Saturday, 2 April 2011

Freggo Review

Forget meeting your friends in a pub before you head out clubbing, apparently the ‘thang’ to do now is ‘shake and cake’! Well, I say that, but it hasn’t entirely wiped out the popularity of bars and pubs just yet, of course, as there are very few places like Freggo around to cope with the demand of this growing trend. Another of Swallow Street’s little gems, Argentine Ice Cream Bar Freggo is related (as in, ‘sweet’ little baby sister status) to Gaucho (big ‘beefy’ brother) next door. Don’t think of it as an ice cream parlour, because it’s not. It’s far funkier than that. This place oozes cool, from the mirrored & deep purple padded walls, to the funky retro stools and cocktail bar ambience, all enhanced by Ibiza style tunes - think Blue Marlin on a Sunday afternoon and you’ll get my drift.

My date for the night was probably not as appropriate as I’d originally thought. I assumed that my 7 year old son, an ice cream and shake-aholic, would be the best person to judge how good this place was. And, give him his due, he offered some very insightful observations about various flavours and textures. However, once we’d tucked ourselves nicely into a cosy banquette corner (surely designed with lovers in mind, sharing cake and licking hot chocolate from one another’s lips) the crowd descended. Cool, edgy, pre-club, straight off the pages of Style or Grazia magazine; relaxing, chatting over espresso and ice cream… all felt so chic and cosmopolitan and I suddenly longed for my ‘cool friends’ and wanted to ditch my son! Then, a young family with children who clearly considered Freggo their local, bobbed in for a huge tub of take-away ice cream and Alfajores (traditional Argentine cookies filled with sweet caramelised milk); followed by some tourists, then some nearby office workers, then some more funky-looking clubbers……it was just an endless stream of interesting looking people. I could have sat, people-watching all night. Dangerous though, because I reckon you could put on a stone in this place in under an hour!

Meanwhile, we were tucking in to an array of gorgeous Argentine yummies. Sweet stuff for me isn’t a natural preference so I insisted on having a 3 cheese tart to start – stilton, parmesan and mascarpone – clearly the Italian links were coming through here. It was good. Quite subtle, but enough to satisfy my savoury craving and there’s a pretty good selection of other savoury things too if, like me, you can’t just go steaming straight in to the sweet stuff. ‘Better have the Alfajores’ we thought, ‘If the regulars are having that.’ This was the lightest shortbread biscuit I’ve ever had, covered in coconut and filled with sweet ‘dulce de leche’ caramelised milk. One was enough. Lovely, but enough. My little man had the cheesecake; a crafty forkful told me this was more my kinda sweet thing. We fought, we shared, and we ordered more. All the while, Grace, Freggo’s very ‘dulce’ manageress, patiently explained everything, bringing us a ‘taster’ selection of ice creams and sorbets, one containing red wine which I devoured in seconds.

Now I know why ice cream culture is so big in Argentina, where Freggos (Freddo over there) are two a penny and there’s on average 50 varieties of ice cream to choose from and it costs more than beef! Apparently, the biggest question the cool crowd ask themselves before going out is, ‘Ice cream or clubbing?’ and it would seem that ice cream wins hands down. Well, actually, here you kinda get it all – the tunes, the atmosphere and the ice cream.

So, before heading off in search of Father Christmas and pretty lights, I sipped a dark, orange & cinnamon hot chocolate; silky, rich, and utterly indulgent that left me feeling like Juliette Binoche in Chocolat. It had the cutest little meringues floating elegantly on top that, once popped in your mouth, dispersed like sweet clouds and left you wistfully craving more. A Freggo shake left my son dreamily muttering the words, ‘Mummy, it’s like heaven in here for me you know.’ ‘I know darling. I said the same when I met Freggo’s big beefy brother, Gaucho.’

Freggo Ice Cream Bar,
27-29 Swallow Street,
London, W1B 4QR

Phone: 020 7287 9506

1 comment:

  1. Only in London! I've never seen such a hip, un-parlory ice cream parlor! Your son sounds adorable!