The Best Gelato in Sydney

I don’t post about places I don’t like on this blog. Even though I have a (very) small readership, I feel that I’d be wasting people’s time if I was to write about a place I didn’t actually enjoy. Also, there are so many factors to take into account when reviewing a place’s food and staff that you can never take my word as gospel. Hell, taste is a subjective concept in itself so you can never take any opinion too seriously.

Except for this time.

This time? I’m going to try and find a definitive answer to a question that has been on a lot of people’s minds ever since a small gelato place in Enmore won an award for housing the BEST GELATO IN THE WORLD.

Messina fans were outraged.

N2 fans were astounded.

Anita cafe fans dropped their shopping.

Rivareno fans yelled but no one heard the outcries of three people.

And Cow & the Moon supporters nodded in a knowing manner.

Me? My opinion wasn’t fully formed. I had been to all of those places but had tried a different flavour every time and didn’t think the comparison would work. Each place offered different flavours and I had absolutely no intention of reviewing five different types of vanilla gelato…that post would just be too….vanilla.

I needed a formula to compare them and that formula didn’t come to me until a random Thursday morning when I was signing for a package. I gave the courier my signature and it hit me.

Signature.

I would just visit all five contenders in the one day, sample their signature flavours and write about it. I’d judge a winner based on price, flavours, textures, resilience (to melting) and intangibles. It’s not a perfect system, but I’m not a perfect blogger so it sort of makes sense. If you want to skip straight to the winner, scroll down and have a look at the table in which I give every place a score out of twenty five (five potential points for each category)!

Also, I was joined by my baby sister who will be referred to as ‘Blob’ in this post (heh).

Let’s get right into it because this one’s going to be a doozy. Let’s find out where the best gelato in Sydney is.

We started off the day at the early favourite:

Cow and the Moon in Enmore:

Cow and the Moon Gelato

The place that inspired this post. Recently crowned as possessing the best gelato in the world, the crowds have responded in force and now the award winning flavour can no longer be bought in bulk and taken away. Yeah, there’s a store that is actively trying to prevent people from buying their product so that everyone can have some.

The flavour in question? Mandorla affogato.

Cow-and-the-moon-mandorla-affogato
Mandorla affogato gelato with caramelised almonds sourced from Italy with single origin coffee on a Madagascan vanilla base

Price:

2 scoops for $5. Normally I’d get two different flavours but I didn’t want the affogato to be tainted. This would turn out to be the best option for your wallet as the two scoops were quite large and gelato in the city is just pricier.

Flavour:

Spoiler alert: I’ve had this before but it was mixed with a few other flavours and that’s not the best way to gauge how great an individual flavour is. It tasted completely different to how I remembered it. The nuts really came through as did the coffee caramel sauce without competing flavours slowly seeping into the mix. Way better than the previous times I had it, I think it’s safe to say that it’ll rank quite highly on the flavour scale.

Texture:

My favourite types of gelato have always had a creamy texture. If I wanted ice cream or shaved ice, I’d have ice cream or shaved ice. Give me that creamy, silky texture that gelato is known for. Cow and the Moon does that with aplomb and was definitely amongst the upper tier within this small competition. Crunchy nuts concealed within smooth gelato is a winning combination for me.

Resilience:

Warning, the following statement will be repeated a lot throughout this post. It was a really, really hot day and I swear I saw humans turn into piles of goo. Imagine how difficult it was for gelato to retain its solid form in these conditions. We didn’t rate Cow and the Moon’s resilience very high at first but it turned out to be one of the sturdiest competitors.

Intangibles:

In an interview, Michael Jordan said he never took a night off because there was always someone in the crowd or sitting behind a TV that was watching him for the first time. He knows this person might’ve heard that he was the greatest of all time and he never wanted to disappoint. Think of that pressure, the weight of those expectations and the talent required to not disappoint millions of people who see you as a basketball deity. That’s what Cow and the Moon has to deal with on a daily basis. Most customers are walking in and expecting the best gelato in the world  and they’re living up to it.

Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato on Urbanspoon

Anita Cafe

anita-cafe-gelato (2)
Anita Cafe in Central Park

The newest establishment on the list and one of the biggest reasons people make the journey to Central Park in Chippendale. I’ve reviewed the place before and said that it was a true contender to Messina’s crown not knowing that Cow & the Moon was already getting fitted for it.

Let’s break it down one more time featuring my old friend: Cookieman

cookieman gelato anita cafe
Cookieman gelato

Price:

1 tiny scoop for $5. This was a pretty tiny scoop of cookieman but hey, we were in for a day filled with gelato so maybe the pricing department knew we were coming.

