Have I mentioned to you that I very rarely learn my lesson (all of my high school teachers are nodding sadly)?
After my last epic ordeal involving sampling multiple servings of gelato in a day, I needed a long break. Ok, I caved and had gelato the following week but that’s a whole week without my drug of choice (other drugs of choice: fried chicken, burgers, pizza and you).
I wasn’t going to do anything like that unless someone or something forced my hand.
Aqua S forced my hand.
Suddenly, soft serve was all the rage and there were furious debates occurring in every office, classroom, locker room and Thai massage parlours about who had the best soft serve in Sydney.
No one gave a definitive answer, it was like we were discussing that ugly ass dress that could be seen as white/gold or blue/black all over again.
I’m here to provide an answer.
Here’s the formula once again for everyone visiting iFat for the first time (most likely last time either, I swear I’m not as offensive in person):
I visited all seven contenders in the one day and sampled what I believed were their signature flavours. I’d judge a winner based on price, flavour, 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’ll be getting the soft serve by itself with no toppings because I feel that getting toppings will put the places that don’t offer toppings at a disadvantage.
Unfortunately, my little sister Blob who joined me for the gelato post has filed a restraining order against me because of the abuse I imparted upon her stomach last time. For this mission, I was joined by my friend, favourite feminine brother from another mother and Beyond the Food alumni Miss Nutellasum herself for this iteration.
Let’s get started with the favourite:
In all my time as a food blogger (I’ve only been a food blogger for about five minutes but still) I’ve never witnessed such a meteoric rise from a single establishment. Aqua S has single handily killed the froyo craze and ignited a soft serve frenzy we haven’t seen since McDonalds restored the 30c price tag for their cones.
The hype has been absolutely ridiculous. What’s funny is that I was actually one of the first on the scene and I remember a time when there was no one in there but the staff. I am so happy about them blowing up cause I’m such a huge fan of their product.
Let’s get to the categories.
Aqua S isn’t cheap. Soft serve in a cone or a small cup will set you back $3.80 and extra toppings will cost you $1.50 a pop.
But hey, you’re not a certified Instagrammer until you have a photo of one of these bad boys on your feed. There hasn’t been blue this hot since the Eiffel 65 song from the 90s (I’m blue da ba dee da ba dee).
I go to Aqua S on a weekly basis but I’ve never had its signature flavour by itself. Going into it I thought that the sea salt flavour is just meant to complement one of the flavours of the week (Aqua S changes flavours every two weeks but flavours of the weeks doesn’t sound right). It’s like Steve Carrell in Bruce Almighty, hilarious in a secondary role to Jim Carrey but give him an entire movie like Evan Almighty and it just doesn’t work as well.
I was completely wrong.
The sea salt flavour is more like any member of the Avengers not named Hawkeye meaning it’s great in an ensemble and just as awesome going solo (sorry, had to go for back to back movie references, I was feeling it.
The sea salt flavour is very buttery but has a nice hint of sweetness so it doesn’t feel like you’re just downing table salt in soft serve form.
A note on texture before I get into Aqua S’s specifically. Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to food items. Some people like pickles in their cheeseburgers, others don’t. Some people like their tea cold and some like it hot. Some people like Anna Kendrick movies and some people don’t have souls.
When it comes to soft serve, some people like it creamy and other people prefer it to be icy. I don’t really have a preference, if you’re creamy, make it good. If you’re icy, make it good. That’s how I like my soft serve = good.
Back to Aqua S: it’s good AND creamy without being on the incredibly heavy side which is quite a mean feat considering its salt flavoured.
The weather was really cool unlike the last time I went for a project so the resilience of all sampled ice creams wasn’t put to the test. It stayed solid for a while which allowed us to enjoy it at our own pace and didn’t turn into a puddle of blue ooze like a Chinese knockoff version of Flubber.
There hasn’t been a food item this photogenic since Black Star Pastry first launched its strawberry/watermelon cake. Do you think the owners of Azoto throw things across the room every time someone they follow posts a picture of an Aqua S product. They totally went for the photogenic angle but didn’t think about painting their walls blue.
There was a hole in the Sydney dessert scene and Aqua S is filling that role spectacularly. Everyone else sorta….blue it.
They were the go-to place for everyone wanting a green tea fix and now it’s predominantly visited when Aqua S is too full. Their matcha soft serve has gone through a series of revamps with a change in formula, machine, matcha powder and a tonne of other behind the scenes things that come with making soft serve.
Let’s take a gander.
$2.90 for a very generous serving of matcha soft serve as well as arguably the best cone within the soft serve block of Town Hall (yes Aqua S, Chanoma, Fujipan and Mizuya are all a stone’s throw away from each other).
