Bears Ice Cream Company, the Icelandic ice cream parlour with a British twist has already served its first prime minister this year when Iceland’s Katrin Jakobsdottir paid a traditional Isbiltur visit (ice-cream drive) to sample its delicacies. It has continued to do a roaring trade in a summer when the mercury reached boiling point with the hottest July day on record. Not bad for a small shop at a nondescript roundabout near Askew Road, a bustling enclave of independent shops in west London. When couple, Philip Harrison and Vera Thordardottir, set up the business in 2016, they wanted to move away from the unhealthy ‘Mr Whippy’ image of polluting ice-cream vans famed for its Gelato made from a mixture of milk powder, oil, and a lot of air.
The venture also coincided with the changing palates of Londoners and the growing popularity of a new wave of disruptors in the ice cream and desserts cafe business. Sustainability, organic ingredients and new flavours have been a wholesome cocktail punters have found irresistible and a comfort even in the winter months. It is now a common sight to see queues round the block at ice cream parlours around the capital as punters lap up the latest flavours and creamy concoctions.
Thordardottir told WLT: “After testing our eco-friendly bikes successfully last year, we launched them on the streets of west London this summer. We go to offices, back gardens, weddings and birthday parties regularly. We offer dairy, vegan and sorbet options and all of our pots and spoons are compostable.” The white battery-powered bikes have popped up across London’s neighbourhoods from Brook Green Market and Bishops Park Market to White City Place and Covent Garden. A tattoo and a family pet name was the concept that gave birth to the business name and branding. The couple’s young daughter was affectionately called ‘little bear’, while Harrison had a tattoo of three bears holding hands.
Ingredients, have however been the defining formula at Bears; soft serve which is lower in fat than Gelato and lower in sugar than frozen Yogurt. They only use the highest quality Jersey Milk and all the ingredients are natural, including the stabilisers. Signature Cones are a layered ice cream extravaganza in a cone and Little Bear (bear face on an ice cream). The parlour’s best seller is the Glacier which allows customers to be creative with three different ingredients which they can smash into their ice cream. Instead of different pre-made ice cream flavours there is only one base flavour and a table full of ingredients that can be selected. This allows the customer to make more than 4,000 varieties of ice cream cocktails and tailor it to their individual tastes.
The experiments have yielded some surprising results; blueberry and basil milkshake or wasabi pea, coconut and white chocolate glacier, alongside classics like an Eton mess or banoffee pie flavour Glaciers. The couple have attributed their initial success to a group of early adopters, Bear cubs, employees who were very excited about the concept and proud to be a part of the company. Setting up shop in a neighbourhood full of creative people and foodies who were excited to try something different also helped spread the word.
Their only foray into hospitality and food was when they ran a hotel and a restaurant over one summer when they were in their early 20s. Harrison also headed the kitchen at the popular Anglesea Arms, a gastro pub in Hammersmith for many years while Thordardottir has worked with high profile fashion brands like Celine and Hussein Chalayan.
Cakeism is alive and well at Bears Ice Cream Company, hence winter doesn’t mean anyone with a sweet tooth or ice cream cravings cannot satisfy both urges even during the winter months. With Christmas on the horizon, the menu has changed to offer more seasonal goodies. Thordardottir explains: “As our shop hibernates we are focusing on our Scoop Club. The Scoop Club is an online home delivery and subscription ice cream service. Our amazing chef has created a menu of delicious flavours that you can order online and we deliver to our nearest postcodes.
“We also open the shop on Saturdays (12-4pm) for pick-up of our Scoop club tubs. We have also started our holiday/Christmas pre-orders. We ran a small test of this last year and it was very popular so we have launched a full menu this year.
We will be doing free tastings at different locations in the area and people can pre-order up till Christmas. Then on the 21-22nd of December we will deliver freshly churned goodness to your door, just in time for the holidays.”
Bears is also running a dessert food blog for customers who are in a baking and making mood over the long holiday period. Thordardottir offers more culinary advice: “They can whip up a delicious dessert that goes perfectly with their ice cream. Or they can pick up one of our delicious brownie jars and whip one up in a couple of minutes. So our aim is really to help our customers enjoy amazing dessert, easily at home.”
A very cuddly idea.
Bears Ice Cream Company, 244 Goldhawk Road, London W12 9PE