Flavour:

First of all, doesn’t Cookieman sound like the most delicious superhero name of all time? Imagine this movie: some big bad villain (maybe a giant sized food blogger) is wreaking havoc by eating up the population of a village inhabited by sentient cookies. One day, one cookie in particular decides enough is enough and becomes….The Cookieman.

Unfortunately, I’m the villain in this situation and I eat him up. Spoiler alert: he’s delicious. I love the sprinkle of cookies throughout the gelato. It was very rich and my evil tastebuds welcomed their presence in my cavern of doom…yes, this is what I’ll refer to my mouth as from now on.

Texture:

This is where Cookieman loses out to the rest of the competition. I’ve had it before and recalled how the texture of the gelato was akin to flour or icing sugar. Generally speaking, I’m a fan of creamier gelatos but I can be swayed if you’re offering something unique as long as it’s an improvement or on par. Whilst pleasant, it just didn’t compare as well to the other gelato we sampled on the day.

Resilience:

Another area in which Anita unfortunately didn’t hold up well. Look, it was an incredibly hot day (at its peak, the day we sampled all of our gelato reached 38 degrees). Poor Cookieman started melting as soon as we lifted him from the bench and before long a nice moat of melted gelato had built up around our cup. We had to eat it pretty fast so it didn’t turn into yogurt. In fairness, I melt girls upon touch and my hair was looking pretty good that day.

Intangibles:

I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again: I adore Anita Cafe’s location within the Central Park complex. I’d be there way more if I had any semblance of a dating life. There are plenty of great restaurants in the area and topping it off with some gelato at Anita Cafe would be a killer way to end the night…as long as it wasn’t a very heated evening (save the hotness for the bedroom).

La Mama del Gelato Anita on Urbanspoon

Gelato Messina

Gelato Messina in Surry Hills
Gelato Messina in Surry Hills

The reigning king and favourite of foodies across Sydney. The benchmark that every gelato establishment is compared to. Some might even go as far as to say that is the iFat of the gelato scene….ok, no one has ever said that and I honestly hope they don’t because I’m a joke.

Gelato Messina is dead Sirius like Harry’s godfather in the Order of the Phoenix.

Let’s take a look at its most famous spell: Salted caramel gelato with white chocolate

Salted caramel gelato at Gelato Messina
Salted caramel gelato with white chocolate chips

Price:

1 scoop for $4. I’m pretty sure there are some old-timers muttering sentences starting with ‘back in my day’ but you can’t stop inflation. It won’t stop me from sucking out helium out of party balloons but I’m going to keep trying.

Flavour:

I told my buddy Miguel from I’m Still Hungry that I hadn’t tried the salted caramel gelato from Messina before. He reacted the same way I did the time my date told me she didn’t want to go to the formal anymore and ended up going with one of my buddies from primary school. This is the flavour people recommend when you take your first trip to Messina and somehow I had avoided it completely even though Messina and I have been acquaintances for years. The salted caramel wasn’t incredibly salty and Blob said it tasted more like regular caramel but I think I prefer it that way. The white chocolate chips were rich and creamy.

Texture:

The gelato was creamy and as smooth as I imagine myself to be. Messina’s texture is one of its calling cards and a big reason as to why it’s still the most respected veteran of the gelato game in Sydney.

Resilience:

Messina proved itself to be one of the more solid of all its contemporaries. We took it right into the blistering hot sun as it would’ve been impossible to secure a seat at Messina. We ate it along the way to our next stop and its resilience was extremely admirable as most gelatos would’ve turned into smoothies in the heat.

Intangibles:

Confession: I’m not a huge fan of caramel or white chocolate and yet I still demolished the gelato. It’s texture, great subtle flavours and trademark orange and green cup (yeah, I still think they have the best cup) still make it the standard that all other gelato is expected to at least match. That’s hard to do.

Gelato Messina on Urbanspoon

Rivareno Gelato

Rivareno Gelato in Surry Hills
Rivareno Gelato in Surry Hills

I first learned of Rivareno Gelato during a disastrous night that involved waiting outside a couple of restaurants for what felt like hours on end, getting confronted by an old acquaintance and living a scene which felt like it was extracted out of a Korean soap opera. The one shining light I had was tasting the creamy gelato Rivareno offered.

I had a couple of flavours on that miserable night but I finally met its signature flavour: Alice

Alice at Rivareno, Surry Hills
“Alice”: Mascarpone combined with a splash of Masala and then topped with melted giandiuia

Price:

1 scoop for $4.90. However this was a massive scoop and the cup was more stuffed than training bras in sixth grade.

