Behind this non descript door along a busy street in Soho is like a Narnia Wardrobe into a different time and space. 68 Dean Street is an 18th Century Georgian Townhouse nestled between bustling restaurants and bars and you wouldn’t give it a second glance if you walked past.
On this occasion, 5 rooms were used to showcase some surprising and delicious treats. Celebrating London Cocktail Week and Chocolate Week, a group of top chocolatiers paired with mixologists from the Manhattan Project to curate this unique event. 5 Chocolatiers made special chocolates to pair with 5 cocktails.
Room 1 Rococo & The Grenada Chocolate Company with Ron Santa Teresa Rum
After coming in from the pouring rain, this was the perfect room to kick start our tour as they were serving hot buttered rum, drinking the warm buttery liquid slowly warmed us up and felt a snuggly hug . Deliciously warming. On the next table, Rococo Chocolate laid out a Dark Rum Truffle with a soft ganache filling.
Room 2 Paul A Young wtih AquaRiva Tequila
Reluctantly, we moved on to the next room where we found Paul A Young who had made some thin wafers of Parmesan chocolates and a Tequila Truffle to go with an AquaRiva Tequila cocktails.The Parmesan flavoured chocolates were made to be the salty element to the drink and it was a surprisingly complementary flavour. Genius.
These sugar free Tequila Truffles are made with AquaRiva’s Reposado tequila and calamansi lime juice and sweetened with organic agave syrup. Paul buys the imported Calamansi lime juice (an Asian lime which has a slightly sweet juice and has a very distinct aroma) especially to flavour these chocolates.
The chocolate has a shiny shell and when you bite into it you get a creamy smooth ganache flavoured with the Tequila and lime. Not overly citrussy and not an overwhelming alcohol flavour. Unusual.
AquaRiva is made by the only female Tequila Maker in Mexico, Cleo Rocos. She makes this with Agave to sweeten instead of sugar and says that this makes her Tequila a hangover free zone. On sipping the neat tequila, it didn’t have that burning sensation that I was expecting but was smooth, like a good brandy.
Room 3 Artisan du Chocolat with Campari
Now this was my favourite of the chocolates as I am partial to caramelly flavours. Artisan du Chocolat made these salted caramel discs to pair with an Aperol Spritz, a neon orange drink much favoured by Venetians as their early evening aperitif while on their passeggiatta.
Room 4 William Curley with Johnie Walker Blue Label
William Curley and team are my new favourite people. I love everything that they do. Today was no exception. William made some puddings to go with the Blue Label Johnie Walker Whisky.
Being Scottish, he made chocolatey puddings instead and the whisky was drunk neat as he said “Scots don’t drink cocktails”. The little Chocolate Mousse puddings were very light, topped with a chocolate tuille and some gold leaf. Inside the mousse was some creme brulee sitting on a piece of chocolate sponge with some whisky soaked raisins and a vanilla and apricot sauce.
So the lovely Johan introduced us to the Blue Label bottle. With my newly acquired whisky tasting skills a week earlier, I could really appreciate the nuances as he described them. On tasting, it is velvety smooth, smokey, rich with a slightly spicy edge.
The Johnie Walker Blue label is made from a blend of specially hand picked whiskies from a vast choice of different whiskies usually from different distilleries. There is no age on the bottles as this is not about the age. It is all about the blend. Every barrel is different.
They use used oak barrels, either old Bourbon ones from Kentucky or Pedro Ximenez ones from Spain. As all these are usually from very old trees, over 100 years old, this imparts a different feature and flavour on the whisky.
As whisky making is such a skilled and specialist craft, very few people can blend which makes the Blue Label a very exclusive hand mad. Learnt something new.
Room 5 Damian Allsop with Martin Miller’s Gin
Finally, in the last room, we met Damian Allsop who made some truly unusual chocolates. His chocolate is not roasted but raw which is the usual treatment of cocoa nibs.
We were invited to firstly taste these communion wafer discs of raw Pacari chocolate. Initially, the mouth will water and in the second stage you start to get the fruitiness, then the sour flavours and then the base notes.
His chocolates are made with a water ganache, a first for me. He uses spring water from his neighbour’s spring to make his chocolates. Usually chocolate ganache is made with mixing the chocolate with cream and sometimes butter. By not using cream and substituting this with water, you get a much clearer taste of the chocolate coming through. On tasting this, it was quite distinct.
Here are his truffles made with green tea and black currant meringue, topped with the water ganache. A very unusual combination and it taste different depending on which way you bite into it.
Paired with this was a cocktail called the Deconstructed Bramble made with Martin Millers Gin.
Wow, this was a brilliant event with a lot of interesting new ideas, some very creative chocolates and made so much fun as we got to speak to and hear from these boutique chocolatiers and absorb some of their passion. Love Chocolate Week.