Fed Square’s iconic riverside has become a touch sweeter with the addition of Popstic, a charming new ice cream parlour that’s just waiting to be found.
Tucked into the bluestone vaults on the picturesque Federation Wharf, Popstic’s chic yet playful styling instantly draws the eye.
The shop is marked by a striking neon sign, the walls are adorned with white paint/lime in an abstracted harlequin pattern and the gold bar counter is finished in mirror stainless. Reminiscent of a time machine or jewellery box, the shopfront invokes a sense of wonder and excitement. But there’s much more to delight in than the decor…
Popstic is the brainchild of three hospitality professionals who have worked together on projects at The Boat Builders Yard, Wye River General Store and Riverland.
The kitchen is headed up by Som Sayasane, a self-taught ice cream maker who has made a name for himself in Melbourne’s food scene through his creative expertise and magnificent ice cream products.
Freshness and wholesome flavours are the main game for Som and the creme anglais (custard) base for the ice cream could be his secret. Preparing the ice cream in small batches at Popstic’s North Melbourne-based kitchen, Som uses traditional ingredients that most manufacturers would baulk at.
He perfects classic flavours like Salted Caramel with Sticky Toffee and French Vanilla as well as continually pushing the ice cream and dessert concept, experimenting with flavours and even introducing a clever mix of beer, wine and cider tastes into the menu.
Here’s the scoop on the business according to Som…
How did you get into the business of ice cream making? I come from a family of home cooks. My grandfather had a noodle and stir fry hawker stall back in Vientiane, Laos (where I was born). Street food is something that’s quite popular now and I believe it should represent something of us and our region. I come from a food service background having served as Managing Director and part-owner of Ricketts Point Fine Foods, a supplier of bespoke ice cream and sorbet to the hospitality industry. I really enjoyed working with chefs and restaurateurs and I wanted to make a beautiful product without compromise and to show customers that there were operators out there that cared about delivering on their promise.
Where do you get inspiration for your recipes? Would you believe I prefer cooking savory dishes more so than desserts? I think it actually helps when it comes to balancing recipes. Sugar is often over-used as a filler which masks the true flavors. I wouldn’t describe our ice creams and sorbets as overly sweet which I think resonate with people. In terms of inspiration for recipes and menus it’s all about what’s seasonal, abundant and appropriate.
What’s your favourite flavour? Right now I am really enjoying making sorbets, (especially) Mandarin and Cumquat sorbet using hand cut sugar cane from Byron Bay. It’s quite a process but well worth it because it’s just so real. From foraging for cumquats to juicing the whole lot to churning out that very first batch. That fresh mandarin and cumquat juice and aroma and flavour is so distinctive.
How will you keep the flavours fresh? I like to structure our menus around a Spring/Summer and an Autumn/Winter offering. Often it’s about anticipating what people will want well before they realised it was what they wanted or thought possible. And most other times its about doing the little things simply and well. We make our ice cream in small batches to keep our products, super fresh and current. Sometimes there’s a slight variation, and that’s part of the uniqueness of small batch making. For example our salted caramel comprises of two types of caramel, a liquid base and a sticky toffee used at the end to fold through for a marble look and texture. It’s time consuming and I like to describe the caramelising process akin to playing chicken. How far you can take the caramel before burning it?
Tell us about Popstic’s wine, beer and cider flavoured sorbets. I’ve been developing wine, beer, cider sorbets and ice creams for some time now. I’ve always believed in growing the market by developing categories or segments. Think aperitifs, palate cleansers and digestives. The trick is to be able to balance the sugars and alcohol, represent the label honestly and have the product remain balanced and stable for service!
What’s next for Popstic? We’re currently transitioning to an Autumn/Winter menu. Flavours coming on line include: Wild Fig, Honey & Pistachio ice cream, Maple Syrup and Walnut Praline ice cream, Mandarin and Cumquat Sorbet, Pinot Noir with Raspberry Sorbet, Chocolate Cookie Dough Peppermint ice cream sandwiches and more.
Located at Riverland on Federation Wharf, Popstic is open Tuesday – Sunday, 12pm – 6pm and public holidays.