London has always been a tourist trap. Whole businesses are built upon tourist trade. It has been the case, in my mind at least, that there’s never been anything of real quality and character within a stones through of Oxford Street and ‘Theatre Land’. You’ve got a bunch along Piccadilly including Fortnum & Mason, Charbonnel et Walker, La Maison du Chocolat and Prestat and just to the west you’ve got Liberties, Leonidas, Godivas and Neahaus. But if I was hanging around the very centre of London and a tourist asked for directions to buy some wonderful British chocolate, and I’d have to point them to the nearest tube station. Until now, that is. Thankfully yesterday Paul A. Young opened his much waited Soho store.
It would be churlish of me to suggest that this chocolatierie, located at 143, Wardour Street, W14 8WA, was any more than a honey trap for unsuspecting tourists – that’s the job of the gumf you’d find in Harrods. Instead, tourists and hard-working Londoners , are offered true quality handmade by Paul and his team. Anyone that visits his new store can taste original creations made with ingredients such as kalamansi, marmite, black sesame tahani as well as very well made bon bons made with orange & tarragon, St Germain liqueur with elderflower and basil olive oil – and I think I tried all of them during the press event.
They’re all wonderfully presented, as any grandmother would at a family feast: on a very large round reclaimed elm table where you can explore the available flavours and decide how many you’ll want to take with you. As you work around the table you’ll be sure to need an ever increasing size of box – the term ‘like being in a candy shop’ has never been so true . We’re talking, of course, abouut real treats here and not what most of the chocolate shops in this part of London do – make them in Belguim and ship them over. Those have a long shelf-life and a lack of flavour that tells you that. Instead, Paul offers delightful chocolates that should be enjoyed within a few days of them leaving the store with you.
If the vibrant colour of the shop wasn’t enough to draw you in, then, f you’re like me, the slightest glimpse of a chocolate brownie will be enough to catch your attention. Paul had cunningly placed them in the window and seemed to catch everyone’s eyes as they walked by – and most tried to enter as a result.
Below the main shop floor is a huge kitchen Paul and his team will be making the delectable delights, as well, hopefully making some chocolate making courses too – I’ll be the first fee-paying customer here I think.
Overall, it’d be wrong to think that there is a lot of competition in this part of town – because there isn’t really. People that know chocolate would probably choose Paul’s shop over any of any other chocolate shops in central London. Life is about choice and for those of you who work or live in this part of London have now become blessed with a far suprieror alternative to the European chocolates you’ll find in the surrounding streets.
Right, I’m off to munch on the contents of the press bag.