Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chin Chin Laboratories

He's been all over the news, and finally I get to see what this "nitro" ice-cream parlour is all about. Ahrash Akbari-Kalhur, a former City broker, has set up the first ice-cream parlour in Europe using liquid nitrogen to speed up the freezing process that turns cream into that luscious dessert. Wacky! I love stories like this: nine-to-fiver decides to ditch the rat-race to become gastro-scientist with a lot of flair. It was a sunny day in buzzing Camden town when we went to visit this thriving institution...

Chin Chin Laboratories is situated on Camden Lock Place, amongst the strange, the tacky and the gloriously bizarre crowd in Camden. We get there for around 3pm, and there has been an ongoing queue since they open for the day. So exactly what is everyone waiting for?

Step 1: Ahrash pours his creamy mixture into a sort of giant magimix. It's manned (and womanned) by the man himself and his wife, so no wonder it's always a bit hectic. There are always 3 flavours on offer: Vanilla, Chocolate and the Special of the Day. Today the special is an exotic Lychee & Rosewater which has my name all over it. 

Step 2: Out of some very dangerous looking appliances, comes some theatrical clouds of liquid nitrogen into a  metal jug. Oooo!

Step 3: Into the magimix mixture it goes. Clouds still swirling, the magimix is switched on, and after some whirring and chemical reactions, voila! Ice cream is born in a ridiculously short amount of time! Ahrash will willingly explain the process to any non-scientific brain, and works frantically to take orders.

Step 4: Does this remind you of chemistry class? The pippettes, beakers and lab bottles are all immaculately displayed, holding exciting toppings you can choose from. Everything from popping candy, lavendar sugar, sugared nuts to chocolates is available, and then decide on a sauce as well. That day we had either sea salt caramel, raspberry or blackberry. 

Result! My Lychee & Rosewater concoction was delicately flavoured and so smooth. I loved the sea salt caramel that gave it more punch, ending with a little crunch from toasted and sugared peanuts. The flavours mixed and melted in that awesome way ice cream and toppings do in the end, ensuring a very empty cup!

Though slightly gimmicky, and I wonder how long it will be till there are other copycats, it is a delightfully quirky indulgence. Absolutely worth a visit, and I wonder what the next specials will be! £3.95 gets you one cup, one topping and one sauce, a fun demonstration and chat with our inventors. 

Chin Chin Laboratorists on Urbanspoon

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