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Mister McCoy’s Island Ices Sóller: the real thingApril 12, 2024

Spring has well and truly sprung in Sóller and it’s perfect ice cream weather. Time to pay our first visit of the season to Mister McCoy’s Island Ices.

We arrived just as the man himself, Rory McCoy, was lovingly preparing a batch of stracciatella ice-cream. As he poured fine Mallorca-made Maüa chocolate sauce into the cream, he explained how the sauce would become tastebud tantalising chocolate chips.

Mister McCoy’s makes ice-creams using Menorcan milk, sorbets and granitas. Rory uses an Italian Cattabriga machine first made in 1927 to replicate the texture of hand churned ice-cream.

When he’d finished preparing the stracciatella, Rory scooped a spoonful from the depths of his gleaming machine for me to taste. It was sublime, with a surprising flavour of cheesecake.

As Rory explained that he made stracciatella mainly for German customers, a tram rattled by on its way down from the nearby railway station heading for Port de Sóller. While the flavours unfolded in my mouth, I felt transported in time. Exactly Rory’s intention.

‘I want to create a mythical Italian ice-cream parlour,’ Rory told me with a gentle glint in his eye. ‘Ice-cream is about memories.’



A scoop of digression

I’m not sure why ice-cream restaurants are called ‘parlours’ so I’m going to speculate a little.

In French, ‘parlour’ means a place for speaking. Ice-cream scholars such as Rory believe the first ice-cream parlour was Paris’s Café Procope, opened by its Sicilian founder Francesco Procopio del Coltelli in 1686. Coltelli served Italian gelato to his customers, who included philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau, in tiny elegant porcelain bowls.

Coltelli’s customers, like the first habitues of coffee houses, were the rich and powerful. Ice-cream remained exclusively a treat for the elite until 1800, when insulated ice houses were introduced.

Perhaps ‘parlour’ reflects the notion that intimate places like Café Procope were where the movers and shakers of the day gathered to scheme and plan over a mouthful of gelato.

Incidentally, Café Procope still exists. Next time you’re in the City of Lights, pay a visit. The decor is spectacular.

I’m speculating as to the etymology of ‘ice-cream parlour’ of course. But if any ice-cream establishment deserves the name parlour, it’s Mister McCoy’s Island Ices.

Ice cream in Mallorca

As for the history of ice-cream in Mallorca, my learned friend, author and musician and fount of knowledge on all things culinary and Mallorcan Tomás Graves told me ‘Centuries ago, there were ice-houses or cases de neu at the top of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. These were quite deep pits in the ground. When there was snow, people would shovel it into the pit, trample it down and cover it.’

In the summer, the people of the mountains would bring blocks of ice called pans de neu wrapped in sackcloth down to Palma on the backs of mules and sell them.

‘The main use was medicinal,’ Tomás explained, ‘to staunch the bleeding of women in labour and for haemorrhages. But the ice was also sold to the rich who would use it to make ice-creams.’

The splendid C’an Joan de S’aigo restaurant in Palma, itself in existence since the 18th century – the original in the Old Town not the newer ones – began making ice-creams in precisely this way. The restaurant claims that the original Joan de S’Aigo, a 19th century businessman who recruited mountain men to collect snow and bring it to Palma first had ‘the idea of mixing the melt water from the pans de neu with fruit juices to make rudimentary ice-cream.

I have no idea whether this is true or not but it’s a good story. And C’an Joan de S’aigo is well worth a visit, especially for their fantastic traditional almond ice-cream. This might be heresy but I prefer the C’an Joan de S’aigo on the wonderfully named Calle Baro de Santa Maria del Sepulcre just off Jaime III in Palma.

Growing up in Mallorca in the 1950s, Tomás remembers a time when the only ice-cream parlour in Palma was Helados Italianos Mario Taco on the corner of Carrer San Miguel and Plaça d’Espanya. After this closed around 1980, ice-cream parlours began popping up all over the city.

Today, Tomás’s favourite place for ice-creams in Palma is Gelateria C’an Miquel near the Corte Inglés on Jaime III.



Flavours and nations

Rory’s time making ice-cream has given him an insight into the ice-cream eating habits of different countries.

As we were talking, three German women wandered into McCoy’s Island Ices and asked for stracciatella. After Rory had served them and they’d exited licking and beaming, he told me he only began making stracciatella because the Germans asked.

‘It’s because of the number of Italian gelato parlours in Germany,’ Rory explained. ‘My German customers generally combine the stracciatella with vanilla. Germans tend to go for uncomplicated flavours.’

Rory’s research has revealed that the British plump for vanilla and anything with strawberries. Perhaps because strawberries and cream are a traditional treat. The Spanish also like strawberries and love Dulce de Leche.

While they’re happy to experiment with flavours, Spanish people are more visual and colour-orientated and they like to see the ice-cream out on display.

Italians like simple Fior de Panna and Fior de Latte, made with cream or milk and very white. They’re not at all keen on vanilla, regarding it as a bit of a crime against ice-cream. The Spanish are not keen on vanilla either.


A lifetime’s obsession

Born in the north-east of England, Rory is from a family of bar, restaurant and hotel owners. He owned restaurants in London including well-known Duck Soup in Soho, London, where he worked front of house. But his dream was always to have an ice-cream parlour.

Asked why, Rory said ‘I just loved ice-cream. I inherited a sweet tooth.’

Rory began making ice-cream and experimenting with flavours as a boy. Before opening Mister McCoy’s Island Ices in 2022, which he runs with his Spanish partner Olaya, he learned to make gelato in Italy.

Ironically, while he appreciated what he learned, Rory felt ‘There was a lot of attention to detail, which is absolutely necessary as the structure of an Italian gelato served at low temperature needs that detail to work. But I wasn’t so keen on the obsession with making the perfect, ultra-smooth texture for the ice-cream to be soft and fluffy. I prefer texture, I like my ice-cream a bit more rough and ready, I like ice crystals, I want to eat something that feels like ice-cream in my mouth but with an interesting flavour. I’m trying to make a cross between gelato and English ice-cream.

This year, Rory has created a terrace in front of Mister McCoy’s Island Ices open between 10am and 3pm in the daytime and on Saturday mornings for Sóller market. Here he serves the kind of ice-cream concoctions so many of us remember from our childhoods.

Most of all, it’s about textures and flavours. And what flavours! Rory’s recipes include Pink Paraguayo Peach, Mallorcan Carob and Lavender and Spiced Quince.

When we spoke, Rory was waiting on a delivery of Mallorcan saffron from island herbalists Crespi. I had no idea saffron grows in Mallorca. He was about to start on a batch of Mallorcan saffron ice-cream and had a somewhat nutty professor faraway look in his eyes. My mouth began to water in anticipation.
I shall return.

Mister McCoy’s Island Ices is at Plaça d’Espanya in Sóller town, just up from the main square. It also sells a selection of natural wines by the glass and bottle.


David Holzer

A freelance writer for many years, David is the author of a number of books and magazine articles, mainly on the subjects of the Beat writers and yoga. He is fascinated by the remarkably rich cultural history of Deia, from Robert Graves to the present day.

David also teaches yoga for writers.

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