Over the past 15 years, a host of small artisanal chocolatiers have opened their doors across the country, putting British chocolate firmly back on the world map. Having been named as Britain’s best chocolatier by the Academy of Chocolate for five years in a row, Belgravia-based William Curley has been at the forefront of the British chocolate revolution, but he’s not alone. It turns out that, as a nation, we’re more daring than most.
Paul Wayne Gregory, Paul Wayne Gregory
South London chocolatier and artist Paul Wayne Gregory has great expectations for the future of British chocolate. ‘The good thing about the British is that when we understand something, we dominate it.’ To remain true to his motto of ‘indulgence is everything’, he takes months to develop each recipe-for example, he spent 20 months trying different chocolates and adjusting the amount of cacao in his passionfruit bonbon. ‘I suppose it’s because I’m not just a chocolatier, I’m also a chef.’
Don’t miss Passionfruit bonbon (in the Pure Indulgence box, from £19.95; 020-8664 8966; www.paulwaynegregory.com)
Chantal Coady, Rococo
In 1983, after studying textile design, Chantal Coady decided to pursue her childhood dream and open a chocolate shop. She sourced fine truffles and pralines from France, Belgium and the UK, and unwittingly started a taste revolution. Three shops and almost 30 years later, Miss Coady works with the Grenada Chocolate Company to produce cacao beans and make chocolate on her ethical farm in Grenada.
Don’t miss Madagascar house truffle (Cat That Got the Cream box, £16; 020-7245 0993; www.rococochocolates.com)
Damian Allsop,Damian Allsop Ch2ocolates
‘I was introduced to an amazing chocolate by Amadei. But then I put it in a recipe and it lost all its subtlety,’ says Damian Allsop. ‘I realised I needed to work with a flavour-
less liquid-water. Chocolate is a concentration of flavours, so you need to free them up, as you do by adding a drop of water to whisky.’ He believes these are exciting times for British chocolate: ‘People are tasting it and wanting it.’
Don’t miss The Pure Collection (£19.50; 01892 752002; www.damianallsop.com)
Claire Burnet, Chococo
Claire Burnet and her husband, Andy, take fully traceable, high-quality chocolate, combine it with top local Dorset ingredients and add nothing else to it. ‘We don’t put in additives and preservatives,’ explains Mrs Burnet. ‘The bulk of our chocolate has a two-week shelf life. We make it, pack it to order and ship it.’ For her, chocolate is all about freshness and great seasonal ingredients, from honey to wild-bramble jelly, and even a red wine from Bridport. ‘At food fairs, I sometimes try products on our chocolate buttons to see how they could work together.’
Don’t miss Espresso (box from £12.95; 01929 421777; www.chococo.co.uk)
Paul A. Young, Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates
Paul A. Young’s success is founded as much on his uncompromising approach to freshness and quality of the ingredients as on his unbridled creativity. He says that ideas just pop into his head-among his latest creations are a Blood Orange Martini and a Roquefort, Roast Walnut and Honey that challenge the tastebuds. But then he believes that the British ‘are more daring, more open. People enjoy trying new things and like to be challenged’.
Don’t miss Glenfiddich and Seville-orange marmalade (mixed box, £22; 020-7437 0011; www.paulayoung.co.uk)
Marc Demarquette, Demarquette
Marc Demarquette loves to experiment with new flavours. ‘What they have on the Continent is lovely, but they don’t really move on. Here, we innovate-we’re exciting.’ For him, ‘chocolate is all about magic, and one I’m particularly proud of is Royal Merina. My challenge with it was to get all the sensations of chocolate in one go, and it’s an explosion of flavour, like an orchestra playing the grand finale’.
Don’t miss Royal Merina (box from £15; 020-7351 5467; www.demarquette.com)
Nick Crean, Prestat
Miss Coady’s work was a huge inspiration for Nick Crean and Bill Keeling, the half-brothers who have reinvigorated historic chocolatier Prestat. Founded in 1902, Prestat quickly attracted high-profile customers, from actress Sarah Bernhardt to The Queen and The Queen Mother. ‘British chocolate isn’t snobbish,’ says Mr Crean. ‘When you walk into a French chocolate shop, you feel the same trepidation as you would if you were in a high-end art gallery. The British are much more egalitarian.’
Don’t miss Sea-salt caramel truffles (£10.50; 0800 0213 023; www.prestat.co.uk)
And if you like it hot…
Try Sir Hans Sloane’s dark drinking-chocolate beads (£10, 01932 356008;www.sirhanssloane.com), which melt into warm milk for sophisticated sipping.
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