Sweet and Sour – La Gelatiera

Sour – How I Became the World’s Grumpiest Bitch

It’s become a bit of in-joke that I have a grumble about background music. This time let’s throw caution to the wind. La Gelatieria plays very loud music, obnoxiously so, to the point the people behind the counter are shouting to be heard. The music in question is PMRC approved hip hop, and I don’t care much you want the real Slim Shady to stand up, if you can’t hear customers yelling from a foot away switch to Brian Eno or some classic FM. (“Am I showing my age yet?”) It clearly throws the staff, visibly squirming to concentrate while busting a June lunchtime queue. I put earphones in halfway through to play the Hamilton soundtrack instead. But its possible to still feel the bass pulsing in my body. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. This isn’t the Ministry of Sound, this is a cool, trendy gelato place in Covent Garden, set up like a little cafe. Is the idea we dance off our calories? It gave the embarrassed impression of having noisy neighbours. (Ed Note: perhaps they just turned it up to get rid of the miserable bastard souring the atmosphere sitting in the corner with his own headphones in?)

Large cup of sour cherry and basil & chilli. (£4.50.)

On one hand you’ve got a scenic, photogenic interior that someone took effort and time on (their website boasts design team Hendzel and Hunt), on the other you’ve got this tonal clash of blaring out loud and hard and heavy rap. Two very different worlds in the one we speak in now. Food and other subcultures can go hand in hand – check out my Lost Boys Pizza review – but if you’re trying to marry two different concepts you’ll need it as one cohesive, seamless idea. I’m left with this bizarre impression; who is welcome there? Was I the target audience? Are they the Italian dessert meets hip hop place and I missed a memo? Am I overthinking this?

Around the counter is kinda hot, like the coolers have their extractor fans aimed at the queue. In the middle of summer. So let’s sum up; it’s too crowded, too loud and too hot place we have to fight an array of discomforts in order to get at a very decadent dessert; gelato, a fancier, slower churned and richer ice cream.

Things get a little more jarring when you read this on their site: “We seek to make eating and meeting for a gelato and a coffee a social occasion for all seasons.” It gives me no pleasure to say this but the reality is a little disappointing. Its a shame, because were atmosphere something a little more appropriate and accessible for an Italian gelato place and a lot quieter this would have been a home run of a visit. Because what they serve here is incredible.

The smorgasbord of ice cream flavours.

How much gelato is too much gelato? Let’s find out!

These guys clearly know their stuff, its organic and surprisingly a lot of it is vegan. Slowly churned and kept frosty cold. The gelato comes in different sizes of cups and cones and sizes mean you can get scoops of different flavours. As soon as you walk in you have a gold rush counter full of flavours, ranging from plain vanilla to dark chocolate and chilli with fruits and exclusive mixes along the way. Their caramel & pistachio flavour won an award in 2015, the Certificate of Excellent Eating is hung on the wall.

My first order wasn’t heard clearly (can’t imagine why) but eventually we pay for a large cup of basil & chilli with sour cherry. There was confusion at the till about how many flavours and if the drink and ice cream are two separate transactions. So we sit and lurch over a stool and pick at cold, delicious gelato on a hot day. And then I get asked whether it was a large or medium by the guy on till, because they charged for a medium so had to hand over more money. It would be easy to be forgiving but these issues are so elephant-in-the-room-blatant and easy to fix its kinda funny that they can just try and soldier on through rather than just turning down the music. It gives the impression the DJ is mandatory management. So its more tempting to ride this through rather than say anything. Perhaps John Cleese trips over Manuel for an encore.

Sweet – Anyways, onto the ice cream.

Anyways, basil and chilli flavour gelato? Who’d have thunk it? Well thunk again because it’s incredible. Both flavours curiously warming and peppery in the mouth. The taste is thick and its cream is full bodied and so, so sweet. It’s soft and messy and drips everywhere. The sour flavours in the cherry and basil are both a great contrast to the sweet paste of the ice cream.

” . . The fruit flavours are frostier; eye watering sharp and the tart flavours work better in amongst the sweet . . .”

For a side I have (£4.70) affagato from the coffee menu without really knowing what it was. It’s a classic Italian coffee espresso with a “shot” of gelato flavour of your choosing. I pick coconut, the thinking was it would be like using coconut milk in coffee, which isn’t too far from the end product – It’s deliciously rich, sour and strong.

I like my coffee like I like my women. Melting in my very presence.

It’s really crammed in here, and queues goes out the door! Not a real good place to hang which is a shame because the decor is romantically scenic, like a lot of Italian places nowadays. Cooking paraphernalia and a few stools are littered on the perimeter. Inside is adorned with beach blonde old wood, and a Neapolitan worth of coloured stripes for a touch of detail – Italian styles of the 60s and 70s. The outside is a big block window that gives a wonderfully annoying glare in the sunlight, which can be annoying when you’re trying to take a picture of the front of the shop as a food blogger.

Lemon soda and salted caramel and passion fruit. Remember to grab napkins at the counter.

For a second helping I choose honey rosemary and orange zest, which then gets misheard as salted caramel and passion fruit. (I conceded defeat at protesting as soon as the intro to Gangsta’s Paradise started playing.) Whatever, it’s fine. Go with it.

The passion fruit is extremely sharp, very citrusy, making the mouth water. The fruit flavours are frostier; eye watering sharp and the tart flavours work better in amongst the sweet paste. Definitely the best flavour, it takes to the texture of gelato the easiest, whereas the salted caramel tastes like honeyed popcorn. Not an unwelcome taste, if you want ice cream sweeter than sweet, La Gelatiera is your place.

” . . .The fruit flavours are frostier; eye watering sharp. Definitely the best flavour I had, it takes to the texture of gelato the easiest. . . “

This stuff is unique. It’s strong and intense in flavour, and naturally very, very sweet. Soft and glazing the innards with a freezing lightness. You can get up to 4 different flavour scoops in the (£5.70) large cups. Thick and well packed for a fiver for handful sized scoops. They also sell crepes, pancakes, cones and waffles instead of cones and cups for their flavours.

You see what I mean about tonal problems?

Well, perhaps this is the perfect place to get something sweet before heading into Covent Garden’s piazza to have a watch of the performers, or just to enjoy a walk through central London. You’re also better off going in a group so you can compare different flavours and mixes.

At the end of the second helping, my drink of lemon soda tastes like nothing because of the amount of sugar I’ve consumed that my tastes buds are now blunted. Diabetics are gonna have to rain check this place. For the rest of us its grab and go territory.

If we were judging this on what we ate it would be a home run of a review, however, let this be a case in how important setting and scenery is for the customer. It’s supposed to be a small little cafe type place You say it on your website, instead we get stressed out staff yelling over a PA system, competing against an anti-social atmosphere. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth long after the sugary treats have subsided.

Nevertheless I begin to grow concerned over my palette. Gonna go live off brine pickled olives for a few weeks now. . .


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. . . back to the homepage

Do you like your gelato with a side order of chaos? How much sugar can you enjoy in one sitting? Have you been to La Gelatiera before? Agree? Disagree?

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