An interview with Alex of Vanilli’s – Harrogate’s only vegan-friendly ice cream parlour
Happi: What made you want to open an ice cream parlour in Harrogate, and how did it all begin?
Alex: We’re originally from Glasgow, which has a huge Italian migrant population and therefore loads of ice cream shops. I’ve been in the industry for over 17 years and used to work for two well known ice cream brands. I just got fed up though of seeing it not done right and so we decided to go it alone. We knew we wanted to be in the quality end of the market and to open a business that wouldn’t be affected by the online shopping boom – it’s quite hard to deliver ice cream by post! We began trading 5 years ago, in 2012, the wettest year in 100 years, not a great year for ice cream! But we’re doing well and have now established a good name for ourselves around Harrogate. The last 1940s day saw our busiest day on record!
Happi: When did you start serving soya ice cream and why?
Alex: We began with soya shortly after we opened, following a request from a customer whose daughter is lactose intolerant. The sorbets are of course dairy free too, by default, with the exception of the chocolate one – they’re water based so you can really experiment with some fabulous, zingy fresh fruit flavours. We also serve soya milk for our coffee. In Italy, it is common for people to get a coffee with their ice cream and we wanted to reflect this, but not many people realise coffee is a speciality of ours too!
Happi: What flavour soya ice creams do you do?
Alex: We always have two flavours in, at the moment it’s mint and strawberry. We also do vanilla and chocolate. We are soon going to be experimenting with mango and passionfruit and with a coconut milk based variety!
Happi: How about your cones, are they vegan?
Alex: Out of the five cones we have, ironically the only one that is vegan-friendly is the one dipped in chocolate – it’s a chocolate flavoured sauce. Otherwise you can of course get ice cream in a tub, without the cone.
Happi: Have more people been requesting vegan-friendly ice cream since Happi featured it on the website and on HappyCow? Somebody told me they made a detour on the way back to Manchester just to get some of your vegan icecream!
Alex: We have definitely seen a huge rise in requests for vegan lately, as well as from lactose intolerant customers, yes.
Happi: Where do you make your ice cream?
Alex: Each batch of ice cream takes around 5 hours to produce and we make all our ice cream here on the premises, where possible with local ingredients, none of that air/land miles business! It can be unpredictable and very weather-dependent. Over the recent warm period, we were barely able to keep up with the demand for one place we supply. We can only make what we can make here on the premises, and when it’s gone, it’s gone!
Happi: So you cater to other places than just here in the shop?
Alex: Yes we do. For example, Konak Meze now supply our ice creams as desserts, as do So! Bar and Eats (Happi input – both of which also do a good selection of vegan food, see our previous blog review of Konak Meze) . (Check that vegan friendly sorbets or dairy free ices are available at these places at the time of ordering).
Happi: Give us an idea of how you make your ice cream.
Alex: As I said, the fruit sorbets are water based. We do have to use some flavouring, as we try to use only fruit that is in season, but when it is out of season it is often very tasteless. Strawberries for example – the ones out of season are known in the trade as ‘rubber bullets’ as you can almost literally bounce them off the floor. They need a bit of flavour enhancement. All the ice cream we make goes in the same, large batch, known as a ‘white mix’, and then we add the different flavours afterwards. All except the chocolate one. The cocoa bean only releases its flavour at 90 degrees, so that has to be made separately. Because we make everything ourselves I am free to experiment with flavours. At present I’m working on a Turkish Delight and Apple Tea flavour for Konak Meze.
Happi: Oooh, maybe if we ask nicely Alex might do us a soya version! Watch this space.
Vanilli’s can be found at 125 Cold Bath Road, Harrogate, HG2 0NU