If you find yourself in London on a hot sunny Sunday there are few better places to while away the time than along the canal in Camden. Selling itself as the boho centre of London this area long ago opened its doors to the mainstream. Among its more traditional gothic clothing stores you’ll find plenty of places for the well heeled and the casual tourist to spend their money.
I wanted to visit Camden yesterday having read about Chin Chin Laboratorists – perhaps the strangest name you’ll ever find for an ice-cream parlour. Promoted as London’s first nitro ice-cream bar, you’ll instantly know this is not Haagen Dazs, as owners Ahrash and Nyisha greet you in clincal white lab coats. Concoctions are created with three base flavours, chocolate, vanilla and lemon cheesecake (in the name of research we had to try them all), with various toppings available to finish off your treat. The ice cream mix is dipped in liquid nitrogen (-190C) and freezes into ice-cream in four seconds in front of your eyes. Ahrash explained (wearing his safety goggles and gloves) that the nitrogen allows the ice-cream to have the perfect consistency without the need for additives or emulsifiers, meaning less fat without compromising on flavour.
The unit is tiny and can hold no more than half a dozen people at a time, and with only the two owners making the ice-creams and taking payments it’s never going to be a very high volume business. Three swings are available outside where customers can enjoy their ice-creams while watching the crowds wander by.
Chin Chin opens officially on July 15th. It’s an eye-catching concept, the owners are very friendly and willing to chat with their customers and I really wish them well in their new business. Nyisha told me she’d always wanted to own an ice-cream shop since she was a child; how many of us get to live out our dreams in this way?
Oh, I almost forgot to mention: every one of the three flavours was delicious, but I most enjoyed the chocolate, made from Valrhona cocoa.
After our ice-creams we wandered around the back of the unit to the canal side, where we found the most impressive selection of foods: Polish (including home-made doughnuts that took me back to my childhood memories); Peruvian, Turkish and Brazilian among others. Each stall was selling hot food and was adorned with flags, while some even had pictures of their native land. Sadly by this time I was too full of ice-cream to have an appetite for any of these wonderful smelling dishes. Camden Lock will require another visit soon…