10 to try: ice cream in Dubai
Cool down for summer with the city's top frozen desserts 6 Comments
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We’re still a few months shy of the hottest part of the year, yet the mercury is already climbing and Dubai’s humidity is kicking in. What better way to cool down than with a frozen dessert? Ice cream and its many related guises (gelato, sorbet, frozen yoghurt) may seem like a modern phenomenon, only possible with high-tech kitchen gadgets. Yet during varying stages of its evolution, this sweet treat has been the cooling food of choice for thousands of years. Stories abound as to the origins of ice cream, yet many chefs suggest it first started here in the Middle East.
‘The first mention [of ice cream] that I know of was in the Bible, where goat’s milk was mixed with snow,’ explains chef Samuele Crestale at Carluccio’s. A spokesperson from Morelli’s agrees that ice cream can be dated back to Egypt as early as 2000 BC, but points out that the Chinese also stake a claim to its invention.
Liz Stevenson, executive pastry chef at The Ivy in Dubai, provides further evidence for the Chinese’s claim, telling us that they ‘mixed milk and rice with ice to form early frozen delicacies as long ago as 2000 BC’. Nevertheless, she points to the Persians as an early source. ‘They poured grape juice over snow to produce ices,’ she explains. ‘Yet it wasn’t until the Arabs started to experiment with milk, cream, sugar and yoghurts that the ice cream we know today started to take shape.’
Despite this, no one can doubt the ancient Romans’ involvement in its invention. Liz explains that Emperor Nero is said to have ordered snow and ice to be brought to him from the mountains, which he topped with fruit. The Romans also worked out a canny way to store the ice, before using it to make their treats. ‘Ice was cut from lakes during the winter and stored in “ice houses”, made from brick, wood or a simple hole in the ground, and insulated with straw,’ explains Liz.
‘It was then placed inside a tub, where it was churned with salt.’
Samuele at Carluccio’s adds that before Sicily’s volcanoes were active, people made granita from the abundance of ice and snow, by mixing it with honey, fruit and spices. In fact, according to Morelli’s, granita is still made in a similar manner in Sicily today, by shaving ice from a block and flavouring it with sugar and lemon.
These iced-based dishes were originally the preserve of the rich, because the techniques used to make them were so labour-intensive. It was the advent of the Industrial Revolution that slowly led to ice cream’s popularity among ordinary people, because it increased the possibility for mass production.Morelli’s spokesperson points out that the company was founded during this time, in 1907. Perhaps proving this point, even when making ice cream at home, all the chefs agree that an ice cream maker produces better results than churning the mixture by hand. If you don’t fancy making it yourself, head to one of these Dubai venues for a cooling scoop.
Shakespeare & Co
This quaint, quirky café has a distinctly Parisian vibe. The chain produces its own line of ice cream, locally produced in the UAE using natural ingredients. The selection includes ice cream cups in a choice of flavours, and lemon sorbet presented inside the shell of a fresh lemon. For something a little more out of the ordinary, try the best-selling ice cream cakes.
From Dhs16 per cup. Souk Al Bahar (04 425 7971). Other locations include: Emirates Hills (04 360 8886), The Dubai Mall (04 434 0195), The Village Mall, Jumeirah (04 344 6228).
Bo House Café
This JBR-based café revels in its ‘neighbourly’ image, and boasts a relaxed, laid-back environment. It also prides itself on its gelato, and rightly so: it won a hyperbole-crammed award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Gelato Worldwide’ at the Homemade Gelato Festival. It’s held annually in Agugliano, Italy, which is reputedly the birthplace of gelato: this Italian frozen dessert is traditionally made using eggs and less dairy fat.
Bo House offers more than 20 flavours of gelato, including mango and kiwi. Yet the bestsellers are classic Italian flavours pistachio and hazelnut.
From Dhs12 per scoop. The Walk, JBR (04 429 8655).
The Morelli family has been making gelato for more than 100 years, and the company has a chain of stores around the world. The Dubai-based outlet of the gelateria makes its own gelato on site at The Dubai Mall. There are a wide range of flavours and toppings available, but the chocolate nut sundae is a favourite.
From Dhs16 per scoop. The Dubai Mall (04 339 9053).
This café has gained a reputation for quality food, and the ice-cream is no exception. The café prides itself on using only the best, freshest ingredients, such as premium vanilla beans from Madagascar, alongside real fruit and real cream. It even makes the cake and biscuit additions used in some of the ice-cream flavours. There are some unusual flavours on offer: we love Funky Monkey, with banana, cookies and caramel.
From Dhs14 per scoop. Gold & Diamond Park, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 323 4350). Other locations: Al Murooj Rotana (04 343 3779); The Dubai Mall (04 339 8934); Festival City (04 232 6299); Mall of the Emirates (04 395 0967); Mirdif City Centre (04 284 3805).
This family-run gelateria was founded in Italy in 1947, and has been run by the same family ever since. Named after the founder’s daughter, the company is now global, with an outlet here in Barsha. It offers an ‘artisanal’ gelato experience, with the utmost care taken over the preparation and ingredients. Part of the La Romana secret is its use of traditional zabaione, an eggy Italian dessert.
From Dhs14 per scoop. Al Barsha Mall (04 434 0429).
The British are not normally known for their ice cream, but the ice cream and sorbet at this modern English venue is all made in house. The flavours offer a fairly unique experience, with combinations such as elderflower jelly and jam ripple, Turkish delight and chocolate brownie, alongside the more traditional strawberry and vanilla.
From Dhs50 per dish. Jumeirah Emirates Towers (04 319 8767).
Despite being a global chain, Carluccio’s UAE venues combine Italian know-how of ice cream and gelato making with a focus on locally sourced ingredients: for example, the milk comes fresh from a Dubai-based farm. The best seller here is the universal plain Jane of ice creams: vanilla. For something more unusual, try an affogato (which means ‘drowning’), an Italian classic of vanilla ice cream with a shot of hot espresso, served here with an Italian lingue di gatto biscuit.
From Dhs20 per serving (two scoops). The Dubai Mall (04 434 1320). Other locations: Mirdif City Centre (04 284 3728), Dubai Marina Mall (04 399 7844).
Watching your waist but still want to cool down? Try one of these lower-calorie options
Soft, light and many people’s favourite, Pinkberry offers unusual flavours such as coconut, green tea and pomegranate, plus a vast array of toppings.
From Dhs21 per cup. Mall of the Emirates (04 341 1378).
Offering a good range of flavoured yoghurts and toppings, such as cookies, hazelnut, pineapple, blueberry and choc brownie.
From Dhs12 per serving. Dubai Festival City (04 232 8289).
Frozen Yoghurt Factory
For an unusually healthy midnight snack, Frozen Yoghurt Factory is open until 1am. It offers more than 50 toppings, with different ‘daily’ toppings available too.
From Dhs13 per 100g. The Dubai Mall (04 330 8295).
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