When Real Ice Cream Came to England

Culture Food and Drink
Dayvilles 32 Flavors

It is often said that what you’ve never had you never miss.

Back in the early 1970s nobody in the UK, beyond the well-travelled few, had had anything remotely resembling what would today be called ice cream. Sure, we’d had some puffy yellowy-white stuff in a block served to us out of a wrapper, in a square-shaped cone that was specially designed for the purpose of accommodating it. Some of us preferred the oyster, a clam-shaped wafer which largely enclosed its contents until you bit into it, whereupon the nondescript matter contained therein would squirt rudely from the cracks and, if you were lucky, would hit your face rather than the shirt that your mother had painstakingly scrubbed and ironed, and which you were expected to wear for the rest of the week.

But real ice cream, like the reputed guests of Roswell, was a thing most of us had heard of but by no means everyone was convinced actually existed.

Rhubarb and custard

So when the American ice cream parlor chain Dayville’s 32 Flavors first set-up shop on a busy high street corner in leafy Richmond in 1976, we were excited but, to begin with, somewhat sceptical. Try as we did to think of which flavours such an unlikely number might include, we gave up after about eight. After all, everyone knew ice cream came in vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and sometimes (unlikely though it may seem today) banana – and nothing else. At a stretch, we could maybe envision raspberry or possibly even coffee. But toffee caramel crunch, bubblegum or rhubarb and custard were as unlikely a story as the unscheduled arrival of a posse of little green men in the New Mexico desert.

Nevertheless, Dayville’s became rather a big hit in South West London once we’d gotten over the initial shock. A little pricey perhaps, but only to be expected given the uniqueness of the experience that it had unleashed upon the curious adolescents who had hitherto been raised on 99s, Mivvis and Wall’s mousses in a box.

We have the cream, we have the flavours

Sadly the company only made it to 1990, when it ceased to trade. Inevitably there were other vendors who came in on the act, including many native to the UK. After all – as stockbroker Gabriel Gutman, who brought the concept across to these shores, pointed out at the time – we had the cream and we had the flavours, it was just that no-one had ever thought to put them together.

Today we enjoy some truly delicious native fare from the likes of Kelly’s, New Forest and Morelli’s, but it would be churlish not to acknowledge the kick-start the industry so belatedly received from our cousins across the pond.

14 thoughts on “When Real Ice Cream Came to England

  1. Yes, I remember it well, Dayvilles in Ealing, London W5 became Baskin & Robbins, site now closed, though. It was truly a taste revolution.

  2. There was a Dayvilles in Wood Green back in the late 70s. We’d go there for ice-cream and arcade games.

  3. I had the pleasure of opening and managing Dayvilles 32 flavors Piccadilly,Knightsbridge and Richmond ….I was on a working holiday from NZ ..I employed so of the most energetic individuals and it was a fun establishment to be apart of ..It seriously helped the owner to start an icecream retail in the hottest summer ever..
    Fond memories

  4. Any one remember the Danville’s Chester branch in the early 1980’s ?

  5. I used to frequent Dayville’s in Wembley High Rd in the late 70’s, developed a deep desire for their Burgundy Cherry Ice Cream

  6. I had two Dayvills ice cream cakes in 1976 for my wedding cakes , They made spectacular cakes, we got them from the Hampstead shop i think , or it could have been woodgreen , still remember them ,

  7. that man who is the founder of Dayvilles Gabriel Gutman is my grandfather and I was surprised when I heard about it but he said that it was no big deal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think that 32 flavours 24 7 IS a BIG DEAL I think that that opening one of the top ice cream shops in the WHOLE of England is quite impressive and also I think that it is a big deal

  8. Dayvilles Ice Cream was the best ice cream I have ever had. Mocha Almond Fudge and Dutch Chocolate were to die for flavors. Always in the Richmond shop. Wonderful memories sitting through that hot summer by the Thames eating two scoops of Mocha almond and one scoop of Dutch Chocolate…can taste it now in my memories…loved being young too lol

  9. As Wright John commented, I can remember the Dayville’s ice cream parlour in Chester, but my memory goes back to the 1970s. But for whatever reason, my memory places it pre-76. I remember staring at the glass counter in disbelief at the flavours – bubblegum and pistachio (“pee-stack-ee-oh” as we Italian speakers pronounce it) I have never forgotten. My mum was particularly excited about the pistachio because she’d only tasted that flavour of gelato in Italy whilst on holiday (and meeting my dad for a doomed marriage.)

    I have never forgotten the Chester Dayville’s ice cream experience, nor the other revolutionary American restaurant in the same road – The Great American Disaster. Living in the north-west, these pre-dated any fast-food burger joints which would appear later on in the 1980s. I can remember my first underwhelming McDonald’s experience in 1984 which put me off for life. Those two eateries in Chester set the bar high for American style cuisine.

  10. Birmingham City centre had a Dayvilles, on the corner of New Street and Bennetts Hill. Back in the days when New Street had traffic – that dates it! (all pedestrianised now…).
    Don’t remember too much of the actual establishment (I was only a sprog! )… But the blue lemonade ice cream is something that people of a certain age in Birmingham are still in awe of – how did they get it to not only taste like fizzy lemonade, but it also had that soft fizz of the lemonade of the day???
    Still look at the corner it was on every time I pass by, and immediately think Dayvilles. Happy childhood memories!

  11. My granddaughter Maria Harakis is only 9 years old so when I read her comments I was thrilled and very proud. She probably is the only one who appreciates my very small accomplishmens and it brings back memories of a wonderful 1976. I am 86 years old now and love these thoughts.

  12. Hi Gabriel

    Thanks for your comments, I am deeply honoured.

    I appreciate your modesty, but I wouldn’t describe yours as a small accomplishment. Generally I was a caveman who didn’t care much for change, but the arrival of Dayville’s back in the day absolutely blew us away. I’d spent fourteen years labouring under the illusion that there were only four flavours of ice cream, and your product when it appeared on these shores took us all to another level.

    It is always gratifying to hear from somebody who is truly a part of history. All power to you sir, and of course to your wonderful granddaughter who is clearly very proud of you too.

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