N2 Extreme Gelato freezes it up in Fitzroy
Address: 329 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Victoria
Open: Daily, 1pm until 11pm
I scream, you scream, we all scream for LIQUID NITROGEN.
Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? Rest assured it’s just as enjoyable and endlessly more entertaining.
N2 Extreme Gelato’s shtick is the use of liquid nitrogen to create ice cream – sorry, gelato – while you wait (and wait you will, the novelty has people queuing out the door and onto Brunswick Street). The concept started in Sydney, and the Fitzroy store is the first to freeze it up in Melbourne.
According to N2 Gelato’s website, a “gelato wet dream… should emit a faint glow, like Mother Teresa’s halo”. Our crème caramel extreme gelato didn’t "glow", but a generous amount of white sugar was sprinkled over the top and subsequently blow-torched to create a caramelised top coat. Shattering it with the plastic spoon let off the obligatory ‘crack’ and revealed a slightly melted layer of velvety, honeyed gelato infected with tiny specks of vanilla. It left a marvellous, silky mouth feel, or – if you want to ditch the food wank – I concluded that N2 Extreme Gelato is shit hot.
To skim over the science, using liquid nitrogen creates more microscopic ice crystals and results in a smoother texture than traditional gelato. Whipping it up on the spot also means that fresh ingredients taste even fresher. Thanks to the liquid nitrogen (the owners are clearly influenced by culinary methods from chefs such as Heston Blumenthal), the gelato is served 10°C warmer than your average.
You know that feeling you get when you bite into something cold and shooting pain travels up into your gums? That doesn’t happen.
Here’s how it goes down at N2EG: line up and refer to the blackboard menu. At least one flavour changes each week (they try for every Thursday) and could be anything from buttered popcorn to spam and mustard. Your order will be taken at the counter, and you only choose one flavour per serve. Hand over a very reasonable $6 and then find a spot where you’ll be comfortable waiting for a minimum of eight minutes (we visited at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and just missed a huge rush). We stood in front of what looked like an ice cream laboratory and watched goggle-clad staff conduct science experiments that just happen to be our order. The little holes that let the cold cloud of liquid nitrogen flow out of the service station are a nice touch.
Next, your name will be called, at which point you can head out the back to the makeshift seating (wooden pallets and a bed covered in faux grass) to stuff your mouth with silky smooth science. The cheeky sign on the toilet door was only acceptable because the female Lego figurine looks like she’s in control (refer to photo below), and the street art by Rus Kid (a local street artists and exhibitor at NGV’s Top Arts) adds a playful splash of colour. It’s hard not to notice the contrast between the expensive machinery and DIY budget fit-out. Then again, this is Fitzroy; the grungier the better.
N2 Extreme Gelato is a concept that will excite adults as much as children, and hipsters as much as food snobs. And if the queuing is a turn-off, you can always head to Shawcross Pizza or Phat Brats across the road while you wait ;).