Gelato, is not the same as ice cream. To you this may seem obvious, but the first time I ate gelato I hadn't quite appreciated this. Glace, Speiseeis, helado; I simply thought gelato was the Italian word for ice cream. Ambling about the sun drenched streets of Rome with Fellini-vision switched on, eating flavours such as pistachio, cioccolato, amaretti, zuppa Inglese (English soup or trifle, how could you not?) -I just assumed that being on holiday made it taste so good.
Sorbet however, was a different matter. Up until then I'd mainly eaten supermarket sorbet with a low fruit content and a strange gummy texture or, scooped out of an orange or lemon half, at the end of an Indian restaurant meal. I say scoop but it was more like hacking away at a block of coloured ice, improvising MacGyver style with what was to hand, only for the chips to then freeze onto my tongue and cause frost damage. So one mouthful of velvet smooth, sunny, sorbetto al limone di Amalfi left me utterly speechless -only this time in a good way.
Food memories can be annoying things; this first taste of proper gelato and sorbet was over fifteen years ago, and ever since, it has been my point of reference. As with any memory, I'm sure it has become rose tinted over time and, I have little idea of whether the stuff I ate was even the best example. Even so, when I try gelato or sorbetto, I wait momentarily, hoping, for that revelatory hit.
I'm pleased to say this happened by the spoonful, in Gelupo
. Run by the team behind Bocca Di Lupo
, this gelateria and delicatessen sits on a quiet street in the heart of Theatreland, not far from Piccadilly Circus. With a regularly changing and seasonal menu of gelato, sorbet and granita, the choice was almost overwhelming. Good job they let you try before you buy, although I'm not sure it would be good form to ask to try a little bit of everything.
I started with the sorbet, but for the purposes of research you understand, I went back the next day to try the gelato and a small shot of granita. Smooth and singing of the fragrant ripeness of cantaloupe, the melon sorbet tasted simply like a blended piece of fruit. Sicilian blood orange was equally fresh and zinging on the tongue, but it was the bitter chocolate sorbet that stole the show.
As is often the case with chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream never really gives that chocolate hit that I, always hope for. Made with 72% Venezuelan Grand Cru, this certainly wasn't the case for Gelupo's sorbet. Wonderfully dark with a little bitterness counteracting the sweetness; it really did taste like frozen liquid chocolate.
Heavier and more dense than ice cream, gelato has a lower air content; a result of a slower and more gentle churning process. This also means it takes longer for the mixture to freeze, so the ice crystals are smaller, giving a smoother texture. The proportion of whole milk to cream is also greater and, egg yolks aren't necessarily added, so it has a lower fat content. With less coating of the mouth and tongue, flavours within gelato tend to standout and taste cleaner compared to that of ice cream. Served at a slightly higher temperature, gelato also has a silkiness which gives it that satisfying mouth-feel.
I tried the Bonet and ricotta, chocolate and black pepper gelato. Based on the Piedmontese dessert of the same name and enriched with egg yolks, the Bonet tasted of chocolate, caramel, rum and had pieces of armaretti crumbled through. Capturing the mild flavour of ricotta and its slightly grainy texture, I loved this gelato in particular. Chocolate, although present was subtle, and the black pepper added a musky, woody perfume with very little heat.
Finally I tried a shot of their bergamot granita. Sweet, fragrant and citrusy; the slush had a slightly bitter aftertaste, much like Campari or tonic water. It was wonderfully refreshing; I don't think I'll be able to consider a double cherry, chutney squishee at the cinema ever again.
So on a stifling, sultry day in the city, you know where to go. If you do, I'm pretty sure that you too will be loopy for gelato, at Gelupo
Labels: Beyond Bristol, I Scream