Wednesday, 24 August 2011

chin chin laboratorists

nitrogen ice cream at chin chin laboratorists
the world and its aunt has been to chin chin laboratorists, europe’s first nitro ice-cream parlour. and much has been said about its lab like set-up. to be sure there are beakers, white coats and goggle type glasses and large canisters of liquid nitrogen. it seems to me that over the last few years the food industry has developed a love for combining food and theatre. so much so that blow torching a crème brûlée or a caked alaska sounds passe. food science isn't new, it has just been made much more accessible through the likes of ferran adria and blumenthal. 

on the saturday that i went to chin chin laboratorists, i was perhaps more concerned with the size of the queue and the length of the wait. and if it hadn't been for the very warm sunshine after getting soaked in the rain i probably wouldn't have persevered. after all i can't complain about forty minutes of sunshine in london. the flavour choice at chin chin is very succinct as it is all of three flavours. the two regulars are madagascar vanilla and valrhona chocolate. there is a weekly special which on my visit was a mango creamsicle. pity i couldn't make it the week before as the basil chocolate chip had sounded much more interesting. it turns out the forty minute wait was handy to work out the combination of the topping and sauce. i was very sure i wanted to the madagascar vanilla. to me a good vanilla ice-cream is the ultimate test for an ice-cream parlour as it is so easy to get this simplest of flavours wrong.

when i finally made it into the 'lab' i couldn't help but get caught up in the excitement. i was asked which ice-cream was having and upon saying vanilla i was shown a glass beaker of crème anglaise. it was creamy white heavily flecked with vanilla pod. a measure of this was poured into the bowl of the kitchen aid mixer. then the laboratist donned his goggles, put on a glove and showed me a thermos of bubbling liquid. as soon as this hit the crème anglaise it turned into a cold smoke. it just a matter of seconds the ice-cream was ready. i was told that the nitrogen causes the anglaise to freeze almost instantly to give a really creamy ice-cream. there is virtually no time for crystallisation which explains the smooth texture. the laboratorist puts the ice-cream into a cup leaving one side raised to form a hollow to hold the sauce and topping. i had mine with salted caramel and honeycomb. it seems a bit juvenile to dress such a luxurious looking vanilla with popping candy or caramelised pretzels. after shelling out five pence shy of four quid for the lab experiment i made my way outside and took my first bite. it was really really good. heavy on the vanilla and very creamy. and there is actually a fair bit of it in the cup. i was quite full afterwards.
i'll be watching the twitter feed for upcoming flavours and i'll be bringing o when something interesting comes up.

Chin Chin Laboratorists on Urbanspoon   


  1. I am in love with this place. We popped past last Saturday and had an Alphonso mango with saffron that was outrageously good. But my heart will always live with the vanilla with salted caramel (and pop rocks).

  2. Yes. It is really fun! And I love the vanilla. Did you by any chance get to try the basil chocolate chip?