Tuesday, 19 August 2014

We've found a contender in Margate....

I have to admit that I am typing this with a great deal of care. Quite simply, early on during our two week break, a trip to our neighboring town (Margate) was decided upon as we had heard whispers of an ice cream parlour that had 'potential'. We had walked passed this cafe numerous times over the last year since its opening and have often thought that we should visit. As we were on holiday, why not now!

Melt is a wonderful looking store, in keeping with the feeling of the building it is attached to (the new Sands Hotel). It is a modern looking ice cream cafe but with a few gentle throwbacks to artdeco parlours of the past, specializing in quality, in house made Gelato, using top quality locally sourced ingredients. From the moment we entered the room and took a seat in the window we knew we were in for a treat.

The display counter looks spectacular with 18 flavours of ice creams and sorbets begging to be tried. The prices are at the higher end of the scale (£2.50 single) but the portions could really be described as ladles rather than scoops (THEY'RE HUGE!).

We decided to go for a sundae (design your own). With so many unique and wonderful flavours all looking mouth-wateringly good we had one heck of a challenge to narrow down our options. So, to give us the best chance of creating a good combination the very kind lady behind the counter let us try a few spoon fulls of various flavours prior to making our decision (lovely customer service). In the end we choose a 3 scoop sundae with salted caramel, toffee popcorn and mint choc chip with white chocolate sauce and toasted pecans on top. This came out at £6 for what was a very large sundae (again I reiterate....LADLES OF ICE CREAM!)

When we visited it was a gorgeous sunny day and there were several customers as well as ourselves. When we arrived the one member of staff was busily serving coffee and ice cream to some customers outside, but she greeted us with a smile, apologised and said she'd be with us soon. She then continued with what she was doing while periodically exchanging a few words with us, letting us know she'd not forgotten us! She was genuinely lovely and clearly knew the meaning of good customer service - she even let us take a sneaky picture of their ice cream machine!

The only downside to our Melt experience was that there's not a huge amount of seating in the cafe itself (although what they do have is gorgeous and super comfortable with big window seat style sofas and comfy chairs), and as far as we could see, no toilet. This really isn't too much of an issue, though, as it's just up the road from the Turner Contemporary, which has public toilets.

Basically, we're going to go back again and again and are already looking for an excuse to go back and try some more flavour's, as they've just announced their new specials; Baileys & Chocolate ice cream and Gin & Tonic sorbet! Amazing! We've now been to melt twice as we couldn't stay away and wanted to make sure that the ice cream was as good as we thought it was (any excuse!). GOOD NEWS! it was! We just shared one scoop (£2.50 - giant ladle again though, the whole tub was full :-). We had the rather unusual flavour of Pear ice cream.....verdict......it was stunning.

This is the first time that we've done this, but we really feel that Melt deserves full marks for both the experience and the gorgeous ice cream.

For the experience we give Melt 

For the ice cream

If you're local to Thanet, follow Melt on Facebook to keep up with their specials and special offers!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Creams - Kingston

We headed into Creams in Kingston with more than a hint of trepidation. Over the past few days a couple of people I know had visited it and I'd heard very mixed reviews. Its' Facebook page alone is testament to that, but we thought given that Kingston is up the road from where I grew up and lived for the first 23 years of my life, it was only fair to try it out. Walking into it didn't make me feel too much better in all honesty. Although the ice cream cabinet is impressive, with 36 flavours including five or six sorbets and a low fat frozen yoghurt, the interior seems to be confused about whether it's an ice cream parlour or a club! It's incredibly dark and the booths are all designed so that you can't see anybody else aside from the people you're with. The music was fairly loud and there was a random mirrorball hanging in the front of the shop!

That said, we were greeted pretty quickly by a smiley, friendly guy who gave us the extensive menu and
explained how to go about ordering and was also very accommodating of our request to sit at the front so as not to block the gangway with our pushchair. However, there was a family who came in immediately behind us and waited at the 'please wait here to be seated' sign for at least five minutes while the three or four members of staff on duty all studiously ignored them. Eventually they seated themselves, only to be immediately moved once they'd sat down, so although our experience of the customer service was pretty positive, we could see how it wasn't for everyone.

Despite the impressive selection of ice creams on offer, the menu seemed heavily focused on sauces and toppings and all the trimmings rather than the actual ice cream itself which made it feel a bit gimmicky to me. In the end we pretty much ignored the selection of sundaes, milkshakes, waffles, and crepes and opted for a four scoop cup of just ice cream so we could taste the flavours properly.

The price was good at less than £5 for 4 decent sized scoops of ice cream, and the flavours we opted for were varied. We picked a banana sorbet (to get some fruit in there for our elder son!) which was very good and in fact tasted more like ice cream than any sorbet I've ever had, salted caramel which was incredibly salty and generally didn't stand up too well against the other salted caramel ice creams we've tasted recently, Maltesers, which pretty much just tasted like cold Maltesers and not really ice cream at all, and milk chocolate, which was OK.

We've come to the conclusion that Creams is a big disappointment. It has the potential to be an incredible chain of ice cream parlours (as you can see from there website they have franchises all over London and are opening further branches all over the country in the future months), but the simple fact is there ice cream is nothing amazing. It is a case of Quantity over Quality and as an ice cream lover that is a truly awful thing to state.

Experience - 2

Ice Cream - 2

Monday, 11 August 2014

We've got out of Kent and have gone to the Borough Market :-)

As part of our 2 week holiday we took a trip into London to visit family and go book bench hunting! (Great thing to do with little ones so go visit the website :-)

So off we went, the two of us, the boys and our Sister inlaw (different one to last time!). On the way round London's streets we found numerous benches (my favorite was this one - Big Terry Pratchett fan! although our oldest son really liked the Julia Donaldson bench) - a better review of this can be found here.

