Milkman brings nitro ice-cream to Drummond Street

Owner Abu Bakkar tells us about gelato, smoothies – and community building

Exterior of Milkman


y main aim is to give something back,” says entrepreneur Abu Bakkar, who’s keen for his new shop to be more than just somewhere that sells gelato. As well as serving a number of other goodies including smoothies, milkshakes, waffles and crepes, he’s striving to boost footfall and wants to use the parlour as a tool to inject life into the neighbourhood.

“I’m doing a lot with local businesses,” says Abu. “After our refurb they showed a lot of interest. I’m forming a hub to help them grow and improve. They’re all very established, but some are struggling because of how rapidly the locality is changing.

I’m concerned that the character of the strip will be lost, so I’m engaging with everyone and trying to keep hold of the heritage of the street.” Once a week he brings fellow proprietors to the store, a chance for interaction.

Aside from this altruistic aspect, what’s the deal? “We freeze a cream-based mix using liquid nitrogen,” he says. “The crystals are smaller than normal creating an even smoother result. Everything is freshly made and we don’t add preservatives. We’re the first in the country to do a yoghurt version and exploring vegan options as well.”

An array of goodies served at Milkman
Goodies galore at Milkman. Photo: Milkman

The goal is an authentic flavour using seasonal ingredients. “We want our organic products to contain nothing artificial,” says Abu. “In the summer we’re going to introduce mango and other exotics.”

On my visit I sample their coconut offering. Behind the gleaming counter, sizeable barrels sit on the floor containing the colourless liquid, with pipes running up to KitchenAid mixers.

A base of coconut cream and desiccated shards is whizzed up briefly before the chef turns a lever and releases nitrogen into the bowl – a cloud of vapour appears, adding a sense of magic to the process. Less than a minute later I’m greedily devouring velvety mouthfuls.

The unit – once home to curry sauce brand Patak’s – is eye-catching: a gnarly branch dotted with vibrant flowers arches across the facade. “We wanted to add a bit of colour,” he says, “it’s been very popular.” The spotless interior is decked out with herringbone navy tiles, shiny white surfaces and statement lighting.

And where does the name originate? “When I was young I remember a milkman coming to our door every morning,” says Abu. “We’ve lost all of that – I wanted to bring back something that seemed forgotten. Plus, ninety percent of the menu is made using dairy.”

But the journey hasn’t been entirely issue-free. There were problems with the nitro ice-cream itself. “It usually melts very quickly, within 5 minutes. After three months testing, it now stays solid for about fifteen minutes.”

With things running seamlessly Bakkar is extending his goodwill by working with schools. “We’re going to invite autistic children from Netley Primary in,” he says. “We’re also setting up a shelf outside and filling it with food and drinks for the homeless and needy. I’ve lived in this area all of my life: I want to give, not just take.”

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Open Mon-Fri 12-11pm, 134 Drummond Street NW1, ice-cream from £3.95, more info here.

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