The trip to Leicester was an impulse – something to do with the heatwave, and meeting Antonio De Vecchi and Daniele Taverna in Turin. All we talked about in Turin was food, and their passion was gelato…so much of a passion that they started Gelato Village in Leicester, England.
I’d never been to Leicester. Now I had two reasons to go.
To get there took an hour by train from London St Pancras, no stops, and then a fifteen minute walk across the city. Got a bit lost at one point but a local lady on her mobility scooter saved me.
“That way,” she said. “You’ll love old Leicester.”
Something like that…and she was right.
The centre was busy with shops and shoppers, but up by the cathedral it quietened a little, and when I turned into St Martin’s Square I found a small piazza of red brick angles, shops and cafes with the wide windows of Gelato Village along one of its edges.
The first impression was of glass and shine, of summery tables and cheerful customers, and then, when I stepped through the door, it was all about the gelato. Servers in pale browns with the word ‘conista’ on their backs, scooped from tubs filled with clouds of colour. Everything was spotless and well organised, with space for the queue and, for those who wanted to stay a little longer there were tables, each with carton-size information displays about what gelato is and why it is different from ice-cream.
Clearly this was no jumbly experiment on the back of a good idea – it was a brilliantly planned concept, around a quality product. I hardly needed to taste the gelato to know it would be good – but, just in case and purely for research purposes, I did.
My cup included two scoops of Fior di Latte – always the showcase for the quality of the milk and for the skill of the gelatiere – and one of deep red strawberry. The pale swirls of Fior di Latte were a simple, frozen wonder – rich cream whipped into clouds, fresh from summer grazing not far from Leicester – and the strawberry sorbetto was as juicy as it promised.
Antonio De Vecchi – who used to be a nurse at Great Ormond Street children’s hospital in London – told me that in gelato training in Italy he learnt that the main ingredient is the message, and for him it’s about a quality product, as locally sourced as possible.
“The work we do here every single day, the routine, is finding the best ingredients around the world, finding the right combinations, developing our own recipes and following the seasons.”
It seems that the hard part is to ensure enough fresh ingredients, especially in a world of mass produced food swallowed up by supermarkets. Two discoveries that Antonio De Vecchi and Daniele Taverna are particularly pleased about, are the milk they use and the honey. Their milk comes from a rare breed herd near Leicester at Belvoir Ridge Creamery, and the honey from the local Bee Farmer. Tracking down the other fruits and flavours is a never-ending hunt.
“Good, Fair and Clean Gelato” is not as simple as it sounds, but the end product for those of us lucky enough to taste it, and for the city of Leicester in particular, is pure pleasure – absolutely fresh and delicious, served from 11am until 11pm.
What a gift – put together by two ultra-organised, dedicated gelatiere who are as hopeful for their gelato, and their new city, as they are for their customers.
So that was my trip to Leicester. Many thanks to Antonio De Vecchi and Daniele Taverna for their time, and to Gelato Village for being such a bright and thought-filled scoop.
I did, of course, call in on Richard III. He had his sparkle … but it wasn’t quite the same as Fior di Latte in a heatwave.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018