There’s not much that’ll persuade me to set foot in Camden Market these days, so when a recent writing job sent me weaving through Union Jack tat on Chalk Farm Road in the direction of Camden Lock, I needed something to save the day. Enter Chin Chin Labs – London’s first ‘nitro’ ice-cream parlour, where white-coated staff freeze your vanilla to order with plumes of liquid nitrogen. And if you’re thinking ‘gimmick’, that’s only because you haven’t tasted it yet.
“It’s pretty straightforward, really,” explains owner Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur. “The faster you freeze it, the smoother the texture. This is basically ice-cream without the ice.” And you know what? He’s right.
Take your pick from Pondicherry vanilla, Valrhona chocolate or one of the daily specials (buttered popcorn, griddled peach or even hay-infused strawberry), stand back for the goggles-on science bit and go to town on the inventive toppings (heather honeycomb, pistachio and cardamon powder, chocolate-dipped potato chips) and sauces (raspberry, salted caramel, more Valrhona chocolate).
If there’s a smoother, denser, more downright delicious frozen dessert in the capital, I certainly haven’t found it yet. Everything is made on-site, there are new flavours each week and a dairy-free option is always available. The shop itself – which opened back in 2010 – is tiny, so you’ll be lucky if you manage to bag one of the smattering of tables inside or out. Better to head down the canal, find a quiet spot and devour in peace.
Image by Emma Howarth