Monday, 8 June 2009

Artisan du Chocolat Shop Opening & Competition!

Artisan du Chocolat recently opened their new shop and chocolateria in Westbourne Grove and I was lucky enough to attend the opening night. I was definitely the proverbial child in a sweetshop, delighted by all the displays of truly beautiful chocolate around me, not to mention the chic 'n' sleek interior.

Arriving nice and early allowed me to grab some photos before the space became too crowded.

The orange and white theme was clean and energising, though I wondered how long the pristine white leather banquettes in the seating areas will last against the onslaught of sticky fingers and spilled drinks! Shelves and glass display cabinets show-cased the beautiful products and an active conching machine was amongst the quirky objects on display. The space itself was dominated by an enormous bespoke "plantation light" - a curved bell hanging from the ceiling, white on the outside and covered with the vivid picture of a cacao plantation on the inside.

The shop will sell the full range of Artisan du Chocolate products whilst the chocolateria menu offers a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and fine chocolate goodies to nibble.

Smiling staff handed out a selection of bespoke chocolate-themed cocktails (created by master mixologist Nick Strangeway, who was sporting a suitably wizard-like pointy beard) whilst others proffered chocolates, ice-creams and warm chocolate fondants.

Chocolatier, Gerard Coleman and area manager, Elise Thomassin chatted to guests and made sure everyone was drinking and sampling away. Gerard's partner (in life and in business, as they say on their website), Anne Weyn, was also present and working mostly behind the scenes to keep drinks and goodies flowing; I don't have any photos of her.

Having not tried Artisan du Chocolat products before, I'd been online earlier and made up my mind to buy a large box of Couture collection chocolates. Luckily, I arrived early enough for the staff to put together a selection based on my preferences. I must say that £19 for 30 chocolates of this calibre, presented in such an elegant box, is a very good deal indeed and one I could not resist.

During my visit I managed to try all of the different chocolates, including the original salted caramels, orange peels in chocolate and the truly marvellous praline feuillantine plus a warm chocolate fondant which provided the perfect balance of moist but firm cake filled with warm, liquid chocolate not to mention an iced chocolate granita and a Theobrama cacao pulp Bellini combining Prosecco with the pulp of the cacao fruit.

I was also pleased to meet fellow food blogger Dinner_Diary (Kerri) who had contacted Artisan du Chocolat's PR company, Kitchen Communications, as I had, to ask whether she'd be able to attend.

After sampling and snapping away for an hour, I received an unexpected surprise - on leaving I was given a beautiful goodie bag. When I delved into it (once safely ensconsed in the Tube), I discovered another box of 12 chocolates, a cacao pod/ fruit and a copy of Carole Matthews' "The Chocolate Lovers' Club". Thank you very much; what a fun and generous gift!

I'll be keeping most of the chocolates to myself (and posting a review, along the lines of this one about Paul A Young chocolates) but am offering Carole Matthews' "The Chocolate Lovers' Club" to a (UK-based) reader. Not one but two friends gave me this book when it was published - what does that say about my image as a chocolate fiend? I enjoyed the gentle story about four chocolate-loving friends who meet regularly in a cafe called Chocolate Heaven to share laughter and tears in equal measure.

You have till the end of the month to leave a comment on this post sharing your favourite food or drink recipe for chocolate. I'll pick and announce a winner in July. Good luck!


Carole Matthews said...

I was really sorry that I missed the evening and regret it even more now I've read your blog. It all sounds very yummy. Glad you liked the Chocolate Lovers' book. Carole Matthews : ) xx

Heavenly Housewife said...

That box of chocolate squares looks fantastic. Pass it over daaahling!

teanamu said...

We were v lucky to have some of those chocolates that Kavey bought to our tea meeting. They were fab!!! :-)

Pei x

Anonymous said...

(Can't get this post in the normal way so having to do it as annoymous)

Very jealous this looks like a lovely shop and a fantastic evening you had.

Not a recipe but a foody memory, when my cousin was a baby I always remember feeding him white chocolate buttons, but has he had very little teeth, my mum told me to suck the buttons first to melt the chocolate a little before feeding them to him, I'm sure he would be truly disgusted now at the thought of second hand, already sucked chocolate buttons, but at the time he loved them, and of course I got to eat some of them, or atleast suck them! I still eat my white chocolate buttons the same way even now as an adult. There is just something about white chocolate buttons that makes me feel like a big kid!


Rosie Goldsmith said...

That really does sound like a perfect evening...

