There’s nothing quite like the sound of the ice cream van on a sunny day to stir up some serious nostalgia and have you rummaging in your pocket for change whilst you drool at the prospect of a cone in your hand. But Mr Whippy isn’t the only soft serve in town (and have you seen how much they cost now?) as a whole host of cafes, restaurants and pop-ups are swirling some seriously inventive flavours. Forget the 99 because Siobhan Gunner aka @hotspothunter has rounded up the best silky, creamy swirls in London.
Soft & Swirly
Following a successful residency at Borough Market’s Sri Lankan restaurant Rambutan last year, Sam Lowry (formerly Leila’s) and Farah Kezou have moved their summer soft serve venture, Soft & Swirly, to its own space in Netil Market. The menu shows off peak-seasonal produce and the pair’s creativity, in double-twisted swirls such as passionfruit and bergamot; coconut and hibiscus; and salted caramel and yoghurt drizzled with Oliveology Greek grape syrup.
At smart, sustainable-driven restaurant Fallow, chefs Jack Croft and Will Murray transform second-class rhubarb into a vibrant rhubarb jelly and rhubarb sherbet, using the surplus outside skin to create the latter, served with poached rhubarb and a rich, custardy soft serve swirled over the top. Inspired by jelly and ice cream, this is a very sophisticated and cleverly waste-reducing alternative to the quintessential British dessert.
This strong summer hit, served at Rosslyn Coffee, marries Origin Coffee Roasters’ 24-hour cold brew with a silky vanilla-infused Estate Dairy base, and comes with an intense, deeply dark cocoa powder dusting courtesy of Melbourne’s pioneering hot-chocolate makers, Mörk.
At South London’s neighourhood coffee shop, NOLA, vanilla soft serve courtesy of Happy Endings comes laced with either chocolate sauce or house Colombian espresso, and a sweet 99 flake crumble for an instant luxe Mr Whippy dessert.
Forza Wine is an Italian restaurant and rooftop bar in Camberwell, with a rotating roster of cooling soft serves that can be ordered from its concise ‘Dolci’ menu section. It shows an unadulterated element of nostalgia, with banana yoghurt soft serve and chocolate cornflakes taking inspiration from Muller Corners, as well as a posh fine-dining sensibility in the likes of vivid-green mint soft serve swirled onto an indulgent, dark chocolate nemesis cake base.
De Beauvoir Deli
Café-cum-grocery shop De Beauvoir Deli has debuted a simple yet very satisfying ice cream number for the summer months, combining Happy Endings’ soft, meltingly smooth vanilla soft serve with a delicate house-made chocolate crumb.
Every week, Bake St unveils a new soft serve flavour centred around seasonal fruits and modern interpretations of quintessential British snacks, ranging from mango and saffron sorbet, to a pleasingly tangy-bitter, Jaffa-inspired pain au chocolat and mandarin number paired with a crispy croissant thin for dipping.
French-British pastry chef Abigail Scheuer puts a luxurious patisserie twist on soft serve at her sleek glass-fronted shop, Le Choux, set on Ladbroke Grove. A cup of delicate, melt-in-the-mouth milk chocolate choux, creamy milk soft serve, dark Valhrona chocolate sauce, crumbled choux pastry and a thick coin of dark chocolate perched atop, delivers a myriad of contrasting textures and rich, grown-up flavours.
Its fluffy sugar-dusted doughnuts are an ingenious swap for a cone, but Morny Bakehouse’s extra toppings are similarly inspiring. Think pistachio cake cubes, cornflake crunch, umami-rich miso caramel, and banana milk crumbs, balanced by a cooling milky soft serve.
175 Balham by The Apple Blue
Balham’s beloved marine-blue brunch spot and patisserie, The Apple Blue, recently opened a take-away coffee venture down the road, where the likes of Biscoff brownie chunks, honeycomb crunch, and salty pretzels adorn malt soft serve.
Happy Endings x Pavilion
Having supplied the base for many of London’s outstanding soft serves, Happy Endings now offers its own ever-changing, highly imaginative menu, of, say, pink rhubarb and strawberry enriched with tres leches, or malted milk and chocolate, served at the Pavilion Bakery pick-up hatch in Victoria Park.
It’s the cupcake-ice cream mash-up you’ve been waiting for. Yes Hummingbird Bakery has turned its iconic Red Velvet cupcakes into soft swirls of red ice cream, topped off with Red Velvet cake pieces for good measure.