It all started back in November 2009. Two months into my first year at UCL, I was getting used to running to lectures with a fellow classmate (you know who you are!) I met in an awkward gathering a.k.a “the welcome party” at my halls of residence.
We were located pretty far out, so we needed to leave atleast 30 minutes before a lecture was due to start to reach on time. Naturally, we left around 15 to 20 minutes before the lecture was about to start and yet, still arrived on time.. I’d like to think of it as a feat of superhuman walking pace.
Certain lectures in first term took place in museums where our group would stand before immense paintings for two hours listening to the fascinating discourse surrounding certain works delivered by an amazing lecturer. This was from 11am to 1pm so by the end of it, we were always starving!
One day, whilst rushing to this particular lecture via an ingenious shortcut, we passed a small gelateria called Bar Ciao (next to the National Portrait Gallery) this was to become a central part of the personalised tours I delivered to friends and family over the next few years at university!
The exact date of our visit to Bar Ciao was the 23rd of November 2009 after an exclusive student private view of Sacred Made Real at the National Gallery of London. It was about 9 o’ clock in the evening, -1 degrees and we felt like something sweet after all of the red wine consumed during the drinks reception. My friend suggested we go for some gelato… and so we did,
Yes, we ate ice cream in the freezing cold, counter intuitive but oh so delicious.We shared a double scoop of pistachio and toffee white chocolate( not a fan, but memorable nonetheless) and delved into our wallets for exact change to split the bill right down the middle like old ladies. While we daintily ate our dessert with tiny plastic spoons, we talked for ages about university life, essays, our favourite lecturer and, most importantly the handsome boy who served us our scoop with a pearly white smile.
Since then I went back and tried different flavours,discovering the full range of desserts to include Ice cream spaghetti, dessert pizzas, gigantic sundaes, and an amazing tiramisu made entirely of gelato… complete with generous lashings of eggnog liqueur. My go to dessert here is a waffle, with a belgian chocolate sauce (not the nasty processed kind) with a scoop of amaretto ice cream.
Once, while interning at an auction house in 2011 I took an overworked friend of mine, working hard for her PhD in Neuroscience, to this gelateria after work (at about 6pm) and ordered my “usual” dessert. A large, freshly made round waffle in four quadrants, bathed in a sea of hot, velvety, chocolate sauce topped with the coveted scoop of amaretto ice-cream. I normally shared this with my sister or a friend due to its size this time I ATE IT ALL! Spoiling my dinner like a naughty school child. SO. WORTH. IT.
Service is always friendly and attentive.( The waitresses recognise me, because of the number of times I have visited and sat in the same spot!!) and the quality of ice-cream and desserts is very good. With its bright orange walls and vintage italian advertisements contrasting with the slightly dated RnB tracks playing in the background… this cafe may suffer from a little identity disorder, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. The quirky atmosphere grew upon me rapidly and pulls me back in each time I’m in the area.
Whether its just for a scoop followed by a delicious cup of peppermint tea or a quick affogato, no visit to Trafalgar Square omits a visit to Bar Ciao. Its almost a ritual. A deliciously creamy, predominantly amaretto flavoured ritual.that I highly recommend.
Rating (5/5 Value for money and the birthplace of several fond memories)