Chin Chin Dessert Club, Soho, London
The Willy Wonka of the London dessert scene, Chin Chin exploded at Camden Market (not literally). Now they’ve since opened another store right on Greek Street in Soho. This was dangerously close to my office. I ended up doing a cheeky dessert run on a few tired afternoons.
The angle of Chin Chin is that their desserts are liquid nitrogen-based ice creams. This isn’t a new thing, I had my share in Melbourne at places like Nitro Lab and the technique has been around for over a decade. This is the first time I’ve enjoyed it though. Liquid nitrogen has a boiling point of -196c and it has a variety of uses. It is used in medicine as well as a coolant for technology. Liquid nitrogen works in the kitchen by instantly freezing ingredients as well as creating a cloud of vapour when exposed to the air. Arguably the latter is the theatre that attracts the hip-hunting crowds to Chin Chin’s very busy store in Camden. That one also seems to have a constant massive queue, whereas the Dessert House in Soho is much more tame.
There’s not so much visuals for the technique at Chin Chin Dessert Club, and unlike the nearby Four Seasons the ice-cream isn’t made to order. All the action happens in the backroom. That’s not a bad thing anyway, it has no discernible impact on the final product and all that fog is for show. The base “ice-cream” is already a treat.
The flavours are loud and live up their titles. I’m a big fan of their burnt butter caramel. Some flavours are seasonal and current ones includes the likes of: tonka bean, coconut sticky rice and chai latte. The Camden and Hawker House store also have exclusive flavours so that’s even more reason to scope them all out.
The glory of Chin Chin lies in it’s special dishes. These are a little more photogenic and feature the ice-cream in different forms. As the pictures suggest, this can include being in choux pastry, or as a cookie sandwich. I don’t rate the cookie sandwich – way too sugary – but the choux is nice as they pipe custard in it too. Whatever you order, just make sure to eat it fast. It melts as quickly as it gets frozen. Get serviettes.
The most glorious of the ones I’ve tested so far is the black corn avocado taco. The avocado ice-cream is subtler than I would like, but the waffle corn taco combined with the ever-s0-slightly salty corn is a unique and tasty experience. It reminds me of flavours in Malaysia, where my family originated from, as they often have corn in desserts.
This black taco tastes completely different to anything in that country though. Chin Chin Dessert Club is progressive, it’s unusual and it’s well worth checking out. Finally, some theatrical food that delivers a showstopper.