Drizzly, chilly October: not ideal conditions for tasting ice cream at one of Britain's hottest gelato spots. But visits to this south-east corner of Kent aren't frequent enough to be picky about the weather.
Morelli's has been causing a buzz lately, as the independent family-run business is fast expanding, opening branches in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Dubai, and Monte Carlo, adding to their (rather overpriced) Harrods outlet. Broadstairs is home to the original seafront parlour, which opened in 1932.
As soon as you step over the threshold, overlooking the picturesque harbour, you are hit by a kitsch 50's sensory overload: the jukebox playing Del Shannon and Billy Fury, formica tabletops, pink leather booths and gloriously tacky Italian wall friezes.
The day we visited they were selling just 6 flavours, not the 20 they promise on their website, though given that they make ice cream daily on site, and the seaside village had a rather desolate air, you can understand why they wouldn't bother. True to Italian tradition, the gelato are milk-based rather than cream-based, making it much easier to overindulge.
I had been craving the famed lemon sorbet (which Sheila Dillon recently waxed lyrical about on Radio 4's Food Programme - listen again), but we weren't in luck. Instead, we shared mint choc chip, chocolate, biscuit, and strawberry, all equally impressive. Smooth, just sweet enough, with bright, fresh and intense flavours. Not a hint of the synthetic aftertaste you find with anything from the supermarket freezer chests.
I hope the expansion doesn't dilute the passion and dedication to quality over quantity that keeps lovers of all things cold and sweet faithfully returning. Marine Ices, another famous Italian ice cream parlour, based in Chalk Farm, London, has resolutely and perhaps wisely resisted the lure of franchise: their product remains consistently gorgeous.
NB: Enter Morelli's competition by inventing a new ice cream flavour.