You might say we didn’t need another Italian gelateria in Richmond because after all we have the wonderful Gelateria Danieli, widely acclaimed as one of the best in London, and then we have Rome’s most famous tiramisu available to us at Pompi. But then as someone who can’t spend a day in Italy without having a gelato, I have to say, You can never have too many ice-cream shops! I was therefore very excited to see a couple of days ago that Venchi was about to open in the centre of Richmond.
There’s been a Venchi in Covent Garden for a few years now but I haven’t been into it; only because I’m mostly in the area early evening and about to meet a friend for supper, so don’t want an ice cream. Venchi in fact has spread itself worldwide and there are now about 75 shops around the world, from its home of Italy, to USA, Japan, Dubai, Hong Kong, Brazil, Malta, Germany, China and of course UK.
Established by Silvano Venchi in 1878 in the chocolate home of Turin, it began as a chocolate shop and later branched into making ice cream too. Thus you’ll find in Venchi a huge selection of chocolates as well as gelato. You can also – certainly in the Richmond branch – have coffee and there’s a small seating area at the back.
My first and only previous experience of Venchi was in Florence last year, a city which many will say is home to the best ice cream in the world. And I found some exceptional and utterly delicious ice cream while there. I remember thinking Venchi was good but not in the same class as, say, the famous Vivoli – once thought to serve the world’s finest ice cream and still one of the best. So, what would I think of Venchi now? Far away from the generous choice of gelaterias in Florence?
The Richmond branch opened yesterday and I popped in to take a look in the afternoon. I wasn’t sure about indulging as I was meeting a friend for early supper later, but thought I could perhaps find some nice chocolates for Easter presents.
There were staff giving warm welcomes, offering free tastes of chocolate and answering people’s queries. It’s all quite glitzy inside; shiny and new. I guess it’s meant to signal ‘luxury’. The prices certainly signal ‘luxury’. I was seriously shocked by the prices.
There were bars of chocolate ranging from £5.50 to £7.20! (I actually went into Waitrose to check prices of others good popular bars: £2 for Green & Blacks and online I checked a favourite of mine, Montezuma’s, which is £2.59 a bar.) Now you might say you can’t compare, that what Venchi offers is better … but these are prices found at places like Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, etc. – not where ‘normal’ people shop and mostly catering to tourists.
I’ve become such a fan – indeed my whole family has! – of the amazing chocolate-hazelnut spread I’ve brought back from Baratti & Milano in Turin (€6 a tub), which is truly like chocolate heaven (don’t ever compare this incredible chocolate spread to Nutella!) that I thought how great it would be if I could find comparable at Venchi. But wow! £14.50! I think I’ll just wait for Eataly to open in the City of London and stock up on Baratti & Milano’s there.
You can have fun making a selection of chocolate treats in Venchi and people were walking round with bags and filling them. But it was all so expensive. Little Easter eggs at £6.70 per 100g. (I ended up stopping at the fabulous Corto Italian Deli in Twickenham on the way home where I bought a 150g pack of excellent quality chocolate mini eggs for £3.50!)
Well, as you’ll have gathered, my initial enthusiasm was fast waning – and I hadn’t even tried anything yet. But I didn’t give up on Venchi. I was working near Richmond bridge this afternoon so after my meeting I decided to take a walk into the centre of Richmond and have a coffee and ice cream at Venchi.
Again, a warm welcome at the door, which was nice. Then, Italian style, you pay for what you want to order first at a till near the entrance and then move on to be served. I got in the queue and paid to have a £4.20 regular tub of ice cream with 2 flavours and a macchiato (£2.20).
Venchi, not surprisingly given their origins, are most famous for their chocolate flavoured ice creams. I chose a Tiramisu and also Strawberry. Once they’d filled my tub with gelato, I was told to take a seat and they’d bring my coffee. So I went to the back and seating. It’s very attractive; a nice place to sit with comfortable seats.
I started with the ice cream. The strawberry flavour was OK, quite nice, but a little too sweet. The Tiramisu was so lacking in ‘tiramisu’ flavour that I actually wondered if they’d given me the wrong flavour. I could have asked but didn’t. As for price, it was quite expensive at £4.20 for a smallish tub.
As for the macchiato – well, really, it wasn’t an ‘espresso macchiato’ as ordered and on their menu. A macchiato should only have a very small amount of milk on top of an espresso – a ‘stain’ of milk – and it’s often foamed, so black espresso with the foam on top. This, though served in an espresso cup, was far too milky as you can see from my photo.
Oh what a disappointment! But then really I can’t feel too upset for after all, just across the road and down a little alleyway, Brewers Lane, I can sit in Gelateria Danieli and enjoy a perfect macchiato with some of London’s most fabulous ice cream. I’d thought that Richmond, like Florence and Rome, was about to offer me a choice of great gelato, but my firm loyalty to Danieli has not been threatened; I just don’t have a choice after all.