A gimmick that's been kicking around globally for a few years has recently arrived in Melbourne - flash frozen icecream made with liquid nitrogen and a mix master. Sydney's N2 Extreme Gelato has launched an outpost in Fitzroy and the LAB has set up in the CBD, both embellishing the dramatic churning vapours with chemistry-lab props and safety gear.
(They're clearly not fluent in mathematics, though - I'll accept a limeth root of chilli2, but how is that mint operating? And assigning it all to capital sigma, really.) The LAB's current half-dozen flavours are fun if not as daring as N2, with riffs on Tim Tams and Golden Gaytimes, green tea with red beans and black sesame with mochi.
What impressed me most was that their menu board clearly labelled their gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and vegan options, freeing many of those with special dietary requirements from awkwardly queuing and quizzing the staff. We strode up and went straight for the vegan mango delight ($6), a refreshing, sweet gelato with a spoonful of sago and a dusting of dessicated coconut.
The staff worked seriously but served every cup with a smile on the side. I'm more excited for the sweets frozen in Fitzroy - N2 is wackier and Berrissimo has broader vegan choices - but a late-night dessert option in the city is going to come in handy. Actually, it already did.
The LAB's reception spans the spectrum from positive (confessions of a little piggy, new international students, A Sheepish Flog, Mango Macarons, foodie about town, EveLovelle, Vanhell's Corner, The Quest for Noms, Gastronomical Ramblings, The Glutton's Diet, MoMo & Coco) to indifferent (The Food Society, gourmanda, a beautiful mishmash, Cut to the Cheese, Mon's Adventures) and decidedly unimpressed (Melbourne Darling, Curious Charlie). It's not yet won in a scoop-off against Fitzroy's N2 Extreme Gelato.
The LAB Nitrogen Gelato
188 Bourke St, Melbourne
current menu: 1, 2
Accessibility: The LAB has a flat approach from the street to the medium-height counter, where we ordered and paid. The interior is more likely to be crowded by people than furniture, most of which is a collection of re-arrangeable stools. We didn't see the toilets, though Sally reports that they're upstairs.