There have been three occasions in my life on which ice cream has moved beyond the delicious into the momentous. The first was my introduction to authentic Italian gelato; a scoop of pistachio, buttery and intensely fragrant, at one of Venice’s finest Gelaterias, hidden away off the tourist trail and served to me with a flourish by a fine specimen of Italian masculinity – which, in truth may have skewed my judgement of the gelato itself somewhat. The second was Stein’s rice pudding ice cream at The Seafood Restaurant, a moment of such heady vanilla and cream joy; it will likely never be surpassed. The third was right here in West Dorset, at Lyme Regis’ own Frank and Beans; a concoction of rosewater, saffron and pistachio – three flavours so perfumed & luxurious they seem god-sent. To combine all three so that each complex flavour is individually distinguishable while uniting in complete synergy? – I can but applaud the feat.
Tucked just off the bottom of Broad Street, in Drake’s way, Frank and Beans is the realisation of a childhood dream for Rowena Wiscombe, who – with Frank, her French Bulldog- opened the shop in March 2015. Originally trained in Journalism, Rowena – nicknamed Beans – spent several years living and working in France founding a local magazine with partner Brendan. Settled in the mountains, close to the border of Italy she discovered the joys of Italian gelato. Returning to her childhood home of West Dorset, she was convinced that the people of Lyme Regis would share her enthusiasm for traditional Italian ice cream and Frank and Beans was born. Ranked in the Telegraph as one of its Top 5 Ice Cream Parlours by the Sea and number 1 on Trip Advisor for Lyme Regis (although you won’t see it in the main listings, due to it being listed in the “desserts” category) it’s a decision that’s clearly paying off.
The gelato itself is made by, in Beans’ words “two lovely Italian guys”, using traditional artisan methods in small batches. With less sugar than ice cream and less cream, it’s a “healthier” option, the slow churning process retaining the creamy mouth feel and sense of indulgence.
Beans also makes her own doggy friendly ice cream using peanut butter, natural yoghurt and bacon lardons. It’s something Frank personally recommends when he visits as chief quality control officer.
There are twelve flavours on offer each week, changing on a regular basis. This always includes several vegan options, with sorbets such as blood orange, strawberry, almond and chocolate. In the interests of research I up the regularity of my visits to ensure I try as many flavours as I can.
My step-daughter, a mint-choc-chip devotee, enthusiastically devours Oreo cookie, honeycomb, mango sorbet and chocolate sorbet. She also declare Beans “lovely”.
The chocolate sorbet is entirely vegan, yet fudgy on the tongue, like the gooiest rich chocolate dessert yet without cloying sickliness. The mint chocolate is unrecognisable from the synthetic concoction with which most of us are familiar, singing with fresh garden mint. A scoop of balsamic vinegar ice cream, alongside a strawberry sorbet is perfectly judged, a properly boozy rum and raisin a fine thing indeed. Beans’ personal favourite hazelnut is autumnal yet light, it tastes exactly as it should. Her other indulgence, Black Treacle Toffee, I have yet to have the opportunity to try. Most surprising of all is the watercress and lime, an intimidating pairing for even the most adventurous palate. The effect is mesmerising, the bracing zing of lime zest, a pleasing milky smoothness and the unmistakeable peppery bite of watercress lifting the finish. Paired with lemon cream; fresh citrus zest against a backdrop of soothing dairy; it’s inspired. Even the notoriously fussy teenager agrees.
Frank and Beans is open March to October every day except Mondays.
Frank and Beans
1 Drake’s Way