Sandwiched in-between the dull autumnal days of last week and heavy rains and thunderstorms forecast for next week, we’ve had a delightful day of summer in London with clear blue skies, brilliant sunshine and the temperature reaching up into the 30s. Thus there was only one thing for the Single Gourmet Traveller to do after lunch in the garden – head into Richmond for some gelato!
There’s been an ice cream revolution going on in London for the last decade or so. Where once one had to jump on a plane to Italy to experience the Real Thing – wonderful Italian gelato – now you can find a gelateria round almost every corner of central London. But here in Richmond upon Thames, that beautiful leafy borough on the south west edge of Greater London, you can find a leading light of the revolution: Gelateria Danieli. The first of four shops opened in April 2005. I have to confess I was beside myself with excitement at the time: It’s like being in Rome, I was telling everyone. It even felt like it as you entered the small shop in Brewer’s Lane, one of the pretty narrow alleyways that connect the high street in Richmond to the Green.
When I first went to Rome in 2001, I stayed for 5 weeks. And I had an ice cream at least once on every day of those 5 weeks! So to say it felt like being in Rome – more exactly, a gelateria in Rome! – I really did know how authentic the experience was. Although, I should probably say here that Carlo Vagliasindi – ‘Signor Danieli’ – actually comes from Sicily and in truth his gelateria isn’t so much Roman in particular as just an excellent and genuine Italian one.
Ten years on, Gelateria Danieli is still producing some of the best ice cream in London. They’ve expanded a little, opening a branch in Kingston and another in central London in Shaftesbury Avenue – the heart of Theatreland. There’s also another shop at the end of Brewer’s Lane. Once a chocolate shop overlooking Richmond Green, Danieli have extended their ice cream outlet to serve more people here but also continue to sell some great chocolates too. I still have a fondness for the original shop though and it has a larger choice of gelati. The nicest thing is to choose your ice cream and then walk down the Lane and sit on Richmond Green to eat it.
Gelateria Danieli are constantly working to come up with new flavours and while some favourites are always there, you’ll find specials and new flavours too. Vagliasindi’s business partner Bridget Hunt is a nutritionist who helps develop gluten free, dairy free and nut free flavours: ‘No one should be left out when it comes to gelato!’ they say. But for those of us thankfully free of allergies, we tend not to worry or think of what’s healthy when it comes to ice cream but are more concerned with the quality of the ingredients and the way the ice cream is made.
The gelateria uses the finest ingredients – organic milk and cream from the Cowdray Estate in Sussex; the best pistachios from Bronte in Sicily; Alphonso mangoes from India. There are no colourings here, just the basic and best ingredients with no unnecessary additions. Thus the wonderful pistachio – which I chose today – is not the bright green you can sometimes find in shops selling poor ice cream. Danieli’s pistachio is a pale brownish-green, the kind that only comes from the best pistachios.
The gelateria usually closes at 6.00pm weekdays and 7.00pm at weekends but when it’s sunny they stay open later and you can adopt an even more Italian experience by eating a meal elsewhere and coming to the gelateria for dessert – and coffee too, if you want. In Italy it’s very common to not have dessert or coffee in a restaurant but to go for a gentle post-prandial passeggiata and into a gelateria for ice cream and/or a bar for coffee. In Rome – and elsewhere in Italy – gelaterias are often open until midnight or later so you don’t have to worry about closing time.
Today I had a small cup (£2.25) and could choose two (half scoop) flavours. I adore their dark chocolate, a Sicilian cream with oranges and lemons, and a great favourite is the yogurt ice cream with fruits of the forest. However, today I had their wonderful pistachio plus one I hadn’t had before – biscotti, which had some chocolate and pieces of biscotti running through the cream. Delicious! Buonissimo! There is nothing like some sun and a good gelato!! And if you’re ever in lovely Richmond, just don’t miss out on some of the best ice cream you’ll find anywhere.