389 Crown Street, Surry Hills
I first saw mention of Gelato Messina on Sydney Urbanspoon. The Darlinghurst store was consistently in the Talk of The Town list. I then proceeded to forget all about it until I read a review on the Virgin Airlines inflight magazine. Apparently it claims the title of "Best Gelato in Australia" as voted by the Good Food Guide. I've mentioned in the past that if I could sustain myself on one type of food, ice-cream would be it (either that or bread). "Best Gelato" was not something I was likely to pass up.
The Surry Hills store of Gelato Messina was located near Il Baretto, where we had dinner on the Friday night. I think I may have subconsciously chosen Il Baretto because of its proximity to the gelato store. We can all see where my priorities lie.
It was getting fairly late by the time we spotted the queue outside the shop. I'm guessing around 10:30-11pm, which is prime time for late night sugar cravings. I don't mind lining up in these kinds of places because I need the time to read and decide what I want. There were some notably interesting flavors on offer, such as: pear and rhubarb, poached figs in marsala, yoghurt and caramel, and pandan.
I picked something from their Flavor Combos menu. I didn't end up going into the store because it was too crowded, so I'm not sure exactly what 'flavor combo' means... but I assume, from what I ended up tasting that they mash some things together Cold Rock style.
Peanut pretzel brownie and pistachio
Marc ended up getting me 2 scoops in a cup because he remembered that I must try pistachio gelato at every gelato store I visit. How thoughtful! My combo flavor was the peanut pretzel brownie. I chose it because it's exactly the kind of flavors I love in dessert. Ever since I made the Momofuku Compost Cookie with pretzels, I've loved the idea of salty pretzels in anything sugary. This was great with salty pops of pretzel, chunks of chewy brownie and a peanut butter ice-cream base. It was a bit too sweet but the saltiness helped to balance it. The pistachio gelato was claimed to be made from freshly ground Italian pistachios. There was a wonderfully intense pistachio flavor but unfortunately, I found this way too sweet.
Salted caramel and white chocolate chip
Marc's pick was the salted caramel and white chocolate chip, which was claimed to be the top selling flavor at Gelato Messina. He said it was very rich and chocolatey, and reminded him of a popular chocolate bar (possibly Twix). He liked his flavor and found it very satisfying.
I'm not completely convinced by the Gelato Messina craze. Sure there are some interesting flavors but most average Joe gelato stores, and even prepackaged ice-cream brands are exploring more exotic flavors than the old chocolate/vanilla/strawberry varieties. I thought the texture was noticeably more creamy and smooth than others but I found both flavors I tried too sweet.