Crossing Europe one scoop at a time

I’ve always been a huge fan of ice cream. Looking back, I think my primary source of calcium intake as a child came from ice cream, so it comes as no surprise that I am always looking for the best place to get my hands on an ice cream cone. Over the vac, I had the opportunity to travel and was able to sample my fair share of the best ice cream cones that Europe has to offer.

Part of my travels included a stop in Berlin. On our walk to the metro station on the first day we noticed everyone we passed was carrying an ice cream cone and there was a massive queue snaking out of a shop called Hokey Pokey. Assuming it had to be one of those cheesy “National Ice Cream Day” days, we walked on, unknowingly passing what was to become one of my favourite ice cream shops. The next day we noticed the same queue of people and decided to see what all the commotion was about. Looking past the slightly odd name, this shop dishes up homemade ice-cream for €1,5 a scoop. One of the flavours I tried was peanut butter banana, but this faded into insignificance when I sampled the ‘Hokey Pokey’ flavour: a blend of creamy vanilla-based ice cream with chunks of crystallised molasses, which had the same puffy yet crunchy texture of Rice Krispies cereal. Any ice cream fan visiting Berlin should definitely make the journey out to Hokey Pokey, which can easily be reached by a quick journey on the metro from the city centre.

I think my primary source of calcium intake as a child came from ice cream, so it comes as no surprise that I am always looking for the best place to get my hands on an ice cream cone

Our next stop was Prague, where we sampled two frozen treats more unique in presentation than taste. We had gelato at Amorino, which is actually an international chain including shops in London. At 95 Czech crowns for a regular-sized cone, the taste of this gelato was average, but it is the presentation that makes it worth mentioning. From the selection of flavours I chose Speculoos cookie and almond, which were then painstakingly scooped out in small flat chucks and folded on top of each other to form the shape of a rose. Although pretty, these cones were a bit harder to eat, as the gelato extended outwards instead of upwards, requiring you to quickly consume the outer layers in fear of having any stolen by the pigeons. For a more traditional Czech dessert, I tried the famous ‘trdelnik,’ which is a sugar-coated donut-like pastry shaped like a cone. They come filled with anything from fruit and whipped cream to soft serve ice cream. I tried one with ice cream, which was tasty, but the coldness of the ice cream made the previously warm, soft trdelnik harder, making it less enjoyable. I would definitely recommend the warm Nutella and strawberry filling, which is cheaper than an ice cream filling.

For something a little closer to home, there are two shops in Scotland which I would recommend. The first is in Pitclochry, a small touristy town in the Scottish Highlands with lots of quaint cafes advertising ice cream and cakes. The one I visited, Hettie’s Tearoom, claimed to have 22 flavours of ice cream. I forgot to count, but the selection was massive and a bit overwhelming. I got one scoop of apple crisp and one of Eton mess. Two scoops in a waffle cone cost close to four pounds, which was an average price for the town. The apple crisp had pieces of apple crisp crust in it, and the base had a subtle cinnamon flavour. The Eton mess had a strawberry jam swirled through it and tasted like the dessert after which the flavour was named. This shop would definitely be worth a re-visit, but I’ve got to admit, if Hokey Pokey were next door, I’d be heading there instead.

The last place I’d like to mention is Mary’s Milk Bar in Edinburgh. The gelato here is handmade by – you guessed it – a woman named Mary. Located just a short walk from Edinburgh Castle, this is clearly a popular place with lines extending out the door. I went there the first day I was in Edinburgh and proceeded to drag my dad across the city the next day to go back again – he didn’t complain too much as the gelato was that delicious. It is also reasonably priced at £2.50 for one scoop and only £1 more for a second scoop. Over the course of two days, I tried salted caramel, goats’ cheese and jam, and white chocolate thyme. I got the salted caramel flavour both days, as this is the best salted caramel flavour I’ve ever had. In some shops, this  flavour can be a bit dull and lifeless, but Mary’s had nuggets of caramel mixed into the ice cream, and the creamy base also had a strong flavour of caramel. The goats’ cheese and jam was a very unique flavour and most people would probably never think to mix the two, but the combination resulted in a delightfully rich and fruity flavour. The white chocolate thyme was also tasty, but tasted more of cream than anything else.

Hokey Pokey and Mary’s are tied for my top choice, so if you’re looking for a scoop of thick, creamy ice cream or gelato in the UK or on the continent, these two places have got you covered.