After another very satisfying brunch at Choupinette on Saturday, we popped by Swirl, a new gelato store at Crown Centre along Bukit Timah Road (near Coronation Plaza, next to King’s Arcade). The store, which opened early this year, is right next to Renaldo’s, and is apparently the first place in Singapore to offer cold stone gelato-mixing.
You can either have your gelato neat, i.e. without any accompaniments and ‘swirling’, or you have it swirled with a number of toppings including kitkat, chocolate wafers, various types of nuts, dried fruit and nutella. Essentially, a stone slab is stored in the freezer at the counter. You select your preferred flavour and toppings, and the server will place the gelato on the stone slab, add the toppings in the centre, and fold the toppings into the gelato using two palette knives.
Once it’s all nicely blended, it’s scooped in a bowl and topped with a wafer. A decided to be an all-time bore and had a neat vanilla gelato. Geez… I wanted to see the swirling in action, so I had the rum and raisin, with kitkat and wafer cone toppings. The vanilla was, well, vanilla. I have mixed reactions to my rum and raisin – the ice cream per se was great; very strong rum taste and not too sweet or rich. The problem was the raisins. They were hard and a bit chewy, either because they had been frozen, or maybe they should have soaked them in some hot water to plump them up a little first (a little Martha Stewart tip). The toppings were interesting but I’ll probably just have it neat next time.
If you’re unsure about which flavours go with which toppings, Swirl has a few house special recommendations on their menu, like Chocolate Craze – dark chocolate gelato with chocolate bars, cookies and chocolate fudge and Going Nuts – hazelnut gelato with peanuts, almonds and pistachios. All their gelato is made on the premises daily, using only milk and not cream, so it’s less rich than full-fat ice cream. They have some interesting flavours like Pineapple and Grapefruit Sorbet, and Ginger Pear Sorbet. Apparently new flavours are continually created, so that customers can try something different each time they visit.
We didn’t get a chance to try some of their other concoctions, like their jell-o shots with gelato, and the pulut hitam (black glutinous rice) with coconut gelato. This place looks quite promising; I hope in time it can take some business away from the ice cream monopoly that is Island Creamery down the road.
Random bit of trivia: traditional ice-cream is made with eggs and cream, whereas Italian gelato uses milk instead of cream, so gelato contains between 2-8% fat, depending on the flavouring ingredients, and ice-cream can be anything between 16% and 30% fat. Sherbets are made with milk, fruit juice and sugar, while sorbets contain no dairy at all.
I think the staff there were probably the owners and were super friendly and helpful (as can be expected from a new place wanting to build a customer base). Compared to the noisy and hectic after-school atmosphere in Island Creamery, Swirl has a nice relaxed feel, but that’s probably just because it was virtually empty.
Although now that I think about it, direct comparisons to Island aren’t fair since one is rich ice cream, the other is smooth gelato. I think a better comparison would be Venezia at Guthrie House. This would be how I’d rate the contenders.
Parking – Venezia wins for the much better parking.
Service – Swirl wins for now because they don’t seem jaded by the cruel dog-eat-dog world of ice cream.
Seating & Ambience – Swirl wins because you can always find a seat and you can talk without distraction.
Variety – Even match-up because what Swirl lacks in number of flavours is made up for by the number of interesting toppings.
Taste – Venezia wins in what’s probably the most important category.
So overall, unless you’re already around Crown Centre (to have a greasy burger at Renaldo’s) or you’re specifically looking for a quiet place to have ice cream and hang out, I wouldn’t recommend this place.
#01-04/05 Crown Centre
557 Bukit Timah Road
Open daily, 11 am to 11 pm