Average icecream is a big fat waste of money, calories and expectation. Luckily, we don't need to put up with bad icecream; Auckland boasts a wealth of places making an excellent job of it. Here's our guide to where to find the best icecream across this city - from classic simplicity to outlandish extravagance; from classy, fruity sorbets to kooky, popcorn-filled delights. Think of it as a roadmap for the summer, a guide to instant satisfaction. You're welcome.
Gianpaolo Grazioli (Giapo) and his wife Annarosa Petrucci are on a mission: to make the best icecream in the world, from the bottom of the world. The couple, who met at high school in Southern Italy, are doing a ripe job of it thus far and Italian culinary tastemaker website Dissapore named Giapo one of the top 10 gelaterias in the world. Cleverly crafted flavours meet fantastical handcrafted toppings and luxuriously appointed cones and chocolate cups that make the Giapo icecream a spectacular for both eyes and taste buds. As well as classics like the Giapo Buono, there's always an Aotearoa Garden seasonal special going.
Our pick: Wild Coastal Strawberry - a special edition made with wild strawberries from Katikati; quite different from cultivated strawberries, with tart woodsy and cherry notes.
12 Gore Street, CBD.
2: Liky Liky Gelato
The best gelato is dense, smooth, with concentrated flavour. At Liky Liky you'll find 20 flavours of the best stuff. Owner Giorgia, originally from close to Rome, sticks mostly with the classic Italian riffs, the names of which tumble out of her mouth, peppered every few seconds with enthusiastic "mama mias" as she hands over tasters at the counter. Think pistachio, nocciola (hazelnut), stracciatella (a classy version of choc-chip), and smooth clouds of dense sorbets. She occasionally branches out to the novel - the marshmallow, for example, which is of course every child's favourite. Heads up: Giorgia also does fully catered children's birthday parties in the shop - pizza, popcorn, icecream: every kid's dream!
Our pick: the Fruit Di Bosco (mixed berry) sorbet is quite simply the taste of summer.
175 Onehunga Mall, Onehunga. Ph. (09) 022 367 4616.
3: Joshua's Icecream at The Village Co-Op
This small, family-run shop in St Heliers is where Joshua makes his icecream, and they sell it by the scoop - with a warm slice of their own chocolate brownie, if you want the whole shebang. Joshua was a young chef when he was given an icecream maker one Christmas, and an instant passion took hold. He uses natural ingredients and old-school techniques and he's all about sourcing the best ingredients from around New Zealand. There are regular flavours and then special editions - recently, there was Milo, which was just brilliant. You can also find Joshua's Icecream tubs and icecream on a stick at Farro stores.
Our pick: the Black Doris Plum Sorbet, made with Hawke's Bay plums, is velvety and intense and such a great summer cooler.
8 Maheke St, St Heliers. Ph. (09) 575 1088.
4: Sweet Val's
It's a mobile made-to-order pop-up icecream experience: a mouthful to say, and even better mouthful to eat. Val is the 1970 Holden Kingswood ute that makes this parlour mobile, calling in to farmers' markets, festivals and the like. It's a mobile lab, of sorts, because by made-to-order, they don't mean popping a slab of vanilla icecream between two pink wafers. These guys literally freeze your order on the spot, using liquid nitrogen. The theatre of it preps the taste buds, of course - very clever. Check their website to check where they're next popping up.
Our pick: summer special "Queen of Hearts" with pomegranate, cherry and hibiscus. Tres romantic.
Sweetvals.com. Ph. 021 101 9588.
5: Island Gelato
With a captive market (think baking hot Waiheke day, swarms of daytrippers, post-beach) even a ho-hum icecream would sell well, but what luck that Island Gelato have an avid passion for making the best gelato. The converted container, cleverly placed right opposite the path to Oneroa Beach, plays a great siren, calling to you as stroll up all salty and parched. Owners Geoff and NZ MasterChef runner-up Ana Shwartz use lots of Waiheke produce, things like honecomb, feijoas and Thai basil. Ana makes the gelato and the ingredients therein - such as caramels - from scratch. Ingredients are organic where possible and their coconut milk-based flavours are vegan.
Our pick: the Pineapple Sage Mojito: a cocktail you can lick.
124 Oceanview Rd, Oneroa. Ph. 021 540 940.
6: Charlie's Gelato Garden
Worth the drive to Matakana on its own, the gelato at Charlie's is rich and velvety and if the 40 flavours on display aren't doing it for you, they have more choices out the back - just ask them. Owners Charlie Wrigglesworth and Heather King fell in love with gelato on a trip to Italy in 2007 and luckily for us they decided to have a go back at home. Fruit from their orchard and their own sweet, juicy strawberries go into delicious seasonal fruit flavours.
Our pick: Christmas Cherry - but hurry, once it's gone, it's gone.
17 Sharp Rd, Matakana. Ph. (09) 422 7942.
Out of shiny little pods round the city, Joy is spreading - bringing icecream with a side of social enterprise, for each pod is owned by a "remarkable unemployee": someone who was either unemployed or under-employed, and eager for a chance at entrepreneurship. About the icecream: it's made with all-natural, mostly organic ingredients, it's batch-churned and made as close as possible to where the pod will be that day. Joy all round.
Our pick: Arequipe (that's dolce de leche) Popcorn.
Check the map at joyicecream.com to find your closest pod.
8: The strawberry farms
Summer isn't summer without a strawberry-picking mission, and it is of course a very good idea to reward your hard work with a fresh strawberry icecream, made in front of your eyes, afterwards. In season, if I'm taking a trip to or from the airport, I find it pretty difficult not to detour to The Strawberry Farm in Mangere en route. And at Juicy NZ Strawberries in Kumeu, you can opt for the strawberry icecream in either soft serve or frozen yoghurt versions - plus, they also make a range of gelato served by the scoop in cones, cups or take-home tubs.
Our pick: fresh strawberry goodness, of course.
The Strawberry Farm, 127 Kirkbride Rd, Mangere.
Juicy Strawberries, 505 SH16, Kumeu.
9: Kohu Road at The Tannery
Named after the wooded, quaint little Titirangi road where founder Greg Hall first began making icecream for his children and their friends in his garage, Kohu Road has a bigger home out the back of The Tannery cafe, and here you'll find all their flavours to eat in in cups and cones (and in sandwich, milkshake and affogato forms too) or to take home in tubs. As well as classic cream and egg-based icecream, they make a range of vegan flavours. You can peer through the window at the icecream being made, and kids love to hide away in the retro caravan inside - bonus: you remain blissfully ignorant of them dripping icecream all down their front.
Our pick: Flat White - two birds with one stone.
The Tannery, 44B Portage Rd, New Lynn. Ph. (09) 888 9065.
10: Takapuna Beach Cafe
Prescription for a perfect summer Sunday: walk around the rocks from Takapuna to Milford and back - punctuated with a swim at Thorn Bay - before grabbing a gelato from takeaway side of Hipgroup's Takapuna Beach Cafe. The flavours tend towards simple and classy, using fresh local produce. I'm still reminiscing about a combo of fresh garden mint with shards of bitter dark chocolate I enjoyed there several years ago, it was that good. Hipgroup's gelato can also be found by the scoop at the Good Grocer, St Heliers Bay Bistro and their dessert mecca, Milse, makes famously good gelato sticks.
Our pick: the Kiyomi sorbet, a sweet Japanese hybrid citrus that Hipgroup have grown by their lemon orchardist in Athenree. Superb.
22 The Promenade, Takapuna. Ph. (09) 484 0002.