As I mentioned in the introduction, Chanoma’s soft serve recipe has undergone a tonne of changes more drastic than Miley Cyrus going from Hannah Montana to whatever the Hell she is now (confession: I f*ckling love Wrecking Ball. It’s one of the best pop songs to sing in the shower). Its current iteration is actually pretty awesome using matcha from Ito En which leaves a slightly bitter and powdery aftertaste.
Very firm and solid. Not as creamy as Aqua S but hey, who is?
Sticky hands were not an issue whatsoever. That’s one of the benefits of having an icier soft serve as they tend to be a tad more resilient than their creamy brethren,
Their fries are absolutely delicious (go with the seaweed or chilli/garlic shaker options) when dipped in Aqua S’s soft serve. I went with a couple of my favourite people (who double as some of my favourite food bloggers, what’s up Chocolatesuze and Eilxrrr) and dipped up an entire serving of their fries in some classic sea salt soft serve. You also can’t look past the fact that they have a tonne of great drinks (and one especially awesome ebi hot dog) for you to enjoy before you get your serving of soft serve.
Hot dogs and ice cream? That’s a match-a made in heaven.
Gelato Messina Dessert Bar
Oooh an old competitor rises again to throw it’s creamy hat into the ring. Messina’s status as one of Sydney’s pre-eminent dessert kings has never been deserted and it’s dessert bar in Darlinghurst has just solidified its standing. With kooky creations and puntastic names, Messina Dessert Bar is a force to be reckoned with.
But how’s their soft serve?
At first glance, $6 for soft serve is pretty steep. However, it is an incredibly heavy cone that’s filled to the brim (I may have done a couple of curls before sampling the soft serve).
Messina’s dessert bar rotates their soft serve flavours quite often and post what’s on offer on their Facebook page. During this visit, I asked the staff what the most popular pick in the current rotation was and they told me it was the single origin dark chocolate. It was a tad bitter but very enjoyable. The rich chocolate is the type of chocolate you’d use to lace over a dessert requiring just a tad more decadence.
Or you could also use it in the bedroom. I’m going to stop writing now before I lose my PG-13 rating.
I loved the texture. It was really creamy and went down so smooth. Nutellasum likened it to gelato served at room temperature which I thought was a pretty apt description. It was also quite heavy; good thing I had done a couple of curls prior to consumption.
A tad melty but that’s what happens when you’re as smooth as silk to consume.
It’s Gelato Messina, you come expecting a high quality dessert and a high quality dessert is what you get. Messina is still one of the places you insist on taking your friend/family member from overseas. Messina is still the wily old guy on the basketball court that you’re too scared to talk trash to because he’ll hit you with his old man strength. Messina is Jason Alexander. I don’t care that he hasn’t been in anything as good as Seinfeld, he’s still George mother f*cking Costanza and still one of the greatest television characters of all time.
Gelato Messina is still Gelato Messina, a synonym for awesome.
Fujipan Japanese Bakery
I thought Fujipan suddenly offering soft serve was one of the most out of the blue things that occurred for all Sydney food lovers.
It’d be like if I suddenly decided to produce hip hop beats. Unexpected, kinda random but also made a lot of sense.
Speaking of sense, let’s take a look at Fujipan’s black sense-ame soft serve:
$2.90 for a nice dollop of pure black sesame soft serve in a sweet wafer cone. Sweet.
To my knowledge, you can’t get black sesame soft serve anywhere else in Sydney right now. It’s a niche offering which I thoroughly enjoyed. The flavour is very authentic and has a fine balance between a subtle savoury taste and a hint of sweetness. From a pure flavour standpoint, this is one of my absolute favourites.
Fujipan’s soft serve is very icy but incredibly refreshing. Icy what you did there Fuji, Icy it.
Fujipan’s soft serve is designed to be enjoyed quickly as it starts dripping quite quickly creating one of the tastiest IV drips you’ll ever see.
A buddy of mine told me a story about how she went to try the soft serve at Fujipan but went on a day in which their machine needed maintenance. So she just gorged on the range of Japanese baked goods instead and was still quite happy. No soft serve but you get a totoro shaped bun instead? That’s not a bad trade off.
Speaking of trade offs:
Mizuya is one of the only soft serve establishments you can go to in which you can hear a group of obnoxious karaoke singers yelling out the lyrics to the Backstreet Boy’ “I Want it That Way” in the background.
One of the first places to bring affordable and decent soft serve to the forefront, let’s take a look at where it stands amongst its peers.
