Against all the odds London’s Olympics somehow turned out to be “a hit”. It was properly weird, sitting on the roof of Netil House on the evening of the Opening Ceremony, watching a group of people who are normally as cynical as it’s possible to be (and haven’t done any sport since they left their Cambridgshire school), gradually be won over and buy into the whole Olympic thing.
For two weeks, the talk everywhere has been how great London is and of sports that a month ago no-one even knew existed. There’s been much talk of how great Londoners are at pulling together, and I think I’ve heard the phrase “Blitz spirit” about as often as I’ve heard “Sport is the real winner here”. It’s all rather sweet. And what this newly found collective pride in London seems to have done is reignite a fire, lit last year with that whole Royal Wedding thing and kept burning by the Jubilee earlier this year, for a sort of twee, between-the-wars nostalgic vision of the capital. Of a city filled with Lyon’s Tea Houses and the like.
Taking its place in this rose-tinted vision of London is the Brolly & Ice Cream Pop Up at the Old Shoreditch Station, “a tongue-in-cheek exhibition & pop up shop” from the JaguarShoes Collective.
We rock up on the opening night, hoping for some decent ice-cream to help us cope with this spell of lovely weather that has accompanied the arrival of the Olympics (and that Lord Coe probably had to sell his soul to Satan to guarantee). In the press hype ahead of the opening, we’d been promised a space that “draws together classic components to create a stylish pastiche of British summertime within the venue’s cosy period interior”. What we find on arrival is that they’ve cleared most of the clothes rails out of the shop space and stuck in some extra benches, erected a freezer in the window, put up some cardboard sculptures of ice creams and installed a vintage bar next to the one that is usually there. Oh, and built a bit of a counter at the back that looks like a set of a 1930s railway station from a BBC drama. Strangely enough, the whole effect is actually rather convincing, helped by the fact the staff are dishing out free gin cocktails and ice cream to everyone that’s bothered to turn up.
We end up opting to sample the Damson and Vanilla & Pear ices, both of which were full of flavour and much better than your standard Walls option, even if they hardly set the world on fire. Our plan was to try all the rest of the flavours on offer, but a combination of our friends turning up late, and the waitress starting to get wise to our efforts to eat them out of ice cream like a war-time evacuee returning home after three years away, meant that we were actually forced to buy our own sundaes in the end.
This proved harder than you might have expected at a newly-opened ice cream parlour. The counter where it would seem logical you ask for your food from was strangely abandoned. The lights in the room might even have been off, which never bodes well in my restaurant experience. After standing around awkwardly for a bit, someone did shuffle over and seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would actually want to order anything from the menu.
And when the two Sundaes we picked arrived, it became clearer why that might be the case. It wasn’t that they were bad per se. In fact the ice cream itself was just as good (but still not amazing) as it was in our samples. It was just that neither the Apple Crumble or Boozy Trifle Sundae’s themselves added up to much. Surely the joy of the Sundae is when all the other extra bits work together to bring something to the ice cream? To lift it from the mundane to something that joyfully reminds you of seaside visits as a child (even if you’ve never actually been to a British seaside resort in your life). But these just seemed like someone had stuffed a bit of OK ice cream in an old-fashioned half-pint mug and then broken some biscuit/boozy sponge fingers over the top and expected the memories to come flooding back to us all.
They didn’t. Which is a bit of a failing in a place that makes such an effort to celebrate London’s past. Still the free gin cocktails were nice so we can’t complain too much really.