Last night, after work, I found myself at Hummus Bros – a small restaurant chain based in London, which – surprisingly enough – serves all its main dishes on hummus. I have to admit, it was kind of a let-down: considering the main role it has on the menu, their hummus didn’t taste that nice. Both I and the Man found it way too sweet; as if it belonged with the puddings.
Talking of puddings, dessert itself was not too bad, if not exactly revelatory: we ordered a wobbling mound called Malabi; basically a milk blancmange with thick date honey syrup. It was small but sticky and satisfying – the syrup providing a nice burst of zing.
The thing that got me really excited, however, was not with the desserts. It was the Hot Spiced Apple Juice, with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. For a Pud-Hog, this might sound surprising, but please bear in mind: it was snowing outside. As far as I’m concerned, there’s never been a better time for what is basically a steaming liquid pudding. Carpe diem, and all that.
If I’m honest, it wasn’t the best hot juice I’d ever had. There was something quite unnerving about the way it glooped from the stirrer – like apple-scented ectoplasm. Tasted all right though – you can’t go far wrong with apple and cinnamon. For a while, each Christmas Day, my family and I would head out to a pub in the c0untryside, for that glorious couple of hours when they opened and served hot cider. You see, I have nothing but good associations there.
When it comes to hot drinks of the chocolate variety, however, I’ve never been grabbed quite as hard. In theory, they should be the best thing ever. And if they were just heated chocolate, perhaps they would be. Unfortunately though, the bulk are made with that cloying cheap powder, and are nearly always far too sweet: by the end of a cup, my tongue is furred and I feel like I want to chuck up.
But then there’s good hot chocolate… That, I don’t mind drinking. I should clarify here: by good I mean thick and dark; something that feels substantial but not too sickly; that doesn’t go straight to your head for a brain assault. For instance, there’s a small Italian ice cream shop in Bournemouth, Giggi, which does a blindingly good chilli pepper dark chocolate (made by a company called Eraclea – which I’m tempted to buy shares in).
Brighton-based Montezuma’s also sell a fine variety – Chocolate for Drinking, No.2 – which is all flakes of dark with chilli. The famous Paul A. Young (inevitably) comes up trumps too. If you head into one of his shops, they’ll ladle it out of a vat for you – a drink so thick it’s more like chocolate sauce. There are all sorts of spicy accompaniments here: chilli, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, even cayenne pepper. You can help yourself to whatever you fancy: make tingling combinations. I doused mine in green and black cardamom and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I did have to pass it around though… it was a bit much just for one…
Still, a beverage like that is quite inspiring. I think, on the whole, we’re far too conservative with hot drinks. Coffee, tea, just one kind of powdered hot chocolate. BOR-ING. There’s so much room to play around. Vanilla pods, alcohol, spices. What about a mug of Xocolatl? Chuck some sliced green chilli in your mug! Go Aztec on this shizzle!
Quite frankly folks, life’s too short (and too cold) not to.