Chocolate has always been associated with luxury. It has a quality which induces the hormone serotonin, and therefore a feeling of well being. Mayan and Aztec civilisations made drinks from the cacao bean often flavoured with chilli and offered it to the gods. And it has long been used in Mexican cooking in their mole (pronounced mol-ay) sauces for chicken and steak. But after decades of being a mass produced bland product diluted with fat and sugar, chocolate is finally returning to the sophistication of its origins. Rococo’s bars of chocolate with chilli, cardamom or cinnamon can now be found in supermarkets.
I can still remember my first Artisan du Chocolat chocolate at a trade fair about 10 years ago. They were uniform flat rectangles, but each one was a delicious new experience, and the one which made the biggest impression was with cardamom. I have felt, ever since, that this spice is the perfect combination with chocolate.
Paul A Young is one of the new breed of chocolatiers to combine savoury accents in his recipes. Apart from the now well known salted caramels, one of Paul’s best sellers are Marmite truffles. His new shop in Wardour Street in Soho eschews the clinical, highly designed precision of many of his peers; the background is dark purple and wood, and the boxes are functional and not precious. The focus is therefore on the chocolates themselves. These include creations such as Malaysian Orange or Coconut Water and Lemongrass. The appearance of both these is stunning, and the taste doesn’t disappoint either; memories of Terry’s Chocolate Orange fade on the explosion of citrus flavours, while the vivid green and red swirl of the latter belies the complexity of flavour within.
But if you don’t live in London, how do you get to try these amazing creations? For the moment Paul A Young is concentrating on his three shops, and you have to visit. However, the more established Artisan du Chocolat sell on line and are also expanding their shops out of London. William and Suzue Curley are another couple of talented and dedicated chocolate makers, who have two shops in London and Richmond, but also sell on line.
Paul A Young shops are at:
143 Wardour Street
33 Camden Passage
20 Royal Exchange