Saying to the average Londoner, 'Let's meet in Camden', will usually produce a loud wail of despair. Camden is a pandemonium of goth shops, tourists and teenagers trying to buy drugs. However, follow it up with, 'We can try out the nitrogen ice-cream parlour!', and now you're talking.
Chin Chin Laboratories opened a couple of weeks ago in Camden Lock; the first nitrogen ice-cream parlour in Europe. Most people will be aware of this miracle of molecular gastronomy thanks to Heston Blumenthal. But for those who haven't made it to The Fat Duck yet, Chin Chin has taken it to the streets. For £4 you can buy a little pot of ice-cream, freshly frozen by a man in a white coat in a little shop kitted out as a science laboratory. Pretty awesome, really!
On the day we went the special flavour was victoria sponge with green tea. My friend Emilia adventurously agreed to try it whilst I stayed trad with vanilla. When asked if her ice-cream tasted like victoria sponge with green tea, I was given an emphatic, 'NO'. She said it tasted like rose, and it did look a bit pink.
My vanilla ice cream didn't particularly taste of vanilla, which you'd think would be fairly easy to achieve, but it was a lovely, dense, creamy ice-cream. (There is a good description of how nitrogen ice-cream differs in texture to the regular stuff here. It is a pleasingly non-scientific breakdown of the process.) The topping of salted caramel was a total winner, though, and I would happily go back just for a salted caramel fix.
Not bad for £4 and a scientific adventure, but I would advise any ice-cream seeker in the environs of Camden Lock to instead continue north up Chalk Farm Road for five minutes to Marine Ices for some proper old school London ice-cream eating action.
EDITED TO ADD: Chin Chin emailed me to say the specials that day were earl grey & victoria sponge cake (not green tea), and lychee with rosewater. Obviously Emi was given the rose flavour by mistake, hence her tasting rose.
[Chin Chin Laboratories, 49-50 Camden Lock Place, 07885 604 2841. Marine Ices, 8 Haverstock Hill, 020 7482 9000.]