Estimated reading time:5 minutes, 17 seconds
Everyone has a story. For most kids running an ice cream shop would be a dream come true. So what’s it like when you do it for real? The grown-up pair who run Udderlicious, Raj and Raj Kotecha, clearly love the job. Raj (Mr) explains more to Nicola Baird. Photos by Kimi Gill Photography
Udderlicious – an ice cream parlour run by a married couple who share the same first name, Raj – opened in October 2013 on Upper Street. Raj (Mr) makes the ice cream, but the business now employs 20 people and in May 2016 they opened a second shop at Seven Dials in Covent Garden.
“It doesn’t feel like you are in Zone 2 London,” says Raj when asked about the Islington shop. “It’s such a busy road but we get to know our customers and see the same faces again and again.” Some are of course from William Tyndale Primary School opposite – “we’ve got to know the school when we did an enterprise project on chocolate with Year 4s and showed the students how to make ice cream. They then invented flavours – dark chocolate with popping candy and milk chocolate with strawberry and rich tea biscuits.” By chance two of the kids are at the counter, choosing an end of week treat, were in that class and explain the ingredients were picked to give a crunch to the ice cream without using nuts (which some people have serious allergic reactions to).
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All Udderlicious ice cream is made on the shop premises with the flavours hand mixed. Ironically (because it’s non dairy and not ice cream) dark chocolate sorbet with sea salt is the most popular flavour, but there are heaps of delicious ice cream choices for a scoop, cone or even take home carton. Islington Faces can recommend salted caramel and strawberry with basil.
“There are queues outside the shop at weekends,” says Raj happily. Even on a rainy Friday afternoon Udderlicious has a buzz of people including a few enjoying their ice creams on the famous (much instagrammed) swinging bench. “We’re unaware of how long a queue is until someone instagrams it,” admits Raj. “Maybe it’s something about ice cream but people come in and are happy.” And the staff are happy back – though Raj says that by the end of a long day sometimes “my cheeks really hurt from smiling.” But it’s not said as if he minds. Setting up this ice cream shop has been a carefully thought out dream.
Raj, now 39, did his apprenticeship at his father’s ice cream shop in Harrow, which opened back in 1977. “I worked there from about 12 years. It was a bit of a hub for the family a place to catch up,” says Raj. His dad retired a few years ago – but before that happened Raj and his wife, Raj (Mrs), then working as a Haringey primary school deputy head teacher, started saving for their own ice cream parlour. “We thought we’d open a shop or have a bit of money to do something else,” admits Raj but the pair used this time well by going on courses including ice cream entrepreneurship at Reading University and experimenting at home.
Places Raj (Mr) likes in Islington
- There’s a bench by the entrance to William Tyndall Primary School, under a tree that’s a nice place to chill, especially on a sunny day.
- Maison d’Etre, 154 Canonbury Road, N1 is a really nice café and our go to place to get sandwiches. I’m vegetarian so I like smashed avocado and salad sandwich.
- Little Bat at 54 Islington Park Street, N1 is good for a drink. So’s the Four Sisters Bar on 25 Canonbury Lane, N1.
- It’s a community where we are: Upper Street Hardware store, 162 Upper Street, N1 is always helping us – and so are Master Cobblers, 183 Upper Street. And the staff at Brora, 186 Upper Street come in for coffees, and have a morning chat. (As Islington Faces left this interview, another neighbour, the Gill Wing director was queuing up for a cheeky ice cream).
It’s not just the friendly Rajs (Mr and Mrs) and their delicious ice cream that make Udderlicious such a boon to Islington. They also employ 20 people “mostly from Islington” and do a lot of local shopping. “Our bananas and most of our fruit is bought from Budgens, 213-215 Upper Street and our sugar from Zaco Mini Market, the newsagent round the corner at 175 Upper Street,” explains Raj. The organic milk comes from Somerset.
Udderlicious is also a place where the customer gets to choose the flavours such as cinnamon bun (march), pink lemonade and lime (august) and liquorice (november). Every month you can submit ideas via the website (look for the flavour voting tab) or in the store. The winning inventors join a hall of fame on the wall, and win a month of free ice cream. As every ice cream “includes unicorn tears, cloud laughter” and sometimes vanilla (that’s what it says on the website) you are sure to enjoy whatever flavour you pick. See you there.
- Udderlicious, 187 Upper Street, N1 http://www.udderlicious.co.uk/ Insta #udderlicious
- Open every day 11am-11pm (and until midnight on Friday and Saturday)
- You can enjoy #KimiGillPhotography on insta too, see here
Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com.