I’m a lover of chocolates from London – just as much as I dislike stereotypes and lazy thinking. The conventional wisdom is that that the best bon bons are found in London or Paris, perhaps even New York or Tokyo. It’s all about perception and what ‘floats your boat’. It seems that many hold the view that unless you’re located in a glamorous city with a huge marketing budget then you just can’t make very pleasing chocolates. That’s just utter rubbish. Great chocolate is whatever YOU like. If that comes from a fashionable part of ‘the big smoke’ or the provincial town of Shrewsbury – that who are we to argue?
There is something to be said for chocolate treats made ‘out in the sticks’. Not all chocolatiers located a pricey train ticket from the capital take daily deliveries of Callebaut or Belcolade and trot out saccharin-tasting chocolate stilettos and other chocolate shapes made with this, I’ll put it diplomatically, industrial-quality chocolate couverture. Some, as Julia Wenlock does, use finer couverture, from the likes of Marou, Original Beans, Amedei and the like to create her bon bons – and that should be very much encouraged.
So when I popped to her stall in Shrewsbury I was delighted to see that in such an unconventional setting she had some chocolates fit for the well-heeled parts of the country’s chocolate focal-point. I started off with a salted-butterscotch, cardamom and liquid honey caramel. I actually first tried them when I was part-way out of a cold. My taste-buds were in full working order, but I suffered from a melancholy that could only be fixed by some delicious chocolate treats. And that’s exactly what they did. The sweetness of the honey and its obscure flavour profile combined beautifully with the salted caramel. The butterscotch, too, give it another welcomed layer of roundness. All the flavours combined magnificently. There was some sharp sweetness as you would expect from the salt and sugar combination – but it was exactly what I needed now, just as much as then. I have a few left and they are testing my will-powers to the maximum. I can feel my tongue whipping through my mouth in search of more of the caramel.
Next I had a couple of irregular (I don’t like regular) cocoa-dusted truffles. The first was made with Original Beans Esmeraldas (I’m not sure which) and then Marou couverture. The former was soft, sweet and very cool in the mouth. It was meek, relaxing and comforting. This is certainly one where you need lifting.
The Marou was lipp-smackingly good. It was dark, brusque and to the point. It was a burlesque experience. I actually went for another bite and it had gone. There was also some sharpness which is very welcome. It rattles your senses and most definitely leaves you wanting more – especially if you’re a dark chocolate kind of person.
So. Does London still make the best chocolate in the country? Well it’d be hard to say otherwise. But what I can say is that many should stop thinking is the beginning and end of the country’s chocolates making. The prejudice should end now people should start exploring the regions for a greater wider variety of artisan made chocolates. You can start with Toots Sweets.
And as an aside – I gave my wife one of Julias milk chocolate bars with huge chunks of honeycomb -she absolutely loved it. I think its all gone already (well that’s what I’ve been told!)