April 25, 2017
A new chocolatier from Evelyn de Rothschild using Original Beans chocolate.
A new chocolatier opened in London last October. And when that happens it is my job to investigate. The brainchild of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, realised with Ben Elliot and Jessica de Rothschild, R Chocolate certainly means business – opening with shops in Belgravia and Richmond, plus a full compliment of seasonal collections, patisserie, workshops and events. There is the planning and backing here that has allowed the brand to launch all guns blazing, and their stand at last year’s Chocolate Show in London was doing brisk business, even while it was only within a week of their launch.
However I am often witness to brand launches, and there are countless chocolate companies whose intentions are not born out by their content. What interests me about R Chocolate is their choice of chocolate. In Original Beans they have chosen a partner with fine ethics, and even finer taste. If they are working with Philipp Kauffman’s chocolate, what they produce should be well worth eating.
I was happily charmed by their Christmas themed chocolates – the festively pretty snow-topped chalet was really delightful – but decided to wait until the dust settled before taking a closer look. The Belgravia boutique serves a full afternoon tea, which I hoped would allow me the chance to spend a bit of time in their flagship store, checking out all they do, and seeing how they were using this fine couverture in both their patisserie and their chocolates.
The site on Ebury Street was previously occupied by William Curley; it is where I interviewed him, and have subsequently treated myself to his dessert menu. That is quite a tough act to follow. R Chocolate have completely re-jigged the site, so it isn’t reminiscent of William’s boutique. And nothing can take away from the fact that this is a very smart and appealing corner of London. It looks onto a leafy square, and the huge Daylesford Organic boutique a few doors away was drawing plenty of well-heeled foodie shoppers. I see no reason to believe that R Chocolate cannot thrive here. And I hope so, as their commitment to using really fine and ethically produced chocolate is a laudable one.
There is something of the Viennese café about the new arrangement, with comfortable red upholstered seating and pretty wallpaper. The displays are full of chocolates and patisserie that are both fine looking and tempting. When I visited it was leading up to Easter, and there were an array of eggs of all types. I am happy to report that the waiting staff were able to tell me which Original Beans chocolate each piece had been made from. That is the kind of attention to detail that will make R Chocolate appealing to a chocolate obsessive like me.
We were early for our booking, but seated immediately, and our waitress could not have been more helpful or charming. Thank you Caroline! The menus are tied in a scroll with red ribbon, and open to reveal quite some list of goodies.
First up, drinks. I chose tea, which was well made and presented. My companion chose hot chocolate. This was really good, a lovely full mug, froth-topped, and neither too sweet nor too rich – which are the usual sins of those making hot chocolate from chocolate rather than cocoa powder. There is also a choice of either champagne – an appropriately crisp and clean tasting Rothschild bottle – or CiaB – a crémant from Perpignan infused with chocolate. The latter, while not actually sweet, has a sweetness to it and an aroma and taste of hazelnut praline. I preferred the freshness of the champagne with my cakes, but the CiaB was interesting, and my partner preferred it.
And then came the cakes! This is a very generous tea, it isn’t easy to eat all of it, and we were guilty of needing a doggy bag (for which read exceptionally elegant take-home box). This, despite being hearty cake eaters. At £35 per person, £45 with the booze, you will not be disappointed. This is a lot more for your money than many smart afternoon teas in London that are not as good. There are too many different cakes to describe each in detail – seven for each diner, and then two scones each too. I wasn’t a fan of all of them, finding the sponge that went into the Battenberg and the Victoria sponge light enough, but dry. The biscuit bases on the mousses were overly sandy in texture. But the