Today's the start of Ice Cream Week. A decade ago this would have been a cause for national shame. Then British ice cream was a sad thing which Europe not only laughed at, but failed to acknowledge as ice cream by EC's standards; no ice, no cream.

Haagen Dazs has changed all this. Not only did it use gratuitous sexual imagery to tempt customers, but it used real dairy products. Fresh cream, skimmed milk, sugar and egg yolks are the backbone ingredients. No great secret really.

Today ice cream parlours do a steady trade and the quality of treats has improved. Here's a list of the best. . .

Critereon Ices 118 Sydenham Rd SE2 (081-778 7945) Mon-Fri 10.30am-5.30pm /Sat-Sun 10.30am-6pm

A friendly family-run Italian ice cream parlour with authentic Fifties bench booths in green leatherette. There's a factory out the back which churns out the Valentis' range of 25 recipes. Most unusual is the stem ginger (80p a scoop) and a fabulously rich Jersey Clotted Cream ice cream. Though a bit far out for some Londoners, this excellent gelato bar is well worth the trip.

The Fountain Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly W1 (071-734 8040) Mon-Sat 9.30am-6pm

Very Merchant Ivory, the Fountain does old-fashioned sundaes (from pounds 3.95) and a range of refreshing ice creams and sorbets (pounds 3.25). Its Sandringham blend coffee ice cream is heaven.

Godiva Ices 247 Regent St

W1 (071-495 2845) Mon-Sat 9.30am-6pm/Thurs 9.30am-7pm

Recently opened, this is a classic continental ice cream parlour with a choice selection of delicious, relatively fat-free 'adult flavours such as Apricot and Raisin, and Praline and Forest Fruits (pounds 1.50 for a small cup). The company is based in Brussels. Its chocolate ice cream could rate as the best in town.

Haagen Dazs on the Heath 73 Hampstead High St NW3 (071- 794 0646) Mon-Thurs 10am-11pm/Fri-Sun 10am-11.30pm

Haagen Dazs restaurants are nice enough but lack the originality of their ad campaigns. Their 15 flavours include nine mostly chocolate-orientated ice creams (pounds 1.95 a scoop) and six 'extras. These are over-sweet concoctions with names like Triple Brownie Overload. If this isn't piggy enough, try a sundae from their Ultimate Collection (pounds 3-pounds 4). But most OTT at any HD parlour are the toppings. After mini meringues and chocolate toffee crunch, liquor is now the thing to have splashed over your Cappuccino Commotion.

Marine Ices 8 Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm NW3 (071-485 3132) Mon-Sat 10am-10.45pm/Sun 11am-9pm.

Run by the Mansi family since 1931, Marine Ices is London's best-known Italian ice cream parlour. The gelati range from homemade classics such as pistachio, melon sorbet and tutti-frutti (pounds 1 a scoop) to quirky made-to-order flavours such as tomato ketchup and avocado or extravagant sundaes such as the calorie-laden Cotta Stefania - chocolate ice cream, hazelnut and crunchnut, topped with hot fudge and whipped cream, from pounds 4 to pounds 5.

Marche Restaurant The Swiss Centre, Leicester Square W1 (071-734 1291) Mon-Sun 8am-Midnight

This is a Swiss restaurant with an open-plan kitchen in the middle and two ice cream bars, one at the entrance, the other on the Swiss Court terrace. Its delicious Swiss Movenpick ice cream comes in 16 flavours; some are an odd combination of ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt. The Macadamia Nut Caramel (pounds 1.30 a scoop) is sublime and the white chocolate delicious. All come in a butter almond cone made on the spot.

The New Power Generation Store 21 Chalk Farm Rd NW1 (071-267 7951) Mon-Sun 10am-6pm

Prince's new shop has a funky coffee shop decked out in his Highness's new favourite colours of red and gold. Sit back, tune into the videos and dive into Ben and Jerry's best. It stocks 12 flavours. Most popular is the banana-flavoured Chunky Monkey and Coconut Almond Fudge (pounds 2 a bowl; take home a pint for pounds 4).

Parilli Ices 233 Holloway Rd N7 Mon-Sun Midday-9pm Refreshing homemade sorbets and classic Italian gelati are sold at this simple hatch-in-the-wall shop.

Pizza Hut 29-31 Oxford St W1 (071-434 3934) Mon-Thurs Midday-11pm, Fri-Sat Midday-Midnight, Sun Midday-10pm For parents minding kids and wanting quantity over quality, Pizza Hut offers the Ice Cream Factory. Pay pounds 1.49 (kids) or pounds 2.50 (adults) and you gain access to unlimited supplies of tasteless vanilla ice cream. Toppings make this an ideal place to distract children; marshmallows, chocolate, coloured vermicelli, crunchnut, chocolate raisins, and jelly tots abound.

The Regent Milk Bar 362 Edgware Rd W2 (071-723 8669) Mon-Sat 7.30am-5.30pm

Authentic looking Fifties milk bar which has served home made ice cream to grateful customers for 12 years. The range isn't huge, but recipes are good. Old-fashioned vanilla (50p a scoop) is the stuff of middle American drugstores. The chocolate cones will remind you of childhood summer days.


Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge. From Cullens, pounds 3.99 for 473ml. Rich

chocolate packed with white and dark chocolate flavoured fudge chunks and fudge coated pecans, walnuts and almonds.

Stracciatella. From Marine Ices, pounds 1 a scoop. Plain vanilla chocolate chip is rare and this is the best.

Lemon Merangue. From Critereon Ices, 80p a scoop. Tangy, light and lemony, as good as, if not better, than the pie.

Rocombe Farm Bananas and Cream. From Cullens, pounds 3.80 for 500ml. Rich and fruity with an unbelievably true flavour.

Movenpick Grape and Grape. From Swiss Centre, pounds 1.30 a scoop. White and black grape flavoured ice cream with real grapes. Juicy.


Baskin Robbins Pink Bubblegum. pounds 3.40 for 340g. Bubblegum flavoured ice cream with bubblegum chunks. Barf.

Wall's Gino Ginelli Tutti Fruitti. From Tesco Metro, pounds 1.99 for 1 litre. Frozen cherry, peach, melon and sun-dried raisin chunks mixed into strawberry and vanilla ice cream. Repulsive.

Losely Butterscotch. From Europa, pounds 2.79 for 500ml. Sickly is the word. Ok for the under 10s.

Haagen Dazs Cookie Dough Dynamo. From Haagen Dazs, pounds 3.29 for 473ml tub. Huge balls of leaden cookie dough. The stuff of primary school glue pots.

Wall's Blue Ribbon Vanilla Ice Cream. From Tesco Metro, pounds 1.99 a tub. If this were a car, it would be a Trabant.


Japanese Green Tea Ice Cream. From Inaho, pounds 3 per portion, 4 Hereford Rd, Bayswater W2. (071-221 8495). Weird? Yes. Delicious? Definitely.

Monique Roffey/John Cooper

(Photograph omitted)