Shanghai Cafe Review: Gracie's Ice Cream Cafe
By: Betty Richardson
On the same, always busy block as Cantina Agave, Citron, and Diva, Gracie's Ice Cream Cafe is the second brick and mortar incarnation of the Gracie's ice cream brand, the first being Cone by Gracie's Ice Cream on Xiangyang Bei Lu.
It's a bright and pleasant-looking little spot, with vibrant bunting hung from the ceiling, ceramic tile-clad walls and ample seating for at least 30 customers. But unless you're looking for a seriously intense ice cream-eating session, chances are you'll be getting a scoop or cone to go.
In our books, Gracie's ice cream is genuinely good. It's very creamy and smooth with a pleasingly salty tinge, and it comes in an array of well-executed classic flavors as well as more avant garde offerings.
Here's the flavors we tried by the scoop, which'll set you back RMB30:
Our ultimate favorite is the bright aqua-hued – almost disconcertingly so – mint chocolate chip. With proper flakes of chocolate and a delicately minty feel that didn't overpower the creaminess, this scoop had a surprisingly homemade vibe despite its appearances.
Also delicious: amarena cherry with chocolate. Undeniably beautiful with its soft streaks of pink and white, subtly punctuated by dark chocolate.
Miso caramel was another big hitter, and perfect if you like your salty 'n' sweet flavor combinations. Same with the white chocolate and ginger, although that one would perhaps have done better with white chocolate flakes to differentiate it from vanilla bean.
Next time we can't wait to try the strawberry and balsamic vinegar, half-baked cookies and Nutella.
For those in need of more serious indulgence, try Gracie's parfaits for RMB88 with such combinations as 'cherry cheesecake' (amarena cherries and chocolate, vanilla bean ice cream, Philadelphia cheesecake sauce, graham cracker crumble) and 'beekeeper's secret' (white chocolate and ginger, vanilla bean ice cream, honeycomb chunks, butterscotch sauce).
Ignoring the call of Gracie's RMB128 banana split, we opted for the 'chocolate blackout,' (RMB88, below) with signature chocolate ice cream, miso caramel ice cream, Valrhona chocolate brownie, hot chocolate sauce, sea salt caramel ice cream, whipped cream and graham cracker crumble.
And it was good. Seriously good. The brownie chunks (of which there were a lot) were chewy, and honestly good enough to eat on their own. That said, the miso caramel ice cream and sea salt caramel sauce didn't hurt either.
However, savory offerings is where Gracie's loses us slightly – they've got a selection of brunchy pancakes both sweet and savory. We tried the smoked bacon and cheese pancake (RMB78, below) with cheddar cheese, mashed potatoes, a sunny-side up egg and a 'small salad' (which was in fact enormous). Pretty odd combination with the mashed potato.
Somewhat bizarrely, there's also a range of five lasagnas by House of Lasagna. We tried the four cheese one (RMB85). It was ok, but not really proper lasagna.
We also tried two lacklustre salads: avocado quinoa (RMB45) and cranberry dragonfruit (RMB45, below), both too heavy on the lettuce and vinaigrette.
Food verdict: 2/3
Welcoming, bright and spotlessly clean, Gracie's is a very nice place to stop by for a quick of scoop ice cream, and is definitely a destination in its own right if you're in need of large quantities.
Staff are helpful and bilingual, they'll also remain judgement free while you sample the ice cream flavors before purchasing (a lot, in our case).
Vibe verdict: 1/1
Value for money
For about the same price as a small tub of Häagen-Dazs you can enjoy a single scoop of Gracie's. Ultimately, the main product here tastes good and has a lot of character, and may even be some of the best ice cream in Shanghai. However, savory options here are to be skipped, for now.
Value for money: 0.5/1
TOTAL VERDICT: 3.5/5
Price: RMB30 per scoop
Who's going: sweet toothed locals, young expat families
Good for: ice cream, dessert, kids, brunch