Did we squeal when we first heard the news? Yes. Did we race to the Messina shopfront in this sweltering heat to get our eager hands on a multi-flavoured cup? Also, yes. After what feels like a lifetime of waiting, the beloved Australian gelateria is now open — and it’s glorious.
Brace yourselves for instances of meltdowns as we descend in droves down rickety Pottinger Street, determined to get the scoop — or scoops — of joy that we deserve. The sleek 2,000 square foot space venue houses an on-site kitchen where gelato is freshly churned daily, dine-in areas and, of course, Messina’s signature 40 flavour cabinet.
Scoops are priced at HK$60 for one, HK$70 for a double and HK$80 for a triple scoop served in either a cup or waffle cone. Like in Australia, there is also the option to grab a takeaway tub with up to five flavours depending on the size. Tubs are available in 0.5L for HK$180, 1L for HK$320 and 1.5L for HK$400.
My personal favourites, you ask? Well, the Hong Kong Milk Tea is a no-brainer, but their Panna Cotta with Fig Jam & Amaretti really blew me away. Their selection of sorbets is also super impressive – if I was in a blind taste-test with their Choc Sorbet, I never would’ve guessed it was fully vegan.
With a triple-scooped cup in our hands, and joy in our hearts, we grab Black Sheep Restaurants’ Head Pastry Chef Karys Logue and Messina’s Chef Alessandro Palumbo for a quick chat prior to the big opening.
Messina, in my mind, has been such a quintessential Australian gelato brand. This is your first international expansion. Why Hong Kong?
Alessandro Palumbo: Hong Kong is such a dynamic city for food and beverage. There is such vibrancy here and we have massive respect for the work that Black Sheep Restaurants does and how well they understand their community. We are maniacal about providing world-class gelato and the quality of our product is the backbone of Messina; Black Sheep Restaurants understands this. They share that same kind of unrelenting passion that we do, so we knew that opening here with a team that shares our same values was the right decision.
Messina is known for producing their own milk, making their own chocolate and even dulce de leche in house. What were some of the challenges when it came to replicating the process and quality of the gelato here in Hong Kong?
Karys Logue: We are going to great lengths to get all the products we can straight from the source. The milk we use is flown in from Messina’s Jersey cow farm, as well as the hazelnuts and strawberries. We know the value of using only the best ingredients ourselves, so with all our local flavours, we are sourcing only the best, whether that is the pastry for egg tart, the tofu for tofu fa or the tea for our Hong Kong milk tea. Anything we can make or bake in-house we do, and as time goes on, we will continue to grow this portfolio, especially for the rotating specials and local exclusives.
AP: The store here has all the best equipment and a really talented team. I’ve been working with people that are really passionate about creating the exceptional experience that we expect from all our Messina locations, from Chef Karys and her creativity with flavours and additions from Matt Spangaro, the manager, who has a deep passion for providing excellent hospitality, and luckily is a Melbourne boy and already familiar with the brand!
Chef Karys — given the pandemic, were you able to make it down to Australia for R&D prior to the Hong Kong launch? If yes, what were your thoughts after you had your first scoop? Which flavour did you go for?
KL: This partnership has been a long time coming, almost four years. With the pandemic, things were a bit delayed, but previously Asim and Chris had spent a lot of time with the Messina team, visiting different locations and really being immersed in the full experience. They knew right away that the quality of the product was world-class and that the Messina team had the same core values as Black Sheep Restaurants when it came to guest experience and high-quality product.
Back when I was living in Sydney around 2012 or 2013, I ended up walking into a Messina store, just a little takeaway shop, but I was struck by the fact that it didn’t give off this old-timey ice cream shop vibe. Everything seemed so bright, and this concentration of excitement left its mark and made me so excited to be part of the journey here in Hong Kong.
Which are the best-selling flavours in Australia? Which do you predict would do the best in Hong Kong?
AP: In Australia, everyone has at least two favourites, one of them is usually one of the classic thirty-five that we always have available, often the Pistachio Praline or the Salted Caramel & White Chocolate, and the other is always a favourite rotating special. It will be interesting to see which flavours the Hong Kong community takes to, but I think that the local exclusives are something really special; the house-made pastry for the egg tart is pretty amazing!
Will we be seeing Messina gelato available in other Black Sheep Restaurants menus?
KL: We are proud of all the high-quality products we make in our other restaurants. All of our ice cream from Burger Circus to Buenos Aires Polo Club is made in-house, and they are what work best for these experiences. This is about the Messina experience; it is more than just premium quality gelato that we are bringing to our community, but everything else from beginning to end. Not only is it the hello when you walk in the door, but about the number of flavours you can choose from, the rotating specials, the goodbye on your way out; the best place to experience Messina is in our new home on Pottinger Street.
Messina is open now from Tuesdays to Sundays from 3pm onwards at 37-43 Pottinger Street, Central.