Hot Weather, Cool Snack: Gelato Joy Across Singapore
STORY: Annette Tan
21 July 2022
The oppressive heat of late has us dreaming about gelato constantly. Cool, creamy and comforting – we want nothing more than to hibernate in air-conditioning with a cone or three of gelato in hand.
For the uninitiated, there is a difference between gelato and good ol’ ice cream. Gelato means “frozen” in Italian and contains less milk fat. It also has less air churned into it so gelato is typically denser than its American-style cousin, ice cream.
The story goes that gelato was created by Florentine designer and architect Bernado Buontalenti in the late 1500s when he was asked by the ruling Medici family to prepare an awe-inspiring feast for the visiting King of Spain. He made a custard of sugar, eggs and honey flavoured with bergamot and orange, churned it with salt and gelato was born.
Gelato soon spread around the world and to America in 1770 when Italian immigrants brought it with them.
Now that you know the story of gelato, here’s a list of places to find it.
The warm scent of Birds of Paradise’s thyme-infused waffle cones is like a siren call to its gelato counter. There, delicate flavours built from botanicals beckon — strawberry basil, spiced pear, earl grey and lemongrass. Each is exquisitely subtle and balanced.
This café is popular for its fun and ever-changing roster of flavours. One day you might find ondeh ondeh gelato, the next, honeydew sago, salted egg cereal or chempedak.
But the next time you return, there is no guarantee that those flavours will still be on the menu. Butterknife Folk at Funan operates on a "no menu" concept where the café's Instagram Stories and a 2.2-metre mirror above the gelato showcase reflect the flavours available that day.
This gelato gem, with two shops in Bishan and Bedok, takes pride in making everything from scratch… including stone-grinding almond and macadamia for nut pastes and making yoghurt using the sous vide method.
Check out the coconut gelato, yoghurt speculoos and its seasonal flavours, such as brown butter spiced honey and bergamot mojito.
A testament to the quality of Denzy’s gelato is the fact that it took the top prize at the inaugural Singapore Gelato Championship 2019.
This store along South Bridge Road gets its name from the word "dopamine", which describes a neurotransmitter in our bodies that helps us feel pleasure. No doubt, the gelatos here spark joy. In traditional Italian style, they are kept in pozzetti or lidded containers that keep the gelato at exactly the right temperature.
Some interesting flavours here include soursop sorbet, butter crumble, and matcha cheesecake.
For added indulgence, go the whole hog and have your gelato on a crisp, airy croissant.
This hidden gem, well-known for its ultra-unique flavours, has two locations: one a stone’s throw away from Jalan Besar Stadium, and another tucked away in a quiet corner of Faber Drive. Think Yamanashi peach and lemongrass; sakura smoke, artichoke and pear compote (though admittedly, this was disappointing since it tasted mostly of smoke); and Kyoto shiso and yuzu jelly.
What we like are the delicately floral mix of lychee, raspberry and rose as well as the rich 70 per cent Guanaja dark chocolate and Valencia orange peel. Get those with an order of the lightly chewy and mightily delicious Tokyo mochi waffles.
The owners of this pretty café come from culinary pedigree. One worked at the feted Blue Hills at Stone Barn in New York, while the other boasts a stint at Le Clarence Paris. Both met at Cheek By Jowl (now Cheek Bistro).
Their small-batch gelato comes in creative flavours like soursop mint, mango coconut and burnt white chocolate, though traditionalists would still find more familiar flavours like pistachio and Tahitian vanilla on the menu.