I’ve never known a chocolate reviewer make chocolates worthy of an award. Similarly I’ve never known a restaurant critic with a Michelin Star nor a wine critic a Decanter Award, neither has Jeremy Clarkson won a Grand Prix. Essentially, those that can’t, preach.
It would be difficult for Marc to reach the heady heights of the Royal Merina Chocolates, who could? But trying to provide something new every Easter that is worthy of putting his name to them must be a challenge for a man even of his great talent. Previous years has seen him produce some absolutely wonderful, and large Easter eggs that even got my cold-hearted wife excited (in a chocolate sense of course). But this year I have before me something more, refined. More subtle. But no less decadent.
These treats have been stored in a fairly cool, dark location, patiently awaiting my attention. This year has been crazy so far and today is much like Easter – that time when it’s been a hard slog since Christmas, you’re frayed but the sun is out and the birds as singing. You’re ready for some self-indulgence and this is exactly what Marc produces in abundance.
This wonderful Easter-themed, large box opened up before me to reveal six chocolate eggs, about the size of a one of your regular hen’s eggs. Each is filled with Marc’s expertly created caramel, but in three distinct varieties. The yellow egg contains a banoffee caramel that has the consistency of the perfectly cooked boiled egg. It rises to the touch but doesn’t dribble over your expensive suit or the carpet – it certainly holds its own. I’ve now tried this egg in two ways: the first I took an almighty, childish, huge bite and it didn’t touch the sides; the second was more restrained, it was almost magisterial in that I just nibbled at the milk chocolate and took an appropriate slurp of caramel with it. I do feel the more refined approach is preferable. That way you actually appreciate the balance of the flavours. The banana somehow manages to control the sweetness of the caramel. I don’t know how Marc has managed it though. I normally find banoffee caramel to be excessively sweet. But that ‘made by machine’ flavour is certainly nowhere to be seen – you can actually tell that this is handmade. What’s more that milk chocolate is blooming gorgeous. I’d love to know what it is as is just wonderful.
One of the most abiding memories as a child is sitting down in my parent’s house on the outskirts of Woking having consumed some of a key lime cheesecake made by my mother, feeling utterly satiated and happy and then going out to play with my friends on our bikes. I still love lime now. The sharpness here is extreme, however. It’s powerful. It leads you into a false sense of security. Just as your eyes acclimatise to dark in the cinema and you walk out into the bright sunshine it can hurt. The same thing happens here. Your taste buds get used to the sweetness of the caramel which is further heightened by the lime but then the slower to melt chocolate comes into play. This, of course, has a milder flavour. It’s like drinking rum and Coke and the barman forgetting the rum the next time. You just need that sugary, sharp intoxicating flavour to continue. Even though the milk chocolate shell is still lovely, it can’t really compete with the intensity of the lime. Would the egg be better served by bringing the sharpness down? I hate myself for saying so, but I think it could be better for it.
The blue egg had everyone’s favourite: salted caramel. Seemingly to people of a certain age: mine and thirty years either side, this is de riguer when it comes to artisan chocolate gifts. It’s like violet crèmes to old people, but actually nice. Very nice. Here the 71.1% dark chocolate which carries its own intensity and smoked-wood characteristic contrasts the sharp, saline, buttery, smooth, orgasmic caramel. Those on death row would choose this as their last meal, some religions would ban it and left-leaning governments would tax it at 95% just because if everyone can’t have it, nobody should. In fact, I feel a supply of these could easily end the Crimean crisis.
But on a serious note. The banoffee is a delight, the juxtaposition of the key lime with the shell didn’t hit my spot, but the salted caramel was just utterly fantastic. Easter is about indulgence, it’s your duty, if you’re a Christian or not, to over-do it. But if you do, do it in style.