Archives for posts with tag: Chin Chin Laboratorists

It’s been a funny old week. I can certainly say that this current role of mine at Laverstoke Park Farm is keeping me out of mischief and one of the most varied experiences of my working life.

ice cream sundae

This week we have been contemplating ice cream. We make the most amazing buffalo milk ice cream on the farm. Don’t be put off by the buffalo milk. It may sound strange but actually makes the best ice cream you can buy. Buffalo milk is a wonderful thing. It is more nutritious than other milks with higher proteins, minerals and fats, but lower cholesterol. The higher solids means it is just incredibly creamy and yummy making it a perfect dairy ingredient. And interestingly,  it is also great for people with dairy intolerances. In fact we got the most amazing letter from a customer this week thanking us for making buffalo milk and saving her 13 month old little boy. He suffered the most traumatic time from birth with serious issues that affected his breathing and eating. She was struggling to find a suitable milk to wean him onto after 12 months and has said that buffalo milk has transformed him. Now he is putting on weight and is a “feisty, funny and happy baby”. How amazing.

Chin Chin

Ice cream the Chin Chin way

So back to ice cream. We have been looking at ice cream parlours and the ice cream offer in London. It is interesting to think about who does it well these days. Mostly it is the gelato bars that are dominating the market with great flavours and good product but somehow this doesn’t tick my box in terms of ice cream parlour experience. Then there is Chin Chin Laboratorists. They do the whole liquid nitrogen thing and they do it very well. What I like about this chef turned ice-creamist is that he does 3 flavours only at any one time with a choice of toppings and sauces to complement the flavour. And there is always one off-the-wall flavour that hits the mark such as burnt butter and hot cross bun for Easter or Guinness caramel and smoked salt for St Patrick’s Day. Honestly…he is the best. Just see their facebook page.



Then there is of course the rise of ice lollies. For me this is equally interesting and something that we will be progressing having taken our inspiration from PopBar in NYC. This is fun, healthy and a great opportunity to do something different.

But if you want to get a classic old British ice cream parlour experience you are struggling. There are of course the seaside specials and Mr Whippy vans but where is the destination parlour for London? I have a few thoughts in mind and am building it up so any thoughts or favourite places you know would be great to hear about.

Later on we were on the 5th floor of Fortnum and Mason for their new Food & Drinks Awards. Dipping into the canapes and Champagne were the pick of food media and celebs all there to celebrate the winners. I couldn’t move for people that I have merely seen on TV, heard on the radio or read about myself. Quite something for this girl from Leeds to be there, surrounded by everyone I have been inspired by over recent years. I know these are the places you are supposed to network at but honestly I was just a little bit in awe.

A smokin’ hot smoker

You gotta love Jamie Oliver. He really is in touch with the food and cultural zeitgeist and reading about his latest idea just underpins my view on this. This week he posted a picture on Instagram of his newly adapted red phone box which is now a working smoker. So triple ticks for him them, tapping into the latest social media route, reflecting the fashion of all things iconically British and promoting a trendy way of preparing food.

Some of my favourite meals lately have included something smoked. Possibly the most surprising was the cigar smoked caramel ice cream which the guys at Chin Chin Laboratorists reckon is the next iteration of the whole salted caramel phenomenon. It was fascinating to taste the new flavour dimension that comes from that smokiness.Other memorable items include most things at Pitt Cue and a truly wonderful kedgeree with home smoked fish from Nikau Cafe in Wellington, New Zealand.

This chef brings new meaning to the whole BBQ method

Top of my list for the ultimate smoked experience is Asador Etxebarri. How could cooking over something as simple as a bespoke wood grill be listed as one of the world’s top 50 restaurants? I need to find out.  Please don’t go there as I want to be able to get a table!

Pop-a-cob: brilliant snack idea

The other thing I discovered this week is ZaraMama’s pop-a-cob. Now, I have always thought that popcorn was a great snack and believed it to be an opportunity for many retailers. In Cape Town, there was a stand-alone popcorn machine in the wonderful Food Lover’s Market but this product takes the whole popcorn thing to a new convenience. You simply put the whole cob in the bag provided and microwave for 2 minutes. As the kernel bursts open it pops off the cob and fills the bag. Genius!!

The bag is in the pack and microwaves perfectly

…and you are left with this!

Not only is this easy to use and a healthy snack but the corn variety is buttery and crisp making it just the best fresh popcorn. I urge you to go buy it and if my word is not good enough, take it from the Jamie Oliver magazine which calls it “one of the best snack ideas of the 21st Century” …. and you know what I think about him!

I recently hooked back up with an old friend of mine. That’s not to say that either of us are old per se (!) but that we were friends at school and as ever lost touch when our lives took different paths, but thankfully now those paths have merged together and it is lovely to be sharing experiences again.

When we first caught up, my friend told me that her youngest daughter got to the finals of Junior Masterchef and when I went online I was able to catch up on the wonderful exploits of Amber. This girl is special. There is no doubt about that. Her drive and determination to be a successful cake shop owner will undoubtedly come true and I am sure there will be lots of other success to follow her.

Once I met her (and tasted her incredible carrot cake) I really wanted to help out in whatever way I could and as I am more experienced in the food field, I suggested showing her around some of the places in London that I admire and today was the day we were to do that.

Melrose and Morgan, Hampstead

I obviously started at the wonderful Melrose and Morgan, showing her the original Primrose Hill shop and then the newer Hampstead one. Ian was working hard as ever and later on we caught up with Nick who was full of good advice for a budding new baker. Whilst in the NW area, we also popped into Maison Blanc, Ginger & White, Gails and Primrose Bakery.

