One of the most significant challenges that a chocolatier the size of Hotel Chocolat faces is that of producing large quantities of highly desirable chocolates which taste as if they were made by your local master chocolatier. I feel it’s almost impossible to compete with the finest chocolatiers who have just put their latest ganaches onto the shelves having just brought them up from their kitchen below the shop. However, working ahead of the seasons gives companies such as Hotel Chocolat the ability to think of every detail and act upon it. That’s what Hotel Chocolat done with these Love Notes.
As you would expect from Hotel Chocolat, the packaging is beautifully designed, and this year they’ve managed to somehow improve upon their usual elegance by bringing in a much lighter appearance. They also lead the way at the usefulness of their menu cards. One thing I feel spoils a box of chocolates is the frustration you encounter not knowing which bon bon you’re going to prioritise when you first open the box and then in which order you’re going to consume them. The menu here is as clear and easy to follow as possible. Each ganache of caramel is clearly indicated with a colourful stripe, heart shape, swoosh or dot. Even if your other-half wouldn’t do so well at the Krypton Factor, they’d have no problem with these chocolates.
They also include a little card inside a miniature envelope which is placed just below the outer box. This allows you to write a little loving message which would be great if you’re not able to see your loved-one on Valentine’s Day itself. Or you could sneak in early to work in the morning and place it on his or her desk before they get in. It’s this thinking beyond the actual chocolate itself and into how the chocolates will be given that Hotel Chocolat excels at.
Inside that box you’ll also find twelve chocolates with two each of six different flavours. You’ll have a Chocolate Brownie, Soft Chilli Caramel, Strawberry & Black Pepper, Raspberry Rapture, Smooth Praline and Vanilla Truffles. As you can see there’s certainly something for everyone with some firm favourites and some more imaginative flavours – all alcohol-free too.
The first I tried was the chocolate brownie which was more moist than I thought it’d be but considering it was a praline I found incredibly moreish. The saltiness from the nuts against the sweet chocolate gave it a flavour balance tipped into that more addictive saltiness that I feel is hard to get right.
The soft chilli caramel I felt was too bland at first. But this was until some of the exceptionally fluid caramel seeped out and slid down the back of my throat. At this stage the chilli flavour came out in full force. My own view was that there wasn’t enough of character in the dark chocolate in the initial stages. It only came into play long after the chilli heat had subsided. I don’t know how they could have got some more of the true chocolate into play at the beginning of the melt, but it would have added an interesting dimension.
The Strawberry and Black Pepper gave me flashbacks of sinking myself into endless Strawberry Daiquiris in Barbados. Of course the Strawberry flavour is identical but it’s the black pepper which serves as a faux alcoholic sensation. There is a touch of earthiness which some might pick up on, but it all adds to a very interesting experience.
The Smooth Praline wasn’t my favourite of the bunch, but I could easily see myself popping these in the sofa on a Sunday afternoon whilst I wait for something decent to come on the TV. The good part of the experience was that they were more down the creamy route than the salty.
The Vanilla Truffle is another interesting, but sweet one. It most definitely reminds me of custard which I adore on cold winter nights. Although, typically, that sweetness may be a touch too much for me, the cool, refreshing texture of the truffle filling was greatly contrasted against the others.
Below each of the chocolates you’ll find another layer of smoochy romance with an array of love quotes such as Shelley’s: “Soul meets soul on lover’s lips” or another from anon: “Love is not what the mind thinks, but what the heart feels.” If you need to compensate for a year’s worth of not being romantic “enough” then you’re onto a winner with these!