Chelsea Fearnley tours Cambridge in search of the best iced treats the city has to offer for sweet-toothed vegans
I have been told that Parma Violets are Britain’s most loathed sweet. Unforgivingly referred to as smelling of “old lady” by my nearest and dearest, just the thought of these little purple drops evokes in him a strong physical response that makes him scrunch up his face and want to gag.
I have to hand it to him for his theatrics, but I can’t help but feel saddened by this. For me, Parma Violets are full of nostalgia and bring back wonderful memories of my childhood. Every Thursday after school, my brother and I would rush out of the building towards the gates where our dad would be waiting for us. He waited for us every day, but Thursdays were special because on those days he would take us to the sweet shop on our walk home and I always picked the Parma Violets.
So, when I heard that Jack’s Gelato was serving this up as a flavour, I had to have a scoop, or three. The Parma Violets ice cream had a twist of blueberry, which was a sharp and refreshing match for the sweet violet. A true display of craft and inventiveness, where each lick transported me back to that precious memory. My boyfriend, who is also vegan, opted for the less daring dark chocolate and sea salt flavour. The chocolate was intensely rich and bittersweet; the sea salt subtle. I personally would have liked more salt, but I do have a slight obsession with it – the sort of obsession where I will buy a pack of pretzels just to pick the salt shards off. In terms of texture, the ice cream was luscious and creamy, and hard to believe that it was made without dairy. There are always vegan options at Jack’s Gelato, with several sorbet offerings, too. But the menu does change often, so it’s not guaranteed you’ll get to try these ones when you visit. However, one thing that can be guaranteed is that you will get to try ice cream concoctions that are out of this world. Its flavour archive includes pine nut, candied orange and olive oil; black sesame; and matcha, as well as a boozy Eagle Rare 10-year-old bourbon.
The Parma Violets ice cream is a true display of craft
Purists like my dad, who rarely deviate from the classic vanilla, should try the gelato at Aromi – instantly you know it’s going to be good because the cafe’s owners hail from the birthplace of gelato. I had the best gelato of my life in Rome: it was a salty sweet, deliciously creamy pistachio number made with olive oil instead of dairy. I still think about it to this day, so the thought of being able to have gelato made by Italians who reside in Cambridge feels like a dream come true. Aromi’s current vegan options are limone de Sicilia and fragola (that’s Sicilian lemon and strawberry to me and you), which is made using lemons that are shipped in from an organic farm in Syracuse, Sicily; their juices adding a zip that electrifies the delicate gelato. It’s a truly remarkable experience, since most citrus flavours these days are given to ice cream’s inferior cousin, sorbet. Despite lemon-flavoured desserts being a favourite of mine, the fragola bowled me over. Each batch that Aromi’s gelatiere prepares is made using 20 kilos of locally sourced strawberries and you can tell; you can literally see, smell and taste the fruit.
It was a refreshing, yet deliciously satisfying gelato, which may even top the one I had in Rome…