Review: Aromi vs Jack's Gelato

Image credit: Costanza Pearce

Summer is a-coming in… and so are the tourists. If you’re ready to brave the crowds, look no further for the run-down on two of Cambridge city centre’s best places to get your gelato fix.

Aromi

A favourite with the bookies, this authentic Sicilian deli and eatery is a classic. Proper Italian gelato made fresh every day – it’s always been a no-brainer for me and my Italian blood. Faced with a full choice of flavours despite the lengthy queue, I turned to two old friends: Bacio and Limone. The first is a hazelnut-studded chocolate dream, named after Perugina’s Umbrian chocolates filled with whole hazelnuts, and it did not disappoint. Balancing out the creamy goodness with something a little more refreshing, the lemon sorbet provided me with the sweet hydration I craved. Fresh and far from sickly, it’s no surprise that this sorbet is made by people from a place famed for its lemons. For £4.10, my cup was well and truly stuffed, and I wasn’t complaining.

Did I mention it’s Italian? And so is gelato. Challenging Aromi at what they know best is a bold claim – enter Jack…

Jack’s Gelato

Just around the corner, tricycle ice cream seller Jack van Praag opened his first shop in April. Using organic and fair-trade ingredients, as well as the odd home-grown vegetable, the ice cream here is made in small batches, offering twelve flavours every day from a repertoire of around 200. In the interests of a fair experiment, I tried to create as similar a cup as possible, opting for chocolate fondant and lemon. Although not as dark in colour as I expected, the chocolate delivered a flavour intense enough to satisfy a chocolate junkie like myself, and it’s only as I write that I realise my expectation of something richer and darker stemmed from my understanding of ‘fondente’ chocolate in the Italian sense of dark (as opposed to milk or white), rather than a melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding. Judging from the very English vibe of this ice cream parlour, it was a rookie error. The lemon ice cream was the unimpeded highlight here – despite being a little less refreshing than Aromi’s sorbet due to its creamy nature, the pieces of rind gave it a great texture and edge to counter the sweetness.  Just cheaper than Aromi at £4, my only real complaint was that the two perfect ice cream balls left a lot of air inside my cup – great for the ‘gram, but less of the cold stuff to kick my revision blues.

The verdict

Can I crown a victor, or was my ice cream consumption all in vain? Apologies if you were looking for a straight answer, but in true Cambridge fashion I’m afraid there isn’t one. It really depends on what you’re looking for.

If you crave a taste of Italy, gelato in its truest form or you need to escape the bubble to a summer holiday fantasy, then Aromi is the place, no doubt. But if you’re all about the Great British summer idyll, Jack is your man. With flavours like Strawberries & Cream, Damson and even Elderflower sorbet, the use of the word ‘gelato’ isn’t fooling us. Clearly the suggestion is more of luxury than classic Italy, but this is far from problematic, and the celebration of Britishness that Jack’s Gelato presents, from the chic and simple décor to the imaginative flavours, is full of charm. The beauty is that the rotation of flavours means you’ll never tire of them (if you manage to even try them all, I’ll be seriously impressed), but it does also mean that you can’t have a familiar 'flavourite' without risking disappointment. Jack’s for the more adventurous and spontaneous among you then, and Aromi for the comfort of knowing that if what you really wanted was the Elderflower sorbet, you can have it as long as the tourists didn’t eat it all first!

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