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I’ve got to be honest…when we were first invited to the opening of Bristol’s latest dessert restaurant, Swoon, there were two thoughts that went through my mind. Number one – Do we really need another dessert restaurant? Number two – In February? REALLY?
So armed with my cynicism, Cloe and I trotted down to Swoon on College Green on a seasonably chilly evening, not quite sure if we were ready for it or not. Turns out we weren’t, but for all the wrong reasons – Swoon is a bloody game changer!
I’ll put my hands up and say I’m always too quick to judge, and this was definitely the case with Swoon. Within the first few seconds of walking into the place, we knew we were in for a surprise – everything from the decor (slick, sophisticated and far more suited to a London hotel than a dessert restaurant) to the staff (warm, genuine and downright lovely) was the opposite of what we expected. And that’s before we’d even tasted a thing…
Bruno and his sister Pat are the dynamic duo behind Swoon, quite literally. With over 120 years of gelato experience in their family there’s quite honestly nothing they don’t know about the stuff, but just in case they were joined on the night by Luisa and Stefano from Carpigiani Gelato University. Yep, that’s right – a Gleato University – it’s a thing and over 10,000 people across the world study with them every year. Needless, to say we were in safe hands.
On arrival we were treated to a Bellini with a twist – Italian Prosecco with a scoop of Swoon’s Mango gelato. This was followed up with a quick chat from the team around their motivation, the science that goes into making the perfect gelato and some more tasters – this time of the ‘Swoon on a stick’ and their incredible gelato cakes. If we thought that was enough gelato for one night we’d thought wrong!
Next up we were invited to see the ‘lab’ – the open kitchen where the magic happens. If, like us, you have no idea what the difference between gelato and ice cream is then here it is in a nutshell. Gelato is churned slower than ice cream but frozen much faster – in an incredible 7-10 minutes to be precise. It typically has 50% less fat than traditional ice cream, and in the case of their amazing sorbetto sometimes none at all, which makes it a healthier choice, even if the creamy taste and velvety texture would suggest otherwise. Swoon pride themselves on making their gelato traditionally and with an extraordinary amount of care and attention, and everything, from the flavours to the syrups to the chocolate decorations are made in house. They’re clearly very passionate about using fresh,
Swoon pride themselves on making their gelato traditionally and with an extraordinary amount of care and attention, and everything, from the flavours to the syrups to the chocolate decorations are made in house. They’re clearly very passionate about using fresh, high-quality ingredients, seasonal where possible, and they’re not scared to experiment – one flavour we tried on the night included fresh chocolate brownies from a local bakery which had been blended to a paste and folded into the gelato!
All of us had a go at making our own monoporzione (mini portions!), with Cloe being a lot more skilled at this than me! Shonette of a Life Less Organised fame was first to get stuck in, blending the mixture like a true pro, and Cloe had the honour of creating a brand new batch of cherry cheesecake gelato which went straight into the display, ready to be sold!
So you’d think that was enough for one night, right? WRONG. Bruno, Pat and the team had one more treat in store for us – tasting every single one of their 16 flavours! Swoon will be offering a variety of flavours, with eight classics and eight ever-changing more unusual flavours. The highlights of the ones we tasted included Salted Caramel, Coconut, Chocolate sorbetto which was completely dairy free and vegan friendly, and the resounding favourite, Pistachio.
I’m not usually one for sweet things, but I can honestly say I’ve been swayed by Swoon. Not only is their gelato a million miles better than any ice cream or gelato I’ve ever tried, but their sheer passion for it is so clear. If, like me, you’re slightly cynical about an entire restaurant dedicated to gelato then honestly, put it aside. Hopefully, come summer, if not sooner, the guys at Swoon will have queues around the corner – just like the ice cream shops in the olden days!