Auckland's best icecream spots

By Donna McIntyre

Designer icecream, iceblocks and gelato are taking Auckland by storm, discovers Donna McIntyre.

Island Gelato serves up fresh Waiheke Island produce with its gelato. Photo / Michelle Hyslop
Island Gelato serves up fresh Waiheke Island produce with its gelato. Photo / Michelle Hyslop

What does icecream have in common with designer clothing and luxury cars? Stumped? Well, read on.

Gianpaolo Grazioli, chef at Giapo on Queen St, says just as Chanel, Dior, Lanvin, Valentino and Gucci led the way in fashion - with clothes that went beyond merely being functional and practical - he wants New Zealanders to enjoy "haute icecream".

"What was once a mere treat is now becoming inspiring and aspiring."

Grazioli describes Giapo as a kitchen where work starts at 5am, devoted to change how people experience icecream, saying, "We do not hire icecream makers. We hire chefs."

And you won't be seeing clone Giapos popping up in the suburbs. He believes expansion and franchises would slow innovation and compromise Giapo's purpose. "We are focused on doing something that pioneers a new way of experiencing icecream and we want to make New Zealand famous for it."

Greg Hall at Kohu Road also likens the quality of his product to flash cars and haute couture, describing his natural, handmade icecreams and sorbets as luxury food, radically new and innovative. "We aspire to be like Louis Vuitton or, closer to home, one of New Zealand's renowned fine wine makers."

"Maybe Mercedes is to cars and driving as Kohu Road is to icecream and eating: It makes you feel good, it's stimulating, exciting, rewarding and worth it."

He says when he started Kohu Road in 2007, "the icecream market had been stagnant in New Zealand for 10 or 15 years. Same brands, same packaging and very little choice when it came to getting a scoop.

"Kiwis do understand that you get what you pay for so that leaves lots of room for all the different brands, from Tip Top to Kohu Road and everyone in between."

Recognising their quality products, Giapo, Kohu Road and concept iceblocks Paleta all won awards in the 2014 Cuisine Artisan Awards.

A newcomer also aiming to please discerning gelato lovers is 2012 MasterChef runner-up Ana Schwarz on Waiheke Island. She and husband Geoff Tippett appeared overnight in a pop-up container in Oneroa offering gelatos with all-natural ingredients, including local fruits.

"I love sourcing local ingredients", says Schwarz.

"This also means I don't need to add extra sugar or artificial flavours and colours."

The idea for the business grew after Schwarz and Tippett went to Sydney last winter. "A visit to Gelato Messina, my favourite gelato store, concreted it."

From the designer icecreams through to New Zealand's iconic Tip Top brand, Living has compiled a list of where to find great icecreams, gelatos, sorbets and iceblocks across Auckland. It's by no means exhaustive but we think we have something to suit everyone's tastes.

Haute icecream - Giapo, Queen St

We'll start with the small but perfectly formed operation beside the Civic Theatre. Gianpaolo Grazioli, who started Giapo seven years ago, says Giapo exists because "We want to change the way people experience, taste, feel, see, and enjoy icecream". Every flavour is made fresh daily using the best local and organic ingredients. The $8 cones are worth every cent. Make sure you try the tiramisu.

Mercedes of the west - Kohu Road, New Lynn

2014 Cuisine Artisan Award-winner Kohu Road's owners started making icecream for themselves and for dinner parties. They are proud to have only pure and natural ingredients. "We make a luxury food," says owner Greg Hall. They sell on site at the New Lynn icecream parlour and cafe they started in 2011, now called The Tannery, as well as supplying to scoop shops across New Zealand. A single scoop is $4.50.

Cottage industry - Paleta

You may have seen Paleta, a boutique range of concept iceblocks at Clevedon Market or Farro Fresh. Hayden Lomax and Jeremy Schmid worked together as chefs in the 90s and went back to the kitchen to develop the paleta with fresh fruit, organic cane sugar, and sometimes, a dash of cream. "If you go to South America, paleta are all handmade, have whole chunks of fruit and are sold from little carts, it literally means small shovel or stick," Lomax explains. They have five core flavours, and they're chuffed their raspberry and cream did well in the Cuisine Artisan Awards. Approximately $4 each.

Shore things - The Gelato Workshop, Birkenhead

The Gelato Workshop in Birkenhead is where Winnie Hui and Xuefei Jiang offer a few classics with twists. Most popular are chocolate, gingernut, cookie, blood orange and the Red Bull flavour, which was suggested to co-owner Jiang by one of his young customers. "We make all our gelatos in house." One scoop, $4.50. Ph (09) 419 9910.

Treats in store - Takapuna Beach Cafe & Store

Gelatos and sorbets have been served at Takapuna Beach Cafe & Store since 2008. Now business has grown to include other "Stores" in Kohimarama, St Heliers, Britomart and Waimauku. Jo Pearson, group executive chef of Hip Group says, "The gelato is made from fresh New Zealand milk and cream, sugar and the flavours are made in-house. The sorbets are simply local fruit and some sugar, no hidden surprises." A scoop is $4.50.

