I liked about this place is that the small cup size gets you 2 flavours and all the larger sizes gets you as many flavours as you wish to combine - cup sizes go up to XXL, I believe). The crème caramel was nice but got really sickly sweet after the second bite. Brilliant if you have a super sweet palate. Now the pistachio was a different story. It was SO good! An amazing revelation to me. You see I have spent all these years avoiding pistachio ice cream mainly because I thought it would be another case of good almond/bad almond. I like almonds as a nut but then something weird, bad and wrong happens when it's ground down, cooked, or whatever ... and I, well ... naively thought this would be the same for pistachios but it's not. It's so delicious with an almost meaty depth. So you have it ... a pistachio ice cream convert.

Gelupo - Archer St, London

A few weeks later I was on the ice cream case again (even though my 'dairy hates me' consequences from my last ice cream stop had barely faded from memory). This time I wanted to try Gelupo, also located in Soho but this time located down the slightly seedier Archer Street opposite its sister restaurant, Bocca di Lupo. Gelupo is decorated along clean line with duck egg blue tiles, marble table tops and white painted floorboards. Unlike Amorino, their offerings of gelatos, sorbets and granitas hide beneath metel domes that are only revealed when you make an order. And here you pay per flavour not by cup size.

Gelato, Sorbet and Granita - Gelupo, London

SM was quick to put in an order for blood orange granita and melon sorbet. Damn, those were my choices too! If I had to pick between melon and mango, the melon always wins. It's just so hard to find a place that does melon and does it well. But I'm adamant there will not be duplicate orders. I go for the espresso sorbet and after lots of 'ahhh-ing' settle for the hazelnut (of which I mentally kicked myself over and did berate SM for talking me out of getting the pistachio). I love my hazelnuts but I've had pistachio on my mind ever since I had it at Amorino.

Melon Sorbet and Blood Orange Granita - Gelupo, London

SM's choices were an instant hit. The blood orange was amazing - mouth puckeringly tangy with an amazing hit of dense, full bodied blood orange . There is no such thing as watering down the flavours at Gelupo. The melon in contrast was mellow with great perfume. Considering the punch of the blood orange, the melon held it's own very well.

Hazelnut Gelato and Espresso Sorbet - Gelupo, London

I'm officially in love with the espresso sorbet, which is apparently milk free ... but does this mean it's dairy free too?Not that it matters, I guess but it's one of those things that will niggle at the back of my mind until I find out. The sorbet is bitter and strong with just a twinge of sweetness to keep it in check. So, SO good. The hazelnut is good but with the discovery of the other flavours it is slightly sidelined. I think I may just have to give it a rest on my next ice cream trip. There is a whole world of amazing flavours to be tried. Rumour has it the avocado and honey is good, and there is even a rice flavour (I had it in Vietnam and it was pretty darn good).

I do believe I have a preference for Gelupo over Amorino. The flavours are whole lot more exciting and there is more heart in getting what they offer up to scratch. Food tastings aside, the service is much better at Gelupo too. Yes, I know it's an ice cream parlour with minimal interaction with staff but in those short minutes spent at the counter, efficient and friendly service makes all the difference. The servers at Amorino seem almost impatient with customers. No smile, haughty explanations of how their cup size system works and (almost) looks of disdain when recommendations were asked for. When I asked what one of the gelatos was (my Italian being non-existent, so the name tag meant nothing to me) he prattled out the name anyway and I asked him what it was exactly, there was a definite look of 'how can you not know what it is?'. Not good, not good at all ... My other gripe about Amarino is the odd queuing system - this place operates on pay first and get served later but the till is located at the far end of the room after the refrigerators housing the ice cream. So they make customers walk away from the goods they want to buy only to come back again later. This to-ing and fro-ing makes an already tiny space congested and confusing and somehow I don't believe the mind of the customer works the way they have set their operation out. By all means ensure your customers don't have to start queuing on the street but there really must be another way to all of this. Despite my grumblings I will quite happily return (I'll just have to ignore the appaling service). And believe me when I say thank heavens there are a few more decent ice cream places in central London. Not so long ago the best recommended was Scoop which I find to be pretty dire and have kept my distance ever since.

41 Old Compton Street, London W1D 6HF
Web: (there's a language choice of either French or Spanish)
Amorino on Urbanspoon


7 Archer Street, London W1D 7AU
Web -
Gelupo on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Rafleesia said...

Oh Gelupo sounds fab...waaay better than the rather disappointing Bar Italia gelato that everybody raves about here in KL...