Monday, 13 December 2010

Hot Chocolate Adventure in London

With Christmas right around the corner, I decided to escape the present buying frenzy with a much welcome distraction – of the chocolate kind. The Chocolate Festival was on at the South Bank, with a wide selection of chocolate covered everything. Two of my friends from Japanese class joined me on what has now become known as the ‘hot chocolate adventure,’ but more about that later. Our first stop was the festival where there were many stalls selling chocolate beer/champagne, cakes, pastries, chocolate dipped fondue to DIY chocolate making kits.

We started off at the Rococo chocolates stand, trying out the chocolate coffee beans. I have previously bought boxes of their distinctive fish patterned gift boxes as presents for friends but I suddenly realised I have never eaten any of their chocolates myself! So it was time to break that tradition. Next my two friends tried drinking Chocolate stout, which had a surprising reaction. We then went from stall to stall tasting the various samples. It took me a while to realise my friend had a clever plan, I would be the guinea pig trying out the samples first before she ate them. (I might add that said guinea pig, had no idea she was the guinea pig at the time.) Blissfully ignorant, I ate whatever I was handed. The strangest tasting item was the chocolate bean, chocolate on the inside, but looked a bit like an almond on the outside.

It was then on to the DIY chocolate making stall. Here I tried raw cacao, the natural form of chocolate, which was surprisingly not as bitter as I had imagined. My highlight of the festival had to be the chocolate covered pretzels. Tiny savoury snacks dipped in milk and white chocolate. Seriously moorish. We then headed over to a tent which housed chocolate ‘art’ including a mini steam train made of chocolates. If Willy Wonka was ever let loose on the set of the Railway Children, this is what he would make. Alongside the train were equally edible looking high heels and a candle! The last item I ate at the festival was a chocolate heart, which as I later discovered (to my peril) was mixed with chillies. Oh my God, now that was certainly a surprise! It tasted like ordinary chocolate at first, but 30 seconds later I was hit by a burst of chillies. I now fully understood my friends’ guinea pig strategy.

Afterwards we headed over to Artisan du Chocolat, a speciality chocolate shop which make a seriously good hot chocolate. We wanted to try the matcha hot chocolate but it had already sold out. Ever since I started Japanese classes, me and my classmates have been trying out various Japanese inspired things. The matcha green tea hot chocolate had been a big hit with my friends from class on a previous visit receiving a big thumbs up. This time we opted for the regular hot chocolate, a deliciously rich concoction which comes with choccie nibbles which you can sprinkle on your drink and two chocs which you select from the display. As I have been reading up on the Victorian era lately, I opted for the flower infused chocolates of Violet and Rose which were popular at that time. They also do a chocolate version of the Japanese tea ceremony for two, but this will be explored on another visit. We left feeling blissed out on chocolate. Death by chocolate has never been this tasty.

Special thanks go to Wenting-san for photography and to Jugjit-san for the hot chocolate recommendation.

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