Then we made a detour from the cake route to experience Chin Chin Laboratorists ice cream in Camden.

The Laboratory that is Chin Chin

I took Amber there to try and show an original idea as that is what she is capable of bringing to the already cluttered cake market. If someone said they wanted to create a retail environment that looked like a lab and displayed food in flasks and test-tubes, then they would probably be treated as ever so slightly mad, but this is exactly what works at Chin Chin.

Laboratory toppings

Vanilla ice cream with salted caramel sauce – my fave!

We chose a simple but favourite combo of mine, but I have to make special mention of the other flavour I tried which is this week’s special: cigar smoked caramel. Clearly this is not one for the kids, but as they say… “salted caramel, yawn! We smoke milk with Cuban cigars and then turn this into a rich, peppery, smokey caramel that’s strictly an adult’s only indulgence!” and indulge you should. It is genius.

Hopefully Amber was suitably inspired to think differently and so it was time for that classic outlet, Ottolenghi. Clearly the gods were looking down on us as the sun broke through the clouds and a parking space appeared right opposite and so it was we entered Yotam’s holy grail.

Salads the Yotam way

Now I know we were on a cake tour, but even this irresponsible temporary Mum couldn’t just purchase cake all day and what better alternative to offer than Ottolenghi salads. These give new meaning to the definition and whilst many have tried, the original really cannot be bettered. We both selected our favourites for a takeaway box to avoid the queues and realised that these offer much better value than the plated version anyway. It sufficed for my lunch and dinner and leftovers after that!

Cakes galore

Then we had the impossible choice of which cake to take with us. Everything was as fabulous as ever.

So replenished and inspired, we got the tube to our final destination for the day: Borough Market. I really couldn’t leave that out even though Saturday is not my ideal day to visit. Amber took to it like a pro, purchasing some choice goodies for the whole family to indulge in and really embraced the market experience.

Borough in all its glory

We watched raclette being scraped over potatoes, pufferfish guarding the fish counter, wonderful arrays of Summer berries and of course piles of chocolate brownies. We sampled salty fudge, smelly cheese, spicy sausage and lots more.

So tired, stuffed and happy we trudged back home to Mum to share our day and our purchases. And the highlight for Amber? well that would be the Fleur de Sel fudge and the innovative Chin Chin Labs.

Amber is a girl after my own heart. She will, I am sure, create something unique and wonderful to bring to the cake world when she is old enough to do it and until then, I am looking forward to sharing some inspiration and discovering new places with her in the very near future.

I managed to catch up with the Design Indaba this week. This is an annual event which claims to believe “that creativity will fuel an economic revolution in South Africa” and as such brings together inspiration from the full spectrum of creative sectors to share their knowledge and insight.

Whilst there are many very interesting speakers to watch, I particularly enjoyed hearing from Brad Armitage and Rui Esteves about their various enterprises and what they have learnt. Brad & Rui epitomise how I see South Africans. They are young, dynamic guys who just get on and do stuff that they are passionate about. They say you have to love what you do and I think it is this emotional connection that ensures they deliver a great connection with their brand.

Their first big success was launching Vida e Caffe, the coffee brand. It is easy to look at these outlets today and forget just how innovative it was for South Africa when they launched it in 2001. They have since sold the business and are now venturing into the craft beer market. And whilst both initiatives are really well done, it is two of the principles they talked about that rung true with me.

Focus. That is one key driver to their success. Doing one things that you believe in really really well. I have said before that it is the specialists in the food arena who are most impressing me. I was extolling the virtues of The Doughnut Plant, Popbar and Sprinkles only last week but this focus is not just a sweet domaine.

I have bored most of my friends rotten about The Meatball Shop in New York. This is the epitome of focus. A very simple menu of meatballs done in a choice of flavours with different sauces that you can mix and match yourself. Plus the shop itself is simply decorated with nods to the process from old mincer parts on the wall.

The wipeable tick list menu that allows the ultimate in personalisation

Cute sliders, hearty bowls of tasty meatballs, fresh salad and a carafe of red - what more could you want?

Mincer parts make ideal wall decs

Another great example of focus is Chin Chin Laboratorists here in Camden, London. This husband and wife team make wonderful ice cream using the liquid nitrogen method. And their shop, or lab, is an innovative design too which underpins the brand.

Scientific cues for the most modern science way of making ice cream

The mad professor making ice cream

It’s not only the shop and the product that gives focus, but the menu itself. There are only ever three flavours on offer: vanilla, chocolate and a special of the week which is always seasonal and creative. And then they do the most wonderful array of toppings and sauces for you to choose. Superb.

A focused menu indeed

Unconventional display tools underpin the experimental feel

It all adds up to a scrummy dessert

The second Brad and Rui principle that struck a cord with me was the need to build a community around their product. In fact, when Rui presented this part of their chat, he talked about building a shrine where their consumers could come. For their Brewers & Union beer, this was under an old church in Bree Street, Cape Town. There they serve an array of beers and matching food platters. It is relaxed, casual and quite the centre of the fashionable Capetonian crowd.

Bold graphics bolted straight onto the wall. It's simple

Each bottle is individually designed with unique glasses to match

Clearly, the Chin Chin team have done a great job of that shrine and if you think about it, all the best places have an equally impressive home too. I strongly believe that customers need to interact with the brand physically, so a place to find it really is important. I think the salvation of our high streets will be driven by the fact that a web based community is just not going to tick the shrine box. It is too disconnected.

The best brands will be able to combine a real and virtual world in fine harmony. Both elements have a place in building that community for their target market. They should embrace their customers with a huge hug and never let them go.

See the full & union presentation at this address