Well, Taverna el Remer had certainly left its mark on me, in the form of one hell of a hangover! I mean, as I mentioned previously, the blues band was amazing and the drinks (extra strong and expertly crafted) went down all too quickly, to the point where I recall little of the night before – but my phone has managed to help me out; apparently on the way back we came across a variety of little glass sculptures which I’m sure you’ll agree are beautiful!
August Bank Holiday weekend saw the boy whisk me off to Venice for a belated birthday surprise! Arriving close to midnight, we stayed in the San Sebastiano Garden Hotel; a little out of the centre, but easy walking distance to the action.
Like most trips, I like to research the destination as much as I can, and create a little map with timings and things to do at each location. Very geeky, I know, but it means that if time and/or funds are not on your side, you can still let the place get under your skin, just about.
Did you know chocolate grows on trees? Have you ever wondered how fruit from this magical tree gets turned into chocolate and how you can make your own delicious creations from it?
Join me this September 10th at one of London’s most exciting foodie venues, Carousel in Marylebone as I share my passion for chocolate with you. Here you can discover chocolate and learn the magic of making it yourself. Over 2.5 hours you’ll be taken on a delicious journey of the history of chocolate, its origins and processing methods, and after a quick demo be guided in making your own delectable fresh cream chocolate truffles to take home and wow your friends and family.
Tickets are going quick, so grab yours HERE and master the magic.
The workshop includes all your ingredients, equipment, everything you make (as long as you don’t eat all of it), and a two course dinner and drinks in Carousel’s award-winning restaurant!
This is an event you would be sad to miss.
See you there!
Hotel Chocolat Hot Chocolate:
Hotel Chocolat are probably what most people think of when considering well-known chocolatiers in London, and although they are a ‘highstreet chain’, their chocolates (and hot chocolates) are not only divine award winners, but also inventive! My favourite is their classic hot chocolate, with a bit of a twist. Whilst a classic hot chocolate with chocolate shavings on top is an option, there’s something really special and a bit naughty about adding a shot (or two) of rum into the mix, and topping it off with the extremely flavourful cacao whip.
York! A medieval walled city in Northern England with a vibrant history dating as far back as Roman times and beyond. Defined by it’s medieval cathedral or ‘Minster’ – built in the 13th Century, and extensive Roman wall (since rebuilt in various places), it is also famous for playing its part in the chocolate and candy revolution of the British Isles.
LOKCHART MARTIN COCOA TEA:
The wonders of social media mean that these days a whole wealth of different chocolate and cacao products and producers are at the touch of a button. I discovered Lockhart Martin on Instragram and was lucky enough to win a sachet of their delectable cacao tea in an Instacompetition – unlike most cacao teas that just use the husks, these guys create a rustic blend of crushed cacao beans – so you’re not just getting the dreamy, almost earthy notes of the cacao shells coming through in this brew, but also the heady rich chocolatey notes (and nutritional benefits) within the nibs themselves. To coin a phrase (that’s already been coined by these folks) it’s “drinking chocolate without the calories”, never a truer word said! For maximum effect, use 3 heaped teaspoons of cocoa infusion in your preferred loose leaf tea spoon, pour freshly boiled water over them and steep for 2-3 minutes. If, like me, you are frugal with your cocoa items, the leaves will be good for up to two flushes, but after that they will need to be disposed of.
There’s more on offer in the infusions department; the inventive bunch at LM HQ are also branching into blends, the Cocoa & Mint infusion being the first in this range and I just can’t wait to try it! Cocoa infusions aren’t the only products these guys have going, they also create their own miniature bean-to-bar bars of 90% cacao. Watch this space for reviews on these shortly!
There is an honest and inspiring story behind these guys; founded by Sarah Martin after being diagnosed with Coeliac disease amongst other food intolerances, Sarah set about creating her own products she was able to eat, along with making artizan dark chocolate bars from the beans, she soon branched into cocoa infusions, and, realising her potential, started the Lockhart Martin company. Sarah, we salute you! Lockhart Martin are an online shop so head over to their website and grab yourself a cocoa infusion!