Chocolate Fondue, the home-type-variety.Again not quite a recipe but something I remember with enjoyment:

Due to someone recently being given a chocolate fountain which required testing, we experimented!
I don't recall which brand of chocolate was used, but we used sort of two thirds milk to one thirds dark chocolate, broken up and melted(usual bowl in pan of boiling water method)
Once the chocolate was melted, full cream was added till it was judged just right. Then into the fountain with the lovely mess.
We'd gone with fruit as the staple of the fondue and had as much variety as we could find. I have to say that the pears were possibly my favourite-then again, anything smothered in chocolate is going to be a favourite of mine...

Anonymous said...

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.
(American recipes are volumetric. Basically it's a oatmeal raisin cookie recipe minus the cinnamon and with milk chocolate chips instead of raisins.)
I'm a fan of brownies too (mmm brownies).
Also crunchy pretzels dipped in Nutella = very nice :D

Hazel Grace said...

I grant myself extremely lucky to have come across Artisan du Chocolat 4 years ago, and have been effusing about them ever since! They are the most amazing, fantastic, beautifully created chocolates I’ve eaten (and they’ve had some stiff competition in the form of Prestat, Rococo and Charbonnel et Walker).

My favourites are without doubt the chocolate salted caramel balls. These perfectly spherical balls of heaven don’t last in our fridge for long. The light cocoa dusting touches your palette first, taunting, and you decide when to pick the moment to bite into it, cracking the ball open like an earthquake and letting the caramel lava spill out and all over your tongue. It’s perfect – not too sweet, not too salty – but a balance of loveliness. They were first designed for Gordon Ramsey, and have since been extended into a range of flavour options, which come in round chocolate coloured pots, nestled in cream cardboard boxes, which look on the sideboard more like they contain designer face cream than chocolates. The ‘No.7’, ‘No.8’ etc. labelling to designate flavour misleads in this way – I’m happy (for my bank balance) to say that i don’t yet know how the numbers match to flavours – but I am ambitious – and there is still plenty of time! I have tried the lemongrass and balsamic vinegar options, but so far think that the original salted caramel balls still rule the world, and my stomach, and our household come to think of it.

For a gift, the ‘O’ range of circular chocolate discs make an unusual choice at a very decent price. The long box with a gold lid harbours at least 10 different flavours, including a dark disc that oozes a thin flow of clear runny honey (no flavourings here, this is the real deal), a Moroccan patterned mint disc and my favourite – a pecan & cinnamon milk disc with a toasty interior to warm the spirit.

Finally, for those who like more conventional chocolate boxes, the range of square shaped handmade chocolates covers every flavour imaginable. The brochure details the groupings: nuts & seeds, fruits & flowers, chocolate ganaches, spices, and more. The details on top are artistic – from Aztec style red and green patterns to simple brushes of gold leaf to dotted, striped and wavy tactile chocolate tops. I enjoy matching up the chocolate with the flavour in the brochure – it’s all part of the experience. My only discontentment is that you can’t currently order either a hand-picked selection, or a single group, online (e.g. just nuts & seeds)... the options are only fully mixed boxes across the range.

The only area i have left to conquer (and it’s not a difficult challenge is it?) are the amazing Tahitian pearls – spherical balls of pearlescent coated chocolate that look just like expensive pearls and sit inside a jewellery-box styled case. They are certainly more environmentally friendly than pearls, better on the bank balance, and no less beautiful. I am hoping that a future birthday or anniversary brings me my first meeting with these little beauties, and the start of a new chocolate relationship. If I were wanting to ask someone to marry me, I’d buy a box of these, nestle the ring inside and end a special meal with them. For an extra few pounds, you can even get any box gift wrapped – in sensuous gold organza with coffee coloured branded ribbon.

I hope other chocolate lovers find this useful, and that you enjoy these amazing chocolates as much as I clearly have!

Douglas Blyde said...

Well, I know where I'm going this weekend! From a chocoholic...

Elisa said...

I love Artisan du Chocolat! Although I live on the other side of Europe, I've become a regular customer, ordering on a monthly basis. Loved this year's Valentine's and Easter collections, munching on the "creme de la creme eggs" right now :)

Had Charbonnel et Walker pink truffles last month, wasn't impressed. Hotel Chocolat is nice though. Coppeneur makes some tasty handmade filled chocolate bars, those small 75g ones with a black wrapper, tried the Cassis & Marc de Champagne, the filling is seductive.

Anonymous said...

Brownies are by far my favorite chocolate recipe - a good brownie is an intensely chocolaty one for me! I'm still searching for the perfect fudgy, dense, chewy, chocolaty brownie.