We all scream for ice cream

You know an area is on the up when an old fashioned sweet shop opens its doors. As a pregnant resident of Forest Hill I am utterly grateful to Sugar Mountain for stocking its shelves with sherbet and extending its repertoire to ice cream. We live in a small flat, and especially in summer it’s good to have a place to escape to. Although there are plenty of pubs to frequent in this corner of South East London, when you’re sober listening to raised drunken conversations and dodging roll-up smoke is not that relaxing.

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Here is where Sugar Mountain has come to the rescue, installing booths, and serving up dairy goodness. Opening hours are extended at the weekend too, meaning that on a Friday evening instead of listening to workers wash away their week with booze (always very boring unless it’s your own petty concerns, and then it’s endlessly fascinating) there’s a retro slice of ice-cream magic to waddle to.

It was during a previous period of sobriety that I discovered the ice cream parlour. As a 17 year-old on a trip to visit family in New Jersey with my friend Liz, my uncle Tommy took us post dinner to the local Dairy Queen.

Although under-age, Liz, myself and our sixth-form comrades were veterans of the Birmingham indie gig and bar scene so I feigned indifference to this evening ritual, but was thrilled by what I thought of as a vaguely exotic experience as up until then dessert was a tub of Walls shared after Sunday lunch with Styrofoam wafers.

Since then memorable ice-cream moments include eating small tubs outside a Buenos Aires store sweltering in the city heat at 11pm, sharing a knickerbocker glory with a Mormon cowboy in Los Angeles, and a Boxing Day in Melbourne eating gelato with a Brazilian customs official and a German exchange student. I’ve always thought of ice cream as a democratic treat given that starting prices can be £1 or less.

While one welcomes the regeneration of the high street, it’s a shame that it comes with a side order of astronomical accommodation costs. An organic deli is a signal that £50,000 has been added to house values and out of reach to regular wage earners. Yet of all the new places to open in Forest Hill I think Sugar Mountain is the most accessible to everyone in the local area as whatever you spend you still partake in a fun and funky experience. It’s like the Scandinavia of confectionary.

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Not only does Sugar Mountain serve up creamy and delicious ice cream, there’s also coffee on the menu and a trip back to the 1980s in the form of its booth decor. I actually had one of the Smash Hit annuals, thanks to my Uncle Christopher, who had ‘acquired’ a few boxes of them.

Christopher, who had the nickname Bongo, I kid you not, was a sort of Del Boy character who fenced goods from questionable sources out of his kitchen. Christmas presents were therefore eclectic, from a Shakin Stevens’ album to tea towels. I did well to get something a 12 year-old would be vaguely interested in. Now some 28 years later it gazes up at me as I savour a tub of chocolate chip.

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