I can’t remember the last time I got properly excited – jogging-on-the-spot excited – for ice-cream. But here I am, doing just that, at Kenny Lover, a new shop on High Street in Thornbury.
I’ve already decided on my two flavours: yuzu-sake and soy sauce. The people in front are taking forever. They can’t decide between the ginger and Davidson plum ice-cream and the kalamata olive and white chocolate version, so they’re tasting both. My patience has reverted to that of a six-year-old. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up.
Gelato’s been having a great renaissance since Pidapipó popped up in 2013. There are now exquisite scoops to be had at Piccolina, Gelateria Bico, Miinot and many others. These snazzy new entrants tend to focus on classic Italian gelato such as chocolate, lemon and pistachio.
Kenny Lover makes these sorts of flavours, but its real forte is the weird and unfamiliar. Popcorn and caramel fudge, say. Or coconut, toasted rice and mango. And it doesn’t actually sell gelato – it sells the slightly colder, fattier, richer and airier ice-cream. It’s made with milk and cream from St David Dairy, a trio of sugars (dextrose, glucose, sucrose) and a two-part natural stabiliser (guar gum, carob bean gum).
Michael Baker – one of four owners here – learnt the craft while cooking at Alkimia, a one-Michelin Star restaurant in Barcelona, and furthered his education at the three-Michelin Star El Celler de Can Roca, 90 minutes west of there.
In Melbourne, Baker has spent the past couple of years experimenting at Henry Sugar, the wine bar he co-owns with Daniel Mason. “We’ve got a benchtop churner that serves us well enough to constantly trial weird-as-fuck flavours,” he says. “Some have been horrific, some have been awesome.”
At Kenny Lover the duo has partnered with Maria Angelico, a Hollywood-based actor who played Julia Bechly in Channel 10’s Sisters, and Tom Peasnell, who co-owns Dexter, Takeaway Pizza, Cheek and Peaches.
Peasnell was brought in for his creative brain, and promptly suggested the business sell hot chips – for dipping, the same way people have been doing for decades with McDonald’s fries and soft serve.
“I said, ‘What the fuck, bro?’ This is ice-cream, we’re not doing hot chips,” Baker says.
“Between the four of us, it created this real heated discussion,” Peasnell says with a touch of glee.
Peasnell’s camp won out. Kenny Lover sells crunchy battered chips alongside 12 flavours of ice-cream and sorbet. Any order can be jazzed up with a spoonful of Kenny Crunch (salted, candied pepitas) or Kenny Sprinkles (puffed rice tinted with natural colours). The shop also makes spiders using Henry Sugar house sodas, including rhubarb, blood orange and pomegranate cola.
“I’ve done a complete 180 on the ice-cream and hot chips,” Baker says. “It actually does work. It’s the fat, it’s the salt, the hot, the cold. Those contrasts come together and they’re balanced.”
796 High Street, Thornbury
Tue to Sun 1pm–10pm