Polish lody may not by as famous as Italian gelato, but they are not bad at all. For the truly local experience, go for strawberry and blueberry flavours. I used to overlook the “śmietankowe” (cream) but now I’m quite hooked on it. It has a refreshing citrusy note. For more choices, refer to the one-pager I wrote for this month’s Warsaw Insider (pg 22) or see below. (On the picture: gałkowe = scooped; zapraszamy = welcome)
The Top Scoops
The Insider snoops around for the scoop on the fave flavours in town.
“It depends on what you like” or “everything is delicious” are the wrong answers. That’s the response from most ice cream store assistants when I wanted them to help me nail down three scoops from the multi-coloured temptations in the ice cream display. I got the wrong answers because I asked the wrong question. By switching strategy and dialing up the charm offensive with the inquiry of: “Which are your favourites?”, I got the ladies (this is not a sexist thing but all of the ice cream parlours’ frontline crew I’ve encountered in Warsaw are women) smiling and disclosing their personal likes.
At Malinova, the pride and joy of the house are gelato al biscotto and pistachio. Whenever Polish papers or TV channels release their ranking of the best ice cream in the capital, Malinova is invariable up there with the top three. The sales girl threw in dolce latte as another personal fave. Despite the Italian monikers, the manager stressed that the recipes are 100% Polish, adding, “We have a total of 70 varieties. And we develop new types all the time. Everything is made in house, using Polish milk and cream.” You would have to make several trips to sample all 70 since at any one time there’s about 20 sorts for sale.
Another perennial winner is Grycana, whose parlours are all across the country. Always doing brisk biz is the store on ul. Puławska. “Mint, strawberry and mango,” declared the salesgirl when I asked the right question. My rule of thumb was to stay clear of tropical fruits since they tend to taste like essence from a bottle rather than made from fresh fruits. But so disarming was the salesgirl that I succumbed to her gospel and ordered a helping of mango sherbet. Though it wasn’t bad, I redoubled my conviction to trust old experiences.
Back on the trail of small-scaled producers, I swung by W. Hoduń in the Old Town. Try playing Q&A with the staff and you will surely be pelted with wilting looks from the people standing in line behind you. Judging by the long queues especially on sunny weekends, everything must be good.
Away from prime tourist real estate is Akwarium. Like Malinova, they don’t use scoops but ice-cream spades. Quite decisively, the salesgirl singled out blood orange (czerwona pomarańcza) sherbet as a must-try. “The colour looks artificial,” I blurted out and immediately got whacked by a wilting look. Upon sampling, I was sold. It’s refreshing with a pleasant bitter tang. She also shortlisted the Cookies and Malaga, while a regular patron chimed in that the zabajone was worth the calories. Akwarium’s main outlet is in Saska Kępa, where you’ll have the full selection of 45 ice creams and sherbets to ponder over. The branch on the left bank has 26.
Going at zł. 3 per scoop, Irena Café, also in Saska Kępa, is one of the priciest. Though a modest operation, it’s the ice cream spot for people in the know from the neighbourhood. Armed with a small crew of tasters, we had licks of śmietanka (plain cream), chocolate, pistachio and blueberry. They are definitely worth going out of the way for even if you live on the other side of the river.
Also worth doing is poking your head into your neighbourhood’s cukiernia (cake shops). Some would roll out a seasonal range of lody for the ice cream-loving Poles.
Akwarium (ul. Francuska 50/9, ul. Grójecka 19/25; tel. 22 616 24 59)
Grycana (multiple locations; ul. Puławska 11, tel. 22 849 89 38, Daily 10:00-20:00)
Irena Café (ul. Paryska 39/1, tel. 22 353 11 33, http://www.cukierniairena.pl, daily 10:00-20:00)
Malinova (ul. Niepodległości 130, tel. 22 849 87 32, Daily 11:00-21:00)
W.Hoduń (ul. Nowomiejska 7/9, tel. 22 635 73 46, http://www.lody-warszawa.pl)