Walking briskly on my way to loiter with intent in Piccadilly bookstore Hatchards last week, I was halted in my tracks by the sight of a summery ice cream cart outside the main entrance of Fortnum & Mason. Thinking that my 13-year-old son, who was accompanying me, might like refreshment, I stopped to see what was for sale and was greeted by an array of chic pastel-coloured tubs. “Afternoon Tea Ice Cream,” I read out to my son. “Not for me,” he replied, but by then, the efficient seller had won me over with a sample of the Rose Ripple, which, although I don’t have a sweet tooth, really hit the spot.
Books bought, we decided to venture into The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason, where it has launched an Afternoon Tea Ice Cream Sundae (£14, second picture): a layered concoction of the new Strawberry and Scones and Rose Ripple (first picture) ice creams, with Cucumber and Mint sorbet and Afternoon Blend Tea syrup, topped with Italian meringue, a rose éclair and a strawberry jam and cream scone. Adding a bit of spice was the fourth and most intriguing of the new flavours: Coronation ice cream, made with mango and mustard, curry and mayonnaise (but, thankfully, not chicken), encased in a tiny cornet perched on the side. And it was this that I actually enjoyed most.
We collected tubs (£5 for 250ml) in the food hall on our way out and tried them all separately the following day – Rose Ripple was the clear favourite, and we agreed that the Coronation needed the contrast of the cornet to work. I shall now, no doubt, be paying this ever-innovative London institution a visit for its quirky ice creams as much as traditional scotch eggs, handmade chocolates and its range of teas.