Test Drives

artisanThis week, London had a sweet and creamy answer to those tired out by the hedonistic pleasures of London cocktail week – the simultaneous celebration of London Chocolate Week.

Some enterprising bars chose to combine the two with chocolate flavoured cocktails and liqueurs, but for the true cocoa lover, there was only one place to head – your local chocolate shop.

Acclaimed master chocolatiers L’Artisan du Chocolat got into the swing of things with a regular session of one of their chocolate tasting events at the pristine store on Westbourne Grove in East London. More Zen retreat than Willy Wonka factory, the store offers artisan chocolates sourced from all over the globe and processed in their own production centre in Ashford, Kent.

The twice-monthly tastings are a haven for chocolate connoisseurs looking to extend their palates. We were served samples of chocolates with
ingredients sourced worldwide – from Thailand to Jamaica – and given dishes of ingredients to sniff, touch and taste.

Standouts included a fragrant spiced ginger and lemongrass milk chocolate bar, a fruit orchid orangeblossom bar dreamt up for the Chelsea Flower Show last year and a tobacco-spiked chocolate ganache, developed for Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant. A wine truffle made with locally sourced Kent sparkling wine flew the flag for locally sourced produce.

L’Artisan is famed for their salted caramels, a favourite of Gordon Ramsay’s, and tasters can expect to work their way through several, including some adventurous flavours such as balsamic and sage and thyme. The developers in Kent promise a spiced fig version for Christmas – the ideal chocolate lover’s stocking wrapper perhaps?

It’s wise to eat first, or the combination of some challenging flavours and spices, added with more chocolate in one sitting than is wise, can leave you a little queasy. But with a goody bag to enjoy later, and a hearty halfway treat of a warm Valhrona dessert and store-made salted caramel ice-cream, we wouldn’t blame you for throwing caution to the wind and diving in.

2-hour ‘tutored chocolate tastings’ run in the Westbourne Grove L’Artisan du Chocolat on selected Thursdays, and costs £35. For more information, visit www.artisanduchocolat.com

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