Imagine a house; a large house with numerous floors and a swanky Georgian interior. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Next imagine that five of its rooms are full of Cocktails and Chocolates. I think you’ll agree, that sounds even nicer.
In fact, let’s dispense with the niceties. It sounds pretty gosh-darn awesome.
Five rooms, each containing the best of British Chocolates, plus a fabulous drink made by top-notch mixologists? It almost sounds too good to be true – but last night this became a brief reality.
In one of the major highlights of Chocolate Week – and for yesterday evening only – 68 Dean Street became a veritable palace of delights; the home of a one-night Chocolate/Cocktail experience, known to the masses as Choc Tales.
It certainly wasn’t the cheapest event of the year (at £45 for a two-hour session – or the equivalent of £9 per room). Then again, this was a unique occurrence.
What’s more, in a life-affirming quirk of fate, your humble Pud-Hog scoped the joint for free.
If you happened to miss it (or lacked the funds) then don’t be envious: I made it my aim to sup sweet treats on your behalf.
Feel free to thank me later.
In the meantime, here’s a low-down of what went on…
Choc Tale the First:
Damp as I was from the driving rain, this glorious room was a welcome sight. In it, you see, was a barrel of hot Buttered Rum.
I’ve never had Buttered Rum before but, blimey, it was delicious: thick, appley, warm and spiced – like Butterbeer for grown-up, guzzling muggles.
To be sampled with this was a Dark Rum Truffle from the luxury Chocolate company Rococo. With its slightly salty soft Ganache filling, it tempered the sweet drink perfectly, slip-sliding down the throat almost as quickly as the Rum.
Choc Tale the Second:
Concerned that I should continue before the Buttered Rum fugged my senses, I soon trekked up to the next room I could find. There was Paul A. Young (he of the recent Truffle Tasting Session) with two exciting products to be sampled with a cooling Margarita.
Created with Aqua Riva Tequila, Agave Syrup and Lime, this Cocktail was not to be drunk before the first spot of gourmet Chocolate: a Parmesan Micro Bar.
That’s right, Ogglers, you heard me: Parmesan-flavoured Chocolate.
Leave it on the tongue and, for a while, all seems normal… then POW, in comes the Cheese. Salty, sweet, and oozing with Umami.
After washing it down with the Margarita (so light and refreshing it felt like July was back), next up for gnawing was Paul’s Aqua Riva Margarita Truffle: a product which took four years in the making.
Completely sugar-free (and therefore fine for diabetics), it was basically the Cocktail in Chocolate form: alcoholic, but by no means harsh on the tongue.
Choc Tale the Third:
Tempted as I was to get a second Buttered Rum, or tipsify on Aqua Riva Truffles, room number three was beckoning: a collaboration between Aperol and Artisan du Chocolat (they of the Salt Caramel Sauce). Not nearly as experimental as its predecessors, it was nevertheless a tasty pairing: Grapefruit Champagne Spritz with a thin Salt Caramel Disc.
No time to linger though. Downstairs we go, to
Choc Tale the Fourth:
A room filled with plates of an utterly gorgeous Dessert.
Creations of William Curley – a boutique Chocolatier – these were pretty much edible sculptures: a Chocolate Mousse filled with Crème Brûlée, dotted with Whisky-soaked Raisins, and perched on a Chocolate Sponge – not to mention a fruity pool of Vanilla and Apricot sauce.
Normally I can’t do Chocolate Mousse – too many of them contain gelatin – but this one was Pud-Hog friendly: rich, gooey, and vegetarian to boot.
If I’d downed the Whisky it came with, I might have killed my taste buds at this point. Instead, after only a tentative sip, I trotted towards the finale…
Choc Tale the Fifth:
I knew this was going to be good as soon as my feet crossed the threshold. Within moments, Damian Allsop (another of England’s most expert experimenters) had beckoned me to one side: ‘Welcome to the Energy Room,’ he said. And rightly so: there was no chance of losing pep here.
As with room number two, my final experience came in three parts. First: thin discs of Pacari, a raw Ecuadorian Chocolate. The best on the market, said Mr Allsop, and I could well believe him: despite being small it was smooth and bursting with flavour.
Next came something I’ve not seen before: an Open Truffle, smeared with a quiff of Ganache. This was Willy Wonka food: inside were two bright stripes of Meringue; one of Green Tea and one of Blackcurrant.
Nibbling it every way I could (both stripes at once, one at a time) I soon found my Truffle had disappeared.
Never mind though. On the very next table, to help me drown my sorrows, was a drink called the Deconstructed Bramble: another wacky (yet oh so drinkable) offering made with Gin and Blackcurrant ‘Caviare’ (i.e. small gel balls of Blackcurrant Juice).
The rim was smeared with Ganache and Matcha, so by the time my glass was empty my chops were all smeary and green.
Did I mind though?
Did I heck.
After five Cocktails and five Chocolate chow-downs this Pud-Hog was feeling fine (if somewhat creaky on the floorboards).
Twas a tasty tale, as I’m sure you’ll agree – and a very happy ending.
Since writing this piece I have had some exciting news: the folks behind most of these cocktails – a Broadway-based bar called Manhattans Project – are more than happy to share their Buttered Rum recipe.
It’s in my inbox now, Ogglers, so WATCH. THIS. SPACE.]