Flavour:

Alice is easily the most unique combination I had on the day. Mascarpone is an Italian cheese made from cream that I first encountered back when I made my initial visit to Waffle Bant. Combined with the masala and the melted giandunia on the and we had a flavour combo that can’t be matched elsewhere. There wasn’t one overwhelming and the balance was great. I’ve got to show some more love to the giandunia (which is a sweet chocolate spread similar to Nutella) and I’d love to drizzle it over all my desserts. As different as it was, Alice just didn’t pack the same punch as everything else we had on the day.

Texture:

I’m going to come right out and say it. Rivareno’s gelato has the best texture out of any other place I’ve tried in Sydney. I haven’t tried every place but out of the ones I have, Rivareno’s silky smooth gelato just can’t be beaten. I don’t think it can even be matched. Going into this project, I considered Rivareno the dark horse to win it all due to my memories of its velvety texture.

Resilience:

Story time. Blob and I arrived at Rivareno fifteen minutes before it opened and waited outside as we nursed our dairy filled stomachs. We were the first in and the first to cause a huge mess due to how quickly my beloved velvet turned into liquid.

Intangibles:

The worst thing about Rivareno is that it lives on the same street as Messina. People craving an icy kick will more often than not go to the more well known establishment. It’s criminally underrated and I’ve grown to consider it one of my go-to dessert spots in Surry Hills.

Gelato Messina on Urbanspoon

N2 Extreme Gelato

N2 Extreme Gelato
N2 Extreme Gelato

Our final stop! At this point in the day, my dear Blob was threatening to punch me anytime I made a subpar joke (which was often). We were both exhausted from walking all around the city area and it looked like it was about to rain as well. The only thing that kept me going was knowing I had N2 to look forward to.

Let’s look forward:

n2-nitrogen-gelato-ferero-rocher
Ferero Reveal

Price:

Easily the most expensive scoop we had but to be honest I don’t really mind. This was another cup worth wolf-whistling at and the amount of effort required to craft this aesthetically pleasing cup made it all worth it.

Flavour:

N2’s signature flavour is its lack of signature flavour. Its true calling card is its revolving door of eclectic mixes of variables that don’t seem to work on paper but work in gelato. In saying all that, nothing lights up Instagram quite like the Ferero Reveal and I made an executive decision and decided that this was N2’s main attraction.

Was it a biased decision? You bet your perfectly shaped ass it was. I love nutella, I love ferero rochers and I absolutely loved the Ferero Reveal gelato. This felt like I was eating a giant ferero rocher with gelato inside. How do you top that? What other culinary concoction can you even imagine to match how desirable that last sentence was?

Texture:

In terms of the gelato itself, it wasn’t as creamy as Rivareno (in fairness, who is?) or even as creamy as Cow and the Moon. It’s flavours were great but it resembled ice cream more than gelato. N2’s texture has always been a bit of a mixed bag as they rely mostly on their flavour combinations. As a whole, Ferero Reveal’s diverse landscape was an absolute joy to navigate. The cocoa pops that served as hazelnuts, the wafer, the syringe which allowed you squirt liberal amounts of chocolate all over the place. There was just so much in play that all my senses were going haywire (in a good way).

Resilience:

Once again, this was not a perfect system. The weather had cooled slightly and Ferero Reveal’s protective chocolate shell gave it a bit of an advantage over every other competitor. It didn’t melt much at all and this goes hand in hand with the fact that its texture is just different from all previous gelato establishments.

Intangibles:

I still remember the first time I visited N2. The pyrotechnics, the liquid nitrogen lingering in the air as the gelato scientists worked their craft to create gelatinous concoctions. I love gimmicks and flair and N2 really has that part down pat. In terms of Ferero Reveal specifics, there’s a reason that it dominates Instagram feeds. The syringe is hilarious AND practical. I’m only half of that. I got topped by a flimsy piece of plastic that squirts chocolate.

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

***

Ok, so now the moment of truth. Who won my heart, mind and stomach? Who has the best gelato in Sydney?

BOOM! Cow and the Moon reigns supreme.
BOOM! Cow and the Moon reigns supreme.

Final Thoughts

I am very aware that this scoring system is flawed as is the signature flavour criteria. Every single one of these gelato establishments is a winner in my eyes and each could’ve won on a different day or if I had opted for a different flavour. In saying all of that, this was an on the day thing and Cow and the Moon will be able to take this one home.

Excuse me, I have to go and look up gym memberships because I’ve gained five kilos over this weekend and I’m not sure how.

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