Quality ingredients, irresistible flavours and a hint of the sunny, salt-sprayed Cornish coast in every mouthful – for chef James Strawbridge, these are the three things that put Cornish ice cream a few scoops ahead of the competition.
Strawbridge, who lives in Cornwall with his wife and three young kids, has vivid childhood memories of devouring cones piled high with rapidly melting ice cream. But, in his part of the world, it isn’t reserved for holidays: it’s a delicious part of everyday life.
“Down here it doesn’t have to be just for the summer,” he says. “When there’s a hint of sunshine, people see that as an opportunity to go to an ice cream parlour. It’s one of those year-round treats when you live in Cornwall.”
Strawbridge has the enviable role of “ice cream sommelier” for Kelly’s of Cornwall, creating flavour combinations, such as pure Clotted Cream and Bakewell Tart, and devising inventive yet simple serving ideas using the different ice cream flavours in the range. He’s a particular fan of affogato, an Italian dessert of ice cream “drowned” with a shot of espresso.
“Sommelier sounds fancy but ice cream is a bit like wine in that it has a taste of where it’s made,” he says. “For me and my kids, Cornish ice cream has got to be the best in the country, if not the world. We have such good dairy and so much experience making it and selling ice cream to people.”
Part of what makes this sunny-day-treat so glorious is, conversely, the quantity of rain that hits Cornish fields. “It does rain quite a lot, and that means good grass and fields full of dairy cows,” he says.
“Kelly’s of Cornwall uses Cornish whole milk and clotted cream as the base of its ice cream, sourced from Trewithen Dairy.” All the milk there is Cornish, most of it comes from farms within 25 miles of the dairy.
The provenance comes through in other ingredients, too, such as the Cornish sea salt in Kelly’s of Cornwall Salted Caramel flavour. And the Eton Mess and Clotted Cream flavours are resonant of another Cornish classic: the cream tea.
All Kelly’s of Cornwall ice cream starts with a base of Cornish clotted cream, which Strawbridge believes is the key to its unique velvety texture and creamy taste.
“The luxury is in the quality,” he says. “Sometimes ice cream can be too crystalline, like a sorbet. Or, with gelato, it can feel unnaturally smooth and thick. The clotted cream gives body and flavour without feeling artificial at all.”
Not that he’s adverse to a scoop of pistachio gelato when in Rome. And he would “happily” devour a wild berry sorbet in Sweden. “I like food where it’s produced; like fresh fish by the sea or a croissant in Paris. It’s part of being on holiday,” he says.
“But Cornish ice cream, like our pasties and cream teas, is a national treasure. It’s something we should be promoting, sharing and celebrating every day of the year.”
There’s something about that part of England that embodies the holiday spirit, even for those who live and work there. Strawbridge and his family spend weekends exploring the Cornish coast.
Whether he’s teaching his kids to surf or foraging for ingredients (he recently used gorse flowers to make sugar brittle, which was used as “spoons” for ice cream), a trip to the nearest Kelly’s of Cornwall kiosk or parlour is always part of the day.
“It’s what you do, as you walk along the beach or wander around a fishing port. It’s the taste of Cornwall at your fingertips,” says Strawbridge. He’s taught his children well, too. “Someone always has to go and get the ice cream, and scoot back down before it melts. Cornish kids grow up to know how to eat it quickly.”
Best places to enjoy Kelly’s of Cornwall ice cream
James Strawbridge picks his top five spots...
Meet me for ice cream Sunday
In this series of articles Kelly’s of Cornwall bring you easy, family-friendly recipes using creamy Cornish ice cream.
For a sweet finish to the week, get your family and friends over for a meal, and round it off with a serving of delicious, crowd-pleasing ice cream.
To find out about more recipes and flavours, visit the Kelly’s of Cornwall Instagram account at