It’s rare that I have business ideas, much less good ones. But on several occasions over the last 5 years I had mused that what central London really needed was a high-quality ice cream shop, one which stayed open late enough to be an end-of-evening alternative to the ubiquitous, crowded, loud (and at that time smoky) pub.
The suggestion did not meet with widespread enthusiasm. Londoners, I was told, would not swap their last beer for ice cream. They considered Ben and Jerry’s a luxury product. Unlike Italians, it was argued, they wouldn’t eat ice cream unless it was genuinely hot. In essence, then, this was a business which would attract a very limited swathe of teetotalers and professional food types for at most 2 weeks a year.
It has been an unusually hot and dry summer. There is a hose-pipe ban in force, Hyde Park looks as parched as a Mediterranean hillside and anything which can be barbequed is selling out at the butcher’s. Perhaps that’s why Gelupo, a new artisanal gelataria, is garnering the type of praise and crowds usually associated with major restaurant openings.
Lineage is undoubtedly also playing a role. The shop was conceived by Jacob Kennedy, a young and ambitious chef with the (obvious and clever) idea of serving serious but affordable Italian food in the heart of Soho. Gelupo, his second business, has therefore gained immediate notice from the food cognoscenti. (It can’t rely much on passing trade. Located at the end of an insalubrious side street, the closest landmark is a club whose neon signs advertise table dancing.)
The shop’s manager is charming and eager to please. Queries generated a half-dozen tastings and a promise to include my chosen combination of blond almond and sour cherry granitas on the new suggestions board. About two dozen choices are available, distributed almost equally amongst gelatos, sorbettos and granitas. The latter two follow the seasons, with melons and berries currently featuring. While traditional gelato flavours like pistachio and stracciatella are on offer, the real excitement centres on uncommon but Italianesque pairings like fennel seed and pine nuts or a rum, chocolate and amaretti biscuit concoction named after a classic Piedmontese dessert.
I've been told that there is sometimes brioche to be gelato-filled, as they do in Sicily for breakfast. And to further the theme of sweet before savoury, the back of the shop is given over to a well-edited collection of Italian produce and pantry items, alongside packages of the handmade pasta and sauces served across the way at Kennedy’s restaurant.
After two visits, I’m prepared to say that Gelupo may be nearly equal to Grom, which is just as good as I’ve ever had. And if it stays this crowded and this good, well, I can just point out that I had the idea first.
7 Archer Street
London W1D 7AU
Su-W 11:00 – 23:00; Th-Sa 11:00 – 01:00
Tube: Picadilly Circus