A Melbourne, London & Hong Kong dessert blog
We have given you our thoughts of Melbourne’s best doughnuts, lemon tarts, yum cha desserts, souffles and American-inspired desserts. We have also written guides to mooncakes in Singapore and Melbourne, and briefly explored Chinese New Year desserts. It’s time to shift our attention to a little further afield — let’s say, approximately 20 hours+ by plane away, approximately twelve time zones behind. Hello London! As the first of a series, let’s conjure up images of chocolate on mirror-bright silver trays and plush velvet cushions, red geraniums cascading from balconies of pretty white terraced houses….let’s go to Belgravia….
BELGRAVIA CHOCOLATE HOP
CHARBONNEL et WALKER
We dare you to find more intimidating insignia on a chocolate box than “Britain’s Master Chocolatiers since 1875,” a Royal Warrant to that effect, and an undisputed reputation of being HRM Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite chocolatier. Chocolates by Charbonnel et Walker are certainly housed in palatial style, within a supremely elegant boutique in Old Bond Street’s Royal Arcade. C&W’s signature product are the “Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles” – little icing sugar-dusted balls of milk chocolate that encase a teeny squirt of liquor. Ok – maybe C&W’s signature are not as potent as some other chocolate booze-balls we have sampled (Paul A Young, we are looking at you). This actually means therefore, that one could very easily, and prettily, present them on a silver tray accompanied by ribbon sandwiches and dainty cakes for any generation of lady…including those from Her Majesty’s generation. In short, messieurs and mesdames, C&W captures the essence of classical chocolate making.
Past the white awnings of Cocomaya, the chocolate boutique itself is one part country home (note long wooden, rustic communal table) and another part, quintessential English parlour (note glistening glass display cabinets and chintzy porcelain stands of chocolate). Oh the aromas wafting from this place! The head chocolatier is doing some crazy things here. Take for example, chocolate armoured in edible glitter…available in a variety of shapes, from saucepans to shoes to alphabets. If you can restrain yourself from the truffles or even the bakery items on display, these Dessert Correspondents believe that you can’t go past Cocomaya’s “Around the World” Range, particularly the London “Strawberries and Cream” white chocolate block — delightful enough to give you that flushed, apple-pink cheek-look that until now, only a London winter can. (Apologies for the lack of photos — we gobbled without thinking).
Fairtrade chocolate. Two little words, so polarising. For the hipster, out comes the wallet. For the preppy, snort, smirk and farewell. We dare say we might fall into the latter category — for too long has “fairtrade chocolate” simply been synonymous to marketing blubber, all rhetoric, no tangible “giving-back,” and almost always, a mouthful of sawdust chocolate. Not so at Rococo. Australian chocolatiers, take note. While the Grenada Chocolate Company Bars hail from the Carribean plantation joint venture (and simultaneously redefine the meaning of fairtrade chocolate and also chocolate price at $6 GBP for a 85g block), it must be the assortment of chocolate bites that had us at the company’s motto — “once bitten, truly smitten.” We can’t recall precisely all that was sampled, but we do recall that the “Rosemary Passionfruit Caramel,” “Kalamansi and Lime,” and the English rose and violet fondant creams were particularly memorable. And chocolate pasta — being salted caramel stamped into a chocolate ravioli, need we say more? Another tick for some of the loveliest packaging in the chocolate industry too — blue and white animal sketchwork.
ARTISAN DU CHOCOLAT
French? Non! Artisan du chocolat is British chocolate at its finest. Sired by a brain who created “tobacco chocolates” and who then launched the salted caramel craze onto the world stage, Artisan du Chocolat is one of these Dessert Correspondents’ top three favourites chocolatiers in London. We might still be unmoved and give the accolade to Paul A Young for the very best salted caramel chocolates that we have had the pleasure of tasting, but AdC’s remains unparalleled for the sure breadth of creativity as to what one can do with salted caramel. If you like Chanel No.5, you would probably select the original, AdC’s No. 1, a deceptively plain brown orb encasing a caramel liquid tinged with Noirmoutier Island grey salt, whimsically “harvested by hand from clay marshes.” Maybe your next pick might be the No 4 (a salted caramel spiced with Indian and Madagascan peppercorns), the sweeter banoffee pie-inspired No 5, the Modena-bred No 6 containing “balsamic vinegar ages for 6 years in oak casks”, the dance of the tropics in the lemongrass-accented No 9, the zingy No 14 with a kiss of passionfruit, the herbal tonic of thyme and sage in No 15, or No 25’s Christmassy touch of figs, ginger, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon (almost like mulled wine in a chocolate). This is our kind of lottery draw.
WILLIAM CURLEY CHOCOLATE DESSERT BAR
If you consider yourself a more ardent worshipper of chocolate than the Aztecs, then round-off your Belgravia Chocolate Hop with a five-course dessert degustation at William Curley. Previously reviewed here.