One of the highlights of this weekend has to be the trip to Chin Chin Labs where I got to experience the unusual and innovative ice cream that they’ve been serving to growing crowds of ice cream lovers. You wouldn’t ordinarily associate the bustling markets of Camden with the high brow world of Molecular Gastronomy, so it may come as a surprise that in a small shop in the midst of street food stalls and blasting trance music lies Chin Chin Labs, Europe’s first Nitro ice cream parlour.
The idea is a simple one in theory, the quicker you chill the custard, the smaller the ice crystals will be, which is behind creating an amazingly smooth and delightful ice cream. Things get a bit more complicated in practise; enter a great big tank of supercooled liquid nitrogen, three food mixers (one for each flavour) and a brave man in protective gloves, and safety goggles to work the magic and turn creme anglais into frozen delight in a matter of seconds.
Normally this sort of alchemy is the preserve of 3* michelin restaurants run by the likes of Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adria but thanks to efforts of Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur and his wife Nyisha Weber, Chin Chin Labs brings this gastronomic delight to the streets of Camden. The shop itself is decorated in a fun way, wooden cabinets are held aloft by a crazy array of piping capturing the feel of a mad scientists laboratory, the theme continues with the array of laboratory measuring jugs and beakers holding everything from the toppings to the ice cream to the sugar for your coffee. A few tables and chairs allow you to sit down and enjoy your magical goodness while sipping on a coffee made with beans from Monmouth coffee (always good thing).
One of the really great touches of Chin Chin Labs is the whole experience. You begin by choosing one of the three flavours, vanilla, chocolate and a weekly special – this weeks was the on-trend Red Velvet cupcake flavour. Ahrash is the master alchemist manning the mixers and liquid nitrogen, a friendly chap he gives you the low-down on how it all works, as great clouds of white gas produced by boiling liquid nitrogen flowing out of the mixer. He loads up your pot or cone with the now thick and sticky ice cream and passes you on to his wife. At the next stage you can choose from sauces and a range of home made toppings to create your own customise desssert. One offer for the sauces were toffee, chocolate and a fruit coulis, while the toppings were numerous, with classics like honeycomb or hazelnuts, while some more unusual ones were shards of sugar crystal dotted with violets.
The damage for this is a mere £3.95 – for sure that might be pricey for an ice cream, but it’s a generous pot of very rich and indulgent goodness, loaded up with home made sauces and toppings, throw in some very good value top drawer coffee and you have one very good reason to get over to Camden as the weather hots up.