PRESTAT HOT CHOCOLATES:
One of London’s oldest chocolate houses, originally founded over 100 years ago, and later co-owned by a former employee of Charbonelle & Walker, Prestat started life as a little chocolate shop in South Molton Street. After surviving two World Wars and the rationing of the 1950s Prestat rose to prominence again, becoming a favourite shop of not just royalty, but of Rold Dahl himself! Legend has it it was this very chocolate shop that influenced Dahl for his book My Uncle Oswald, and, in part, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The latest exciting news for Prestat involves their newly opened chocolate cafe at 186, Pavilion Rd in Sloane Square. There are a fine selection of delicious cakes on offer, as well as chocolate truffles and a range of hot chocolates, which is why we’re here, including: Dark, Milk, Orange and Chai. Feeling a little like branching out, I went for the chai hot chocolate, not quite as thick as some other London hot chocolates I have tried, but still just as silky and rich as it is made with real grated chocolate and a powdered chai spice blend. The warming mix of spices with the rich chocolate is perfect for any time of year, and the lack of sickly syrupyness makes it all the more palatable. Served in a classically fancy gold-rimmed drinking mug and finished with a light dusting of richly intense cocoa powder, I strongly suggest regardless of what flavour you try, add a yuzu sake truffle as an after chocolate – trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
Prestat’s Cafe can be found at: 186, Pavilion Rd, London SW3 2BF, a 3 minutes walk from Sloane Square tube station, and their miniature chocolate shop can be found at: 14 Princes Arcade, Piccadilly, London SW1Y 6DS
ROCOCO CHOCOLATE’S HOT CHOCOLATE:
Rococo Chocolates in Motcombe Street, London, are famous for a variety of award-winning chocolate products, including their 70% House Dark drinking chocolate which is pure magic in a cup. Served in Rococo’s distinguishable china cups with the founder’s own blue stencil designs on them, everything about this hot chocolate drinking experience is pure perfection.
The chocolate they use is an organic 70% house blend using beans from a variety of origins, to add a little richness they have also added organic cocoa powder to the mix giving it a lovely strong flavour and velvety texture, it’s clear to see why this drink won them an Academy of Chocolate award! Sip it from their beautiful cups outside in the little wire chairs, inside the hustle and bustle of the shop, or in their little private magic garden downstairs at the back of the shop. Even after you’ve finished you will notice the heady notes of chocolate linger on your palette for a good few minutes! Aaah, bliss.
It’s not just their chocolates and hot chocolates that are inspirational, the founder herself, Chantal Cody is even more so. A strong minded business woman with a passion for style and chocolate, she founded Rococo Chocolates 33 years ago, the first female chocolatier in the UK to do so, as well as founding the Academy of Chocolate in 2005 alongside several other industry experts and chocolate aficionados. Legend also has it that it is Chantal and her Motcomb Street shop that inspired the book Chocolat by Joanne Harris.
Enjoy a fine cup of Rococo’s hot chocolate in a signature blue and white cup and explore the secret garden at 5 Motcomb Street, London, SW1X 8JU
Great taste in music, a quirky sense of humour, chocolate to die for and some of the world’s best scenery – Iceland really does tick all the boxes.
Even those of you more partial to a bikini-toting, pinacolada-sipping beachside holiday can still find some solace (and outstanding chocolate) in this magical land of elf rocks, blizzards and thermal spas.
SKETCH PARLOUR HOT CHOCOLATE:
The richest of them all! Sketch in Mayfair is a Michellin star group of restaurants in one venue. The first place you may enter as you head into the building is the Parlour, famous for it’s Alice in Wonderland-esque themed decor and tastefully miss-matched furniture. You can lunch here, and also take morning tea or breakfast – here they have a fine range of french patisserie, macarons, a full on varied lunch menu at a reasonable price, and…hot chocolate to die for.
Made using Valrhona’s finest 70% dark house blend, again like all top hot chocolates in London this is pure, melted gold, in a cup! But it’s the combination of this melted gold and finely frothed creamed milk that really makes this particular hot chocolate extra special. So smooth and so thick that you really do need the supplied teaspoon to scoop out the left overs, you’ll be licking your lips and savouring that flavour long after you have scraped the last from the cup!
Sketch is worth a visit not just for the hot chocolates, the patisseries, the delightful theme of the parlour, but The Glade is a must visit for any coffee lover or fan of scones and cream – Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is staple here and the Glade gives a delightful impression of being in a forest. Before you go, don’t forget to explore the loos – both sets – they are some of, if not the most, exciting in London!
Sketch is found at 9 Conduit Street, W1S 2XG, a stones throw (or very short walk) from Oxford Circus tube station.