Amidst the tourist chaos, Camden Lock has some surprisingly foodie stalls, but they tend more towards cupcakes and hog roasts than high-tech culinary art. However, Chin Chin Labs has become one of the coolest destinations for sweet-toothed Londoners.
Hidden amongst the clothes stalls on a cobbled stretch opposite Shaka Zulu, you’ll see a beautifully-designed, minimalist laboratory, complete with test tubes filled with coloured liquid – and a white-coated figure or two engulfed in clouds of steam.
Owners Ahrash and Nyisha use liquid nitrogen to make their ice creams and sorbets right in front of the customers, and once you’ve tried it you’ll realise that this is more than just a gimmick. The nitrogen freezes instantly, resulting in exceptionally smooth ice cream with a texture subtly different from even the best Italian gelato.
Madagascan vanilla and Valrhona chocolate are always on offer, and Chin Chin labs adds an extra level of originality by offering a selection of inventive toppings such as popping candy, caramelised pretzels and grilled white chocolate. The real attractions of the shop, however, are the weekly and sometimes daily specials.
Standout flavours include basil chocolate chip – a nice twist on the more standard mint – and Christmas tree, composed of five mysterious ingredients. Last week the special was a particularly ambitious cigar-smoked caramel (pictured), a twist on the fashionable salted caramel.
Not being a fan of tobacco, I brought along my dad – a cigar afficionado – to sample the flavour but found myself stealing larger and larger scoops from his cup.
We both agreed that it was an unexpectedly delicious combination, the tobacco adding the perfect aftertaste to the combination of salt and sugar.
The parlour is always bustling and it’s one of the friendliest places in the market. Upcoming specials include green grass and a Wimbledon-themed strawberry and hay. It’s their second anniversary in a few weeks, and celebrations are being planned with cakes from their new pastry chef – there’s never been a better time (especially today, the longest day of the year) to give Marine Ices a miss and try something more exciting.
Chin Chin Labs, 49-50 Camden Lock Place, London NW1 8AF
Words: Anna Béar