This delectable soft serve can be yours for $1. That’s a fantastic price, the trade off is the crummy cone but it should be aconed as long as the soft serve is good, right?
Unfortunately for Mizuya, it’s not even the best green tea soft serve on the block due to Chanoma being a short stroll away. The flavour is quite weak and kinda bland.
It’s very solid and icy. It’s closest compatriot is Fujipan except the flavour isn’t as strong.
We actually put this cone through the most as we didn’t linger at Mizuya when consuming it. It held up for quite a while.
Did I mention that you can enjoy this whilst belting out a couple of classics from Mariah Carey and ordering Japanese food off of touch screens? I once went to Mizuya with 6 dudes and we ordered Japanese French fries four times along with a host of other tapas. We ate like $400 worth of food and we had absolutely no regrets.
Spending that much on food and leaving happy? That’s quite the intangible.
Devon on Danks
Depending on what day you ask me, this is either my favourite cafe or second favourite (the other contender being Three Williams). Devon’s newest branch is the best branch since Michelle Branch.
Oh man, this post is getting way too long and filled with jokes only old people will understand.
Let’s get to the soft serve:
$5 for the soft serve in a cone but it comes with crushed macarons (from Mak Mak) and rice bubbles.
Devon on Danks rotates their flavours as well and I’ve tried every single iteration. The mango pudding one is easily one of my favourites with its tang, zest and sour kick. It was a very rejuvenating bit of soft serve with its fruity flavour.
Easily one of the most unique soft serves Nutellasum and I sampled on the day. It was very remiscient of frozen yogurt. It wasn’t exactly creamy but it was very smooth and fresh. The fact that it was tangy really helped to soothe my battle weary stomach as well.
It’s froyo like texture made it one of the most resilient of the lot. I feel like I could’ve had it in the middle of the Sahara desert and it still wouldn’t have melted until it was swirling around my mouth. Excellent consistency overall.
My inability to eat at breakfast has been well documented. However, my stomach always makes an exception when I step through the doors of Devon on Danks. Suddenly, I can have a four course breakfast and still be willing to have some chips and soft serve afterwards. I love this place and you can count on me trying the new soft serve variation whenever they choose to drop it.
Good God, I hope I don’t drop it.
Well, that’s all the soft serve. Let’s get to the result.
Wait a minute, what’s that in the distance?
Oh yes we f*cking did.
Long time readers of iFat will know about my affinity for the Golden Arches. McDonalds has been with me since I was fat and is still with me now that I’m iFat. I’m not a food snob, I appreciate quality from Michelin star restaurants, places with a view, diners and fast food joints. I don’t care where you’re from, I just want to see where you’re at right now.
Let’s visit an old friend:
Ahh the classic 50c coin. You know how I know I’m old? I’ve been alive for when it was originally 30c, then 50, back to 30 then back to 50c one more time. It’s not a tonne of soft serve but six of these for $3 is more than any of what the other guys are offering.
The classic vanilla swirl still has it. I must admit that I haven’t had the soft serve in years due to the residual damage inflicted upon me by my PE teacher from primary school. She started malicious rumours about how McDonalds soft serve contained pig fat in an attempt to stop us kids from eating McDonalds. I was one of the gullible ones that believed old’ Miss Byrne and swore off the ice cream for almost a decade. I still ate everything else but still.
Here’s what Nutellasum said:
“It’s iced cream.”
Huh. That makes sense.
For me, it tastes like nostalgia. And I love that flavour.
Look, McDonalds is still the benchmark. You should probably keep your day job if you’re thinking about opening a burger place and you can’t top the Big Mac. It’s the same with the soft serve, the creamy McDonalds texture is a standard bearer.
It lasts as long as the fitness levels of someone that has McDonalds on a daily basis. This is another one that should be had quickly.
You can use it as a fry to your dip, you can use it to top off your large McChicken meal, you can dunk an apple pie in it to create a ridiculous McFlurry and you can drop one, laugh it off, then fish around your bag for another 50c piece to replace it.
Ok, now’s the moment of truth. Who in my not so humble and incredibly biased opinion has the best soft serve in Sydney?
Yes, the scoring system is still far from optimised. I really don’t want people to just judge the scores on strict face value and get their opinion from that. On any given day, any one of these establishments could’ve won. All it would’ve taken is a new flavour, maybe a different cone or a slight tweak to a recipe.
Also keep in mind that this is all subjective and never, ever forget that I’m an idiot.
An idiot who thought that eating 7 soft serves in a day would be a good idea.
I need a nap.
Please hit me up if you think I’ve left some place out. I’m always on the look out for new talent..and new soft serve places.