We all scream - The Dairy, Ponsonby

Icecream in a cup, in a cone, or sandwiched between two cookies, the Kapiti flavours at this old-school style scoop icecreamery include fig and honey, hokey pokey, nectarine and muscavado and vanilla bean. They're popular with social media-hungry teens and 20-somethings who upload photos of their icecream sandwiches to Instagram. Popular flavours over summer were nectarine, chocolate, cookies and cream and black doris plum. $4 a single scoop.

By the seaside - Movenpick

Eating icecreams by the seaside is something the Swiss can't do in their own landlocked country but there's plenty of opportunity to do so in New Zealand at Movenpick's Auckland parlours, which include Mission Bay and Quay St. Popular flavours are Swiss chocolate, maple walnut and vanilla brownie. Prices start from $5.90.

Valentino's Gelato - The Ferry Building, Auckland

Valentino's Gelato eaters can watch boats come and go while they pick out their flavours at the Ferry Building store. The most popular gelato is the hokey pokey with caramel sauce, vanilla icecream and honeycomb. Passionfruit leads the sorbet popularity stakes. When the cruise ships are in, Valentino's is a favourite stop with the tourists. Littlies are attracted by the vibrant colour of the Powerade Isotonic blue sorbet, often to their parents' surprise or horror. One scoop $5.

The long haul - Ollies, Royal Oak

Four decades is a long time in business, especially when trends change and newcomers challenge the throne. Ollies at Royal Oak is perennially popular with families and gets extra busy after school and over the weekend. "We've just celebrated our 41st birthday," says icecream scooper Georgia Paterson. "Ollies has had the same owner all that time, Colin Haines." They serve Tip Top, Chateau and Much Moore. Popular flavours are cookies and cream, chocolate and vanilla. A single scoop is $3.70. Ph (09) 625 7705.

Decadence on a stick - Milse, Britomart

Milse's frozen desserts come on a stick but they are about as far removed as you can get from a mass-produced frozen iceblock, with mouth-watering flavours such as salted caramel and mango coconut all made on site. "Even in the middle of winter when it's almost snowing, I leave at 12 at night and often this cabinet is empty," says duty manager Patrick Adrien. The piece de resistance is chef Brian Campbell's bombe Alaska ... on a stick. Gelatos, $7.

Asian orientation - iStorm, Chancery Square

Owner Danny Hu is making an all-out pitch for Asian customers with his black sesame, wasabi, green tea, aloe vera and creamy taro as well as some usual suspects in the gelato and sorbet lineups. "I'm Asian and I know Asian tastes. I have one very special flavour - wasabi." Hu rotates 64 flavours but always has taro, black sesame, chocolate, mango and green tea ready to scoop. One scoop $4.50.

Chain reaction - Casa del Gelato

Casa del Gelato opened in Ponsonby in 2007 and has expanded to six other locations around Auckland: Victoria Park, Mt Eden, Parnell, Birkenhead, Te Atatu and Milford. The Sicilian gelatos are all prepared to order and delivered to the stores. There are chocolate bar flavours, fruity sorbets and indulgences of tiramisu, pistachio, and Baileys. One scoop $4.50.

Frozen yoghurts - Yoghurt Story, Ponsonby

Frozen yoghurt parlours such as Yoghurt Story are scattered around Auckland's CBD and suburbs and are particularly popular with teenagers and after-school parties who love concocting their dessert yoghurt from 15 soft-serve flavours including original, pistachio, blood orange, and blueberry, and piling on toppings. $3.10 for 100g.

White's & co

Also serving up frozen yoghurts with lots of toppings - fruit for those coming straight from the gym and chocolate and other "naughty" offerings for those who should be heading for the gym - are White's and Co at their two stores, one in the hole-in the wall at Britomart, the other in Vulcan Lane. Flavours of the moment are salted caramel and coconut. $4.50 for a small cone.

Island treats - Ice Queen, Wai Kitchen and Island Gelato

Waiheke Island offers great gelatos at Little Wai (stocking Kohu Road, $4.50 a scoop) and the movable barrow of Ice Queen but it's the new kid on the block which has been pulling in the crowds since it opened on Anniversary Weekend. Run by 2012's MasterChef runner-up Ana Schwarz and her husband Geoff Tippett, Island Gelato serves up fresh Waiheke Island produce with flavours such as salted caramel and Doris plum and the rather divine strawberry balsamic sorbet from a pop-up container in Oneroa. Schwarz thinks her icecream lovers have grown more discerning. "We want the best now, I love every part of the process, picking local fruit, creating new flavours, making people smile when they take their first bite." Island Gelato single scoop, $5. Island Gelato, ph 021 536 860.

- Herald on Sunday

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