No food pulls the collective heart strings of Melburnians quite like gelato. It’s sweet, cold, creamy, fun, and—above all—delicious! One can enjoy it at any time of day and any time of year, arguably the result of our temperamental weather. Fortunately, we have had a recent influx of quality gelaterias in the last few years, producing freshly made and occasionally whacky varieties of gelato all year round. Here are five must-try stores in Melbourne.
Lines were out the door and around the corner on Smith St when this Sydney heavyweight migrated south, and for good reason. This is a haven for lovers of frozen treats. It boasts an impressive regular menu of 40 flavours (six on a rotating specials board), including all the classics and some that are a little more avant-garde. The apple pie flavour is made with chunks of real apple pie that are baked fresh in store, as is the case with most of the ingredients used. The poached figs in marsala (my personal favourite) mixes Iranian figs with world class Italian cooking wine. It’s also worth trying pear and rhubarb, salted caramel, and some of the refreshing sorbets. They also offer a range of gourmet frozen cakes, which are works of art in their own right and are perfect for a special occasion. The kitchen is on full display at the rear of the store, giving an insight into the creative process of the “Creative Dept.”. The store is open late and is a surprisingly warm hang-out spot on a brisk evening.
N2 sets itself apart from the pack due to its method of production, using liquid nitrogen to instantly cool the gelato—a technique popularised by Heston Blumenthal. Watching your order being made right in front of you adds a theatrical element to your sensory experience. On top of this, the flavour combinations are experimental, showcasing other extended kitchen techniques including creme brûlée blowtorching. Once you add a syringe full of delicious topping to the mix, you find yourself with a treat that is undeniably fun and one that is—as apparent by its presence on Instagram— rather photogenic.
With all the buzz surrounding Fitzroy’s new additions to the market, you could be forgiven for missing the opening of this Northcote gem. Open only in June, Il Melograno sticks to its classic Italian roots, making pure, no fuss, all natural gelato and granita (no artificial additives whatsoever) of the highest quality. The incredibly eager and helpful staff will insist that you taste the flavours before choosing. The choc-rosemary always receives a warm reception, and is undoubtedly the best chocolate-flavour combination you’ve never tried. The rosemary is a perfect complement to the rich, dark Dutch chocolate base, while the aromatic pine notes linger on the taste buds. For a sweeter option, the banana and walnut offers a more mature take on the traditional banana flavour—none of this lolly business. Did I mention they also make dynamite Italian food?
For those hoping to get their gelato fix within the CBD, you can’t go past this artisan gelato bar, situated right outside Parliament station, as part of the Spring St Grocery. You will find a modest selection of up to 10 milk-based, and six dairy-free flavours on a daily rotation. The pistachio is very solid, although those looking to broaden their horizons might choose to try the pistachio, cardamom and turmeric. The spices are prominent enough without being overpowering, and evoke an experience reminiscent of chai tea. Add some large pistachio pieces and you’re set. The real standout of the selection is the supremely creamy hazelnut flavour, which is reason enough to make the journey.
While technically not gelato, this Humble Argentinian ice cream store is showing the locals how it’s done, right in the heart of Melbourne’s little Italy. Don’t pass on the famous Dulce de Leche, made from real Argentinian milk jam (a customer favourite). There are quite a few exotic, yet delightfully uncomplicated flavours to peak your interest (green tea, black sesame, rosewater) and the best peanut butter ice cream I’ve had to date. If you can’t resist the urge to try all the delicious combinations, they offer a monthly masterclass which will not only teach you the art of ice-cream making, but will give you a taste of the entire flavour cabinet, and a take-away box of up to three flavours for family and friends. It’s alright, I wouldn’t share either.