With a surprisingly light hangover from the day before (once we returned from Man O’War we could’t resist opening some of the wine we’d purchased to take home with us – self restraint is hard with wine so good!) we began the day watching the sunrise from the balcony with a hearty breakfast before hopping across on the ferry to Auckland, for chocolate hunting…
Any Londoners reading this will be pleasantly surprised that, unlike London there is little to no sense of urgency in this city, and even at 9.30 in the morning many places will still be closed – with no sign of activity. Often places won’t open till around 10am, even on a standard week day. This morning Sam had things to sort out so I busied myself finalising the list of chocolate shops I would visit today, I was convinced I had hit the mother load in terms of chocolate shops per square mile, but I was bitterly disappointed. Only one shop and one dessert bar were open out of the 6 I had compiled on my list. This did however, mean I had more time to spend in each one.
DAVENPORT CHOCOLATES – AUCKLAND
The first stop was Devonport Chocolates, a family run establishment originally set up in the Davenport region just north of Auckland in 1991. The founder, Gale, still works on occasion and sold the store to Stephanie, a teacher, in 1999. Stephanie moved to Melbourne to study chocolate, returning to run the business full time. These guys have a fine selection of chocolates and brownies up their sleeves, including two award winners from their bonbon selection – a range of chocolates made with NZ bush honey in the base, infused with a variety of different ingredients, some coated in a fine dusting of freeze dried raspberry. Although surprisingly their feijoa and honey bonbon has yet to win an award! For those of you who prefer to make your own, Devonport also stock a fine array of ‘Pantry Essentials’ including cocoa powder and plain chocolate caletts – perfect for the budding baker or chocolatier.
MILSE DESSERT BAR – AUCKLAND
Now stocked up on treats for the road on my return to Waiheke, it was time to hit the highly acclaimed Milse Dessert Bar. This place was so worth it I very nearly missed my ferry! The staff are hugely attentive and knowledgeable about their products, eager to advise and talk you through the dessert bar menu based on your preferred tastes.
The fine creations are masterfully conjured by head patissiere Brian from a well-established Michelin Star background covering New Zealand, Australia, USA, UK and Spain. Who, despite running a busy kitchen and many dessert covers (it was coming up to lunchtime now), still found time to come and talk to me. Informing me of all the locally sourced ingredients in the products and which desserts had which type of couverture chocolate and why. I was delighted to hear one of my favourites, Varhona’s Manjari 64% was among them, these guys know their stuff!
After spending a good few hours here and eating my way around the wonderous creations – Raspberry and rose macarons (a gentle nod to the classic ‘Ispahan’ flavour combination favoured by Pierre Herme), a Nectarine – unusual combination of plums, hops, malt, buckwheat and lemonbalm – no nectarine, but the combination of flavours lends itself to that nectarine sweetness with that cheeky hint of something more. Finally I browsed the chocolate selection – filled caramels and cursds, truffles and other couture chocolates with beautiful coloured cocoa butter designs and made my choices to bring back across to Waiheke, along with a macaron, of course.
TE MOTU VINYARD – WAIHEKE
Now that the panic of nearly missing the ferry had passed, and the warm lull of just the right amount of chocolate had almost sent me to sleep, it was time to hit our next vineyard – Te Motu Vinard, located towards the middle of the island on Onetangi Road, significantly further inland than Man O’War Vinard.
Oh boy were we in for a treat, we supped on a fine array of fare including Cloudy Bay Tuatua (I finally got to taste some!) with pork cheek; Ora King salmon with buckwheat sprouts and a miso, amaranth, ginger and sesame dressing and Flat Iron Steak with Bone Marrow butter, rainbow chard and fried onions all served with Potato sourdough sides. Deciding to finish this all off with something a lot less chocolatey, we went for Coconut-chia pudding, with cardamom and roast apricot sorbet, boysenberry coulis and pistachio crumb – we were not disappointed!