Ruby Violet Gets Gold for the Most Unconventional Flavours on the Menu
The owner of quirky ice cream parlour, Ruby Violet, talks us through the trials of owning a lucrative food business, what makes her flavour’s work so well, and how she got to where she is today – a famed churner of ice cream in the Northern quarters of London.
Weathermen in Britain are forecasting a ‘four month super summer’ – and predictably; ice cream sales are set to soar. To that note, we got in touch with Julie Fisher, owner of Ruby Violet, 56, to talk ice cream – and it wasn’t to our surprise that she had just hired the company’s first ever manager to offload the admin work for the sweltering summer months ahead.
Julie Fisher gave 35 years of service to the photography industry before pursuing her dreams in frozen custard. But the sudden move into the digital age circa 1999 meant the days of waiting around in the lab for two hours whilst enjoying a hot brew and a chin wag with the photographer on the left were long gone, paving the way for hours spent in post production in front of a computer screen.
“It [photography] became really solitary and I thought, well what could I do? I could run a café! I’ve always liked baking and sweet stuff and all that sort of thing. And then I thought… why don’t you sell ice cream? And then I thought [gasping] I could make ice cream!” says Fisher.
Ironically, she began her photography career specialising in food.
“If you Google my name you can still find my work,” she says (of course we had to have a nosy).
More laterally she worked in advertising, with ‘clinical’ clients such as Nurofen and Breast Cancer Care amongst others in her extensive repertoire. She dabbled in location shots, which eventually led to documentary photography where she snapped the slums of India and an open-heart surgery procedure on a child in a Moroccan hospital.
How it All Started
The first bout of encouragement to start selling her own homemade ice cream came when a man who owned her local bohemian-esque (this is NW5, after all) corner shop had passed away.
Ultimately, the ‘would-be parlour’ was meekly transformed into a block of flats, but the initial idea to start offering unconventionally flavoured ice cream bombs to the public soon became reality.
Two years on from opening the Tufnell Park parlour, Julie can barely squeeze in the amount of waffle cones she needs to cater for the amount of ice cream scoops she’s selling, which has forced her to stop ordering the annoyingly delicate cones by the palette load.
Unsurprisingly, owning an ice cream parlour means facing bigger hurdles than where to store waffle cones, although she tells us having more space at the shop wouldn’t go amiss.
“I never for one moment thought how difficult it would be to employ staff, before I’d only had one or two, now we’ve got 18 part timers. We’re so tiny and it’s important that we really get on and you only need to have one person who hasn’t got the same attitude for it to become a problem,” says Fisher.
Her employees say that the best part of working at an ice cream parlour is not the bit that we’d all expect (an endless supply of free dessert!) but actually, working with someone so “inspiring and creative,” with a “Willy Wonka-like imagination.”
Nowadays, she is renowned for her slightly offbeat yet complementary flavour pairings – envisage Campari and blood orange, which was last season’s most popular flavor.
Revel in sweet Fennell and creamy basil squashed between sheets of Genoese sponge, an invention she calls The Antarctic Roll.
Sophie Morris, who works at the parlour, 33, says: “Julie’s] ideas for ice cream flavours and flavour combinations are delicious and often witty, and not the sort of thing we’ve ever seen in the UK before, such as Banana and Liquorice and Mint and Cucumber sorbet.”
Unlike ice cream giants, the inspiration for her off-the-spectrum flavour profiles comes from the heart of the business itself – a suggestions box takes pride of place in the parlour, where customers from all over the world and some closer to home request the funkiest pairings, some even provide the ingredients.
“Our customers bring in things like mint and rhubarb. All sorts of things that they grow on their allotment, the damsons come from my mum’s neighbour’s garden, the quinces from a customer’s friend… mint and cucumber, Campari and blood orange, they were customer suggestions. People are experimental I think and that’s great,” the businesswoman told us.
And finally, her most cherished flavour? “My flavourite flavour has got to be the liquorish and blackcurrant, 90% of people probably don’t like it.”
Recipes from Julie Fisher’s first book ‘Ice Cream Dreams.’
Editors pick: Top three flavours to have at Ruby’s