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Chin Chin Laboratories – London’s worst kept secret

August 18, 2010

Chin Chin LaboratoriesHere’s the thing about hidden gems – they never stay hidden for long. A couple of weeks ago, Chin Chin Laboratories was an unknown quantity, found only by chance if you happened to be wondering around the canal in Camden. Mention it now and people nod in wild recognition, with a fair few claiming to have ‘discovered’ the place weeks ago.

My ‘discovery’ came about when a colleague dragged half the office there last week on the promise of saffron ice cream with toasted pistachios (the weekly special). Chin Chin Labs is London’s first nitro-ice cream parlour, tucked away inside Camden Lock with minimal signage (you’d easily miss it if it wasn’t for the queues snaking out the door).

The unit itself is tiny with room for half a dozen people tops. Test tubes filled with chocolate popping candy, honeycomb, and the much-anticipated toasted pistachio cover the shelves, along with beakers of blueberry, raspberry and salted caramel sauces. Behind the glass barrier are two large tanks of liquid nitrogen, and owner Ahrash – in white lab coat and goggles – explains the process of mixing the cream in with the nitrogen freezes it in four seconds without the need for additives and emulsifiers.

Ahrash at Chin Chin LabsWe all had the saffron ice cream, partly because it sounded delectable and partly because Ahrash can only make one flavour at a time so it’s easier if you order a batch. But the whole process is well worth queuing for. Standing in the dry vapour coming off the nitrogen and watching your ice cream freeze under 190-degree temperatures definitely gives you more for your money. Ahresh and his wife Nyisha are happy to dish out explanations, and the ice cream itself is delicious (I had saffron with blueberry sauce and chocolate popping candy, just to shake things up a bit).

If you find yourself in North London, make sure you have enough time to spare for a trip to Chin Chin Labs.

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