Northern Bloc – ice cream heaven in Leeds
Ice cream has a complex character, appealing in many forms to lots of different tastes. Its potential is rarely recognised for how magnificent it can really be. Like the humble hamburger or cup of coffee; it can be slapped together with little care, poor quality ingredients and no regard to the finesse in flavour and presentation; or it can be meticulously crafted to create something beautiful, served in the best eateries across the world. With the current influx of impeccable independent food makers and traders, the scene has caused a lot of previously underestimated food and drink to be elevated to a brand new state of excellence.
It’s this idea that began the journey of Leeds’ inventive new ice-creamers Northern Bloc. “From the very beginning we’ve been driven by the same few ethics; we wanted to make delicious, carefully crafted ice cream using fresh and great quality ingredients” explains Lucy, one of Northern Bloc’s co-founders. “We pride ourselves on how many strawberries are packed into our ‘Roasted Strawberry’ ice cream; they make up over 60% of the entire recipe. Meaning – ice cream is good for you!”
Northern Bloc’s chef is creative cook and long term ice cream fanatic Josh, whose training experience inspired him to understand and champion the intricacy of creating forward thinking food. Whilst at college Josh did a variety of work placements at Michelin starred restaurants; “This opened my eyes up to new levels of innovation” he tells me. “I had the freedom to show my own creations and learn new things, which is the most interesting part of cooking for me; discovering new ingredients and techniques.” In these kitchens Josh witnessed raw products coming through the door and being transformed into something amazing; “This care and attention made me appreciate the importance of every ingredient. Apples are as important as caviar and eggs as important as truffles. This is a principle that I enjoy to work under and I believe this always makes for an exceptional product.”
As Lucy confirms, it was this innovative attitude – “and of course tasting his ice cream!” – that captivated the rest of what became Northern Bloc. “We all come from different backgrounds but have shared themes in our attitudes to what we do and believe in.” The other Josh (yes there are two Josh’s) grew up on a farm and worked there from being a child. Championing great British products – “whether that’s fruit and vegetables from community gardens or milk and cheeses from local livestock” – food, its origins and its journey have always been key for him. Lucy is a keen cook and baker with a background in art, design and photography. Inspired by the contemporary marriage of food and design and the shift away from huge, lifeless manufacturers, she saw the potential to promote the experiential aspect of the ice cream. “The dynamic of our different personalities and areas of specialty formed the foundations of Northern Bloc’s character.”
The trio struggled for a few months, deciding on a name and identity that encapsulated everything they were trying to do and say. “We were excited by the idea of creating a luxury chef-made ice cream using unusual flavours and instilling new life into traditional flavours.” Lucy enthuses. “Ambitious about what we could achieve, we fumbled around for weeks trying to get things off the ground, none of us having started a business before.”
Trinity Kitchen offered Northern Bloc a residency last month, which they admit has been an incredible boost for them to get their first menu out there. So far, they tell me, ‘White Chocolate & Popcorn’, ‘Raspberry & Sorrel’ and ‘Ginger Caramel’ are at the top of the leader board. “We’ve experimented with different toppings and sauces like honeycomb, almond & brown butter crumble, rhubarb & rose sauce and the latest concoction, passion fruit caramel jam” says Lucy. “Chatting to people and finding out what people do and don’t like has revealed incredible flavour and topping combinations we hadn’t thought of ourselves!”
The future looks full of flavour but Northern Bloc are currently only focusing on the immediate; “The summer is going to be a really exciting time for us, speaking to more people, getting our ice cream out there and developing our menu in the innovation kitchen to make sure we’re always pushing things forward.” To taste Northern Bloc before they accelerate to sweet success, head to Leeds Feast at Tetley on 22nd & 23rd May or the beer and ice cream party at Black Swan on 24th May.