The Lab Nitrogen Gelato, Melbourne CBD
Another day, another food craze for Melbourne. Admittedly, the gelato-made-with-liquid-nitrogen has been around for a little while now, with N2 Extreme Gelato leading the charge (will review this too, it’s a favourite of mine!).
While N2 holds down the fort in Fitzroy, The Lab is the nitrogen proponent in the CBD. Inspired by Heston Blumenthal’s mad creations, as well as gelato around Italy, New York and Hong Kong, these guys opened in October 2013 with the aim of revolutionising gelato. Why nitrogen? A few reasons. Being a hell of a lot colder than usual, it amps up the flavours. It also lowers the chance of your ice cream crystalising which makes it super smooth. And it looks really cool – who doesn’t love a bit of showmanship in the kitchen?
You’re welcomed by smiling faces in big, white lab coats. There are goggles, giant beakers, steam coming from enormous liquid nitrogen drums, and those shiny, sexy red Kitchen Aids that make my demure cream one look kind of boring…
This visit was after a very delicious dinner at HuTong – while normal, civilised diners would have been more than satisfied with their dumplings and wine, we’d had one of those weeks, so my lovely friend and I decided that ice cream was probably in order too. Fatty Friday, whatever. With a constantly rotating menu (they’ve had, among others, Salted Caramel Popcorn, Mixed Berry Cheesecake, Mango & Lychee Mojito, Peanut Butter Jelly, Matcha Green Tea and Pina Colada), you never know what you’re in for, and we were very pleasantly surprised to see our options included Tim Tam Madness, Raspberry and Nutella Tart, Golden Gaytime Crunch and Ferrero Rocher. Bloody hell.
At $6.00 a cup (and having recently downed 20 dumplings and 4 glasses of wine between us), we thought one of each might be excessive, so we went with a Golden Gaytime Crunch (salted caramel and chocolate chip gelato with golden biscuit and chocolate crunch), and a Tim Tam Madness (milk chocolate and Tim Tam gelato with Tim Tam smash). If you’re not Australian, Golden Gaytimes and Tim Tams are probably as foreign to you as Twinkies and S’Mores are to us. Also, Tim Tams are the greatest chocolate biscuit ever made. If you know an Aussie, beg them to send you a packet. If you don’t, now is probably a good time to befriend one.
So, what are the ice creams like? I’d previously had the Chocolate Brownie ice cream (flashback photo below), which was hands down the best chocolate gelato I’ve ever had. It had the most incredible flavour; you know how sometimes, after half a cup, your tongue kind of numbs to the flavour a bit and the second half of your ice cream experience isn’t as amazing? Not this one. It was magnificent from the first bite down to the last. So I had high hopes.
Unfortunately, these guys didn’t quite live up to the Chocolate Brownie. Don’t get me wrong, they were delicious ice creams, particularly the salted caramel of the Golden Gaytime cup. They were smooth and creamy and perfectly nice. But they were nothing standout. They didn’t have any real punch or panache. They weren’t ice creams I’ll likely remember like that Chocolate Brownie I had a while ago or the Number Two from Messina. They are also quite expensive – $6 for a cup of ice cream is a little steep!
All of that said, I would still recommend a visit if they have a particularly amazing flavour that catches your eye, because they do rock out some fantastic flavour combinations and you never know when you’ll hit the jackpot like I did with their Chocolate Brownie gelato!