Monday, 27 January 2014

Chocolate Cafe

If you have a sweet tooth that you have trouble controlling you may wish to look away now.

No, don't read any further.

Stop right there.

You didn't stop, did you?

I'm sorry, but I can't help you. I did warn you and I am not responsible for your next actions.
I've walked past the Chocolate Cafe so many times in the past but have never really ventured in.  There was this one time when Steve and I stuck our heads through the door just before Christmas before deciding that was a bad mistake (the queues were rather daunting and there was nowhere to sit) but other than that I have never been beyond the front doors.
Part of that is a self-preservation thing.  If I don't go into a chocolate shop, I won't eat my way through the counter and bring the leftovers home.  However temptation finally got the better of me and I met Ellie there for a leisurely weekend lunch one cold January day.  
It is a beautifully decorated place, a little bit gauche in places it must be said but there is a theme and they have run with it.   It has that plush, decadent feel of a velvety chocolate truffle or a rich fudge cake oozing with hot chocolate sauce and slathered in cream.  Browns and golds with the gilded hues of sweetie wrappers cuddle you in out of the cold and the wall murals reminds me of the chocolate shops in Italy.
Everywhere you look there is texture and warmth, seducing you to come further.  The lighting is warm and quirky with carved ornate lanterns and hanging teapots that looked suspiciously like the friendship drinking bowls you find in Vallee D'Aoste in the Italian Alps.  There is a large space upstairs filled with snug armchairs and wooden tables, whilst downstairs tables line the glass windows allowing for a spot of people watching as you indulge your sweet tooth.

Once you enter, you are greeted by the counter piled high with chocolate treats.  They sit there, just begging you to choose them and take them away with you.  You can spend a long time deliberating between the different flavour combinations, especially as there are some particularly unusual ones there (blue cheese in a truffle?  How about melon, apple and Parmesan?).  We resisted for the moment and grabbed a table.

The menu is extensive and draws you in.  Black Tea Hot Toddy or Vanilla Ice Cream Porridge or a slice of Green Tea Cake or keep it simple with chocolate dipped strawberries? There is a full hot chocolate menu as well (you would expect nothing less from a Chocolate Cafe). 
I knew I would be diving headfirst into a pile of chocolate a bit later on so I behaved myself and ordered light to start with.  I am a sucker for herbal teas, the more unusual the better and when I saw that there was a Yerba Mate tea on the menu I had to try it.  I have never had one before and I had no idea what to expect.
I was presented with a very light and delicately fragrant herbal tea in a fruit gourd with a metal straw.  It originates from South America and has an almost citrus flavour.  You are forced to let the tea infuse for the perfect amount of time as it cools, due to the fact that the straw is just too hot to use otherwise!
The straw comes with its own filter to prevent you from accidentally swallowing the leaves (which apparently are a relation of the holly tree).  It tastes like a light, slightly woody green tea and was absolutely delicious.  Ellie had an orange and apple smoothie filled with anti-oxidants which she seemed to rather enjoy!
I have heard mixed reviews about the service at the Chocolate Cafe but when we visited we found the servers to be attentive and the food arrived quickly and piping hot.  I ordered the fresh soup of the day; a Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Rosemary soup.  It was thick and clearly packed full of fresh ingredients and came with a great slab of fresh bread.  It was incredibly filling, and at around £5, good value as well.  Eating it makes you feel positively virtuous, important for later on.
After the soup I ordered another tea, this time a White Chinese Flower Tea.  These are a bit of a novelty and mine tasted like a bitter Jasmine tea, an acquired taste and one I happen to like.  There were three different varieties you could order from the menu, each one with a different flavour profile.  You can see why they are a novelty; they look beautiful.  The tea comes served in a glass teapot and you watch the flower expand and the colour bleed out of the flower and steep into the water as it infuses.  You should be given a little timer for the tea to measure when to pour but I think that the servers forgot mine so I just judged it by eye.  You can always ask for a top up of water if it becomes too bitter for you. 
For dessert there was a plethora of chocolate options, from cakes and muffins and brownies to bowls of liquid 'drinking' chocolate (more like a bowl of molten chocolate).  Ellie and I went for the chocolate buffet - a selection of 4 chocolates from the chocolate bar.  I chose a white wine and pistachio chocolate (couldn't taste the wine, which was possibly a good thing), a white chocolate and cranberry popsicle truffle (divine), a dark chocolate and ginger truffle (my favourite) and a white chocolate, chili and cardamon truffle (nice flavour palate but I would have liked a little more chili heat at the finish).  They don't look very big but they were incredibly rich and I was struggling to finish mine at the end! 
The Chocolate Cafe also sells a selection of home made cakes, breads and muffins to take away or eat in as well as goodies from their shop.  There is free wi-fi throughout and we weren't made to feel rushed at all during our stay.  We got so caught up in our chatter as well that 3 hours had vanished before we realised it and not once did we feel like the staff were hinting that we should leave.
They have just started doing kids parties at the 'Chocolate Spa', which, if the photo's are anything to go by, look brilliant and extremely messy!  I found that the prices were a little bit dearer than a bog standard cafe but the quality was excellent and well worth the slight increase.

There is a full wine bar as well and on some evenings the Chocolate Cafe does acoustic music nights, comedy nights and even workshops for kids.  It's well worth following them on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their activities.
I have a feeling that this place is going to be bad for my waist line.

6 comments:

  1. Wow, looks like a lovely cafe! You're definitely tempting me with all the chocolate goodies- except maybe for the blue cheese ones! ;)

    -Jen

    www.vibrantbeautyblog.com

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    1. Hey Jen, good to hear from you! I haven't tried the blue cheese one yet - I keep thinking I should just for the experience! xx

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  2. My favourite is blue cheese :) and it is nice place because if the staff and the service

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    1. I still need to try the blue cheese!

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  3. The homemade cakes are making me so hungry and the chocolates look amazing!! I am just going to have to visit the Chocolate Cafe.

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