Conveniently (its almost like we planned it!) the Discworld bench is situated near the wonderful Borough Market. There are two ice cream establishments we want to visit at the Borough (the other wasn't open the day we went so will have to wait for another trip).

Galeteria 3Bis ice cream is an Italian company with a London branch. They have instilled a wonderful ice cream ideology to their store, using only the best content for their gelato, making smaller quantities of it on a more regular basis throughout the day to ensure the best quality and taste.

The store was relatively busy when we arrived with 4 members of staff waiting to serve. It is a relatively small shop with only a handful of tables and chairs, but this was not a issue as we were heading off straight away. We have to admit we found the service technique a tad....unique - you chose and paid for the item and then worked your way down the counter to collect. This system is flawed for people such as ourselves who have never visited and are unsure as to what flavours are available. We also found it difficult to see the flavours which were advertised on the back wall on pieces of paper in glass kilner jars - from the cash register we just didn't notice them. Also the ice cream was covered away in round metal containers. One of my personal highlights when visiting ice cream establishments is being able to see it, so this detracted from the experience a little.

The staff member who served us was very patient and offered us recommendations on a good mix of flavors - you could see a great deal of pride as he knew the best combinations. We chose 3 scoops, Milk chocolate, cookies and Pistachio. This came in under £5 which for London prices was not bad with the portions being just about the right size for three of us to share.

The chocolate was wonderful - great taste, texture and smell (not overpoweringly chocolaty - just about right). The Pistachio was a personal favorite, as the gentle flavour and crunchy texture really enhanced the ice cream base, and the Cookies was a great addition to the other two.

The highlight for us was the chocolate tap (you can just about see it on the counter in this picture) - how i would love for one of these in our kitchen at home! A liquid shot of melted chocolate placed at the base of the tub really did add to the whole experience.

So to the scores - the ice cream thoroughly deserves a 4 out out of 5. It was a wonderful trio of ice creams but was still missing that extra gravitas that might have pushed it to be better than Morellis.

The experience was good. Wonderful staff, but slightly odd queuing system and small store (not enough room when very busy) and odd presentation gives this experience a 3 out of 5.

Note for visitors - before visiting, check www.groupon.co.uk, as they often run special offers and discounts!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Welcome to Brogdale

If Kent is the 'Garden of England' then Brogdale is without doubt Englands Orchard. This is the home of The National Fruit Collection, containing over 4000 different varieties of Fruit with the mission to continue to save rare fruit from extinction. Apples, plums, cherries.....Benji (our 1st son) was in heaven.

We went to Brogdale with our sons and sister inlaw who was staying with us for a few weeks and couldn't help but try their resturant and, surprise surprise, ice cream. The farm doesn't create its own BUT it does supply fruit for Deal based Solleys Ice cream. Unfortunately we couldn't try the flavours which are specially made for Brogdale from their fruit (plum and cherry) because certain of us have certain intolerances to those fruits, but we're reliably informed that they make a different exclusive flavour or two each season so it's just an excuse to go back, really. 

We went for a 3 scoop ice sundae - Mint chocolate, Chocolate choc chip and Toffee Fudge. These didnt let us down, a good texture and the chocolate particularly was very chocolatey, which personally I'm a fan of.

The nice thing about Brogdale is the atmosphere, as it's always been really relaxed when we've been. Aside from the heritage fruit collection, which we have yet to actually go and see, they have a 'marketplace' type area with lots of little shops selling locally produced foods (grocers, butchers etc), gifts, and crafts as well as their cafe which features local produce. As soon as we walked into the cafe the waitress spotted our hyper little 22 month old and asked if we'd like to go in the (at that moment empty) room with the big toy box. We said yes, and it turned out to be an absolutely gigantic toy box which would have happily kept him occupied for hours. The staff were very attentive and happy to let us sit and have drinks and ice cream despite it being lunchtime and a fairly meal - centred place. 

We can happily give brogdale a thumbs up for the experience it provides. We had a discussion the other day and decided that for places which don't make their own ice cream, we will never award a five or tho in this instance we feel a tad mean as it truly is a wonderful place and worthy of full marks but we will stick to our guns.

The ice cream was good value for money (£4.95 for the 3 scoops)a wonderful texture, taste and flavor and it was kindly presented in a really nice glas. But it lacked that little bit of something special, the gravitas that would have given the ice cream full marks.

So the scores


Ice Cream

Friday, 1 August 2014

Flossies of Tunbridge Wells

As I've got a few weeks off from the day job, we thought a quick search for Kent and Sussex based Ice cream parlours was in order. This produced a short list of potentials, one of which was the small but wonderfully named 'Flossies'.

Firstly we should point out the wonderful ice cream trolley. This is used for a wide range of outside events plus doubles up as the instore freezer for the ice cream.
Flossies offer their services in a rather unique way, advertising that they can do weddings (Wish we'd thought of that - a nice ice cream while taking photos after the church sounds amazing!).

The lovely lady who served us was very patient (considering our oldest son was Wide awake and very nosy)

Then there is the ice cream. Good value for money seeing as it is made in house and a nice selection of flavours to choose from - We plumped for Mint ice cream and a little bit of Stracciatella - the latter was a new one to us - best described as Vanilla Chocolate Vienetta. Both scoops were of a healthy size - we preffered the Stracciatella to the Mint which just seemed a tad to sweet for our liking.

The parlour itself is fairly small with just a couple sit!

We rank it (out of 5) for the exof tables inside and out, and tucked away in the corner of a courtyard it would be fairly difficult to stumble upon unless you know the area well, but if you're in Tunbridge Wells it's definitely worth a visit

For the Ice Cream (out of 5):

For the experience (out of 5):