With ice cream, you can revel in clichés. Shonali Muthalaly and Priyadarshini Paitandy revisit some favourite home-grown brands that are proudly traditional, yet incessantly innovative

Mango bars on the beach, sweet, drippy and startlingly orange. Bowls of rapidly-melting vanilla, with hot chocolate sauce at lunch buffets. Psychedelic sundaes attacked with long spoons in dim dessert parlours. Even as the new age of ice cream dawns and Chennai embraces international brands, chic cafes and whopping price tags, the local players are ramping up their game.

Buhari:

The granddaddy of ice cream parlours. Buhari has re-launched, but stuck to its core strengths. The brand, which proudly declares it was ‘Chennai's youth hub and dating spot of the 1960s,’ now has branches around the city. People come here not only for biriyani, but also for their signature dessert — falooda. That said, they also serve the classics peach melba, tutti frutti and fruit salad with ice cream.

Flavours: All the usual suspects. Vanilla, pista, strawberry. As well as mango, pineapple and cassata.

We like: The falooda, with a bright pink base of syrupy Rooh Afza, topped with wobbly green cubes of jelly and delicate strands of vermicelli speckled with tapioca pearls. Right on top, there’s chopped fruit — apple and pineapple — and a carefully balanced blob of vanilla ice cream.

Contact: 95518-89988

Cost: Rs. 100 for a hefty glass of falooda.

Saravana Bhavan:

The brand’s ice cream has been getting increasingly popular with customers and restaurateurs, thanks to its rich dairy milk fat. According to the website, they produce 2,500 litres of ice cream per day, and are targeting a maximum of 5000 litres per day in the near future. Their line of natural ice creams uses fresh cream, fruits and nuts. Their big advantage is sophisticated machinery and scale, ensuring hygiene and consistency.

Flavours: Seasonal fruit flavours, from custard apple to mango ice cream. They also do a range of creative sundaes, milkshakes and soda pops. Think kaju gulab, a vanilla softy with rose syrup and cashew nuts. Or a kesar elaichi shake.

We like: The tender coconut ice cream. It’s very rich and velvety, almost like eating milk powder. Yet, the tantalising flavour of tender coconut shines through.

Contact: 4202889243

Cost: Rs. 43 for a single scoop.

ibaco (Habibullah Road branch)

ibaco, from the stable of Hatsun, has been around for a year now. This Chennai-based brand is Arun ice cream’s cool cousin, and has a chain of outlets across the country. Choose from their range of sundaes, or create your own sundae.

Flavours: Around 36 flavours so far. Almond Crunch, Caramello and Italian Wonder are their bestsellers. In addition, ibaco lets you choose from 10 varieties of sauces and 12 types of toppings that include jelly cubes, rainbow buttons, nuts, brownies, cherries...

We like: Italian Wonder embellished with toppings of our choice, that is, colourful buttons and cream sticks. It’s vanilla-based with a blend of three sauces — black currant, pineapple and strawberry. Almost every mouthful is accompanied by cashew nuts or raisins.

Cost: Rs. 93 for a scoop of Italian Wonder. The ice cream is priced according to weight.

Contact: 93801-17258

Bellaria

Started by Avanthi Visa Krishnan and her husband Gopal Krishnan, this one-and-a-half-year-old place located next to Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers, resembles a cosy pink doll house on the inside. Ice creams here are made from scratch — and in just three minutes. Bellaria’s popular for its ice creams made with soy milk and coconut milk, making it the ideal place for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant.

Flavours: Choose from more than 70 flavours. And watch out for their new line of veggie ice creams, such as the Or-Ca, bristling with orange and carrots. If you’re in the mood to experiment with desi flavours, they have gulab jamun and gulkhand. The raspberry ice cream is their bestseller.

We like: The unusual white pepper ice cream. Refreshing and light on the palate, it has a mildly spicy kick.

Cost: Rs. 100 for one scoop of white pepper. Scoops generally start at Rs. 80 and go up to Rs. 200.

Contact: 4201 7033

Amadora:

After an MBA in Madrid, and working in the U.S. as a consultant, Deepak Suresh decided to return to India to start an ice cream store. One-year-old Amadora offers a range of artisanal ice creams, from sophisticated versions of old favourites (toasted coconut Bourbon vanilla, anyone?) to zany experiments (think Sugarcane Sorbet with Lemon-Ginger Foam.) They focus on sourcing well-loved ingredients — filter coffee, peanut butter, fleur de sel — and then finding ways to blend them into ice cream.

Flavours: The salted butter caramel, caramelised white chocolate and strawberry are the most popular. They also have a range of sundaes — subject to availability –— ranging from banoffee pie sundae (vanilla with dulce de leche and shortbread) to the ‘Kerala Connection’ (Dark Chocolate Sorbet, Vanilla, Coconut Macaroons and bananas caramelised in brown sugar.)

We like: Their latest batch of alphonso ice cream, made with mangoes straight from Koyambedu. Rich, creamy and golden, it’s like eating mangoes and cream.

Cost: Rs. 180 for a generous serving in a waffle cone.

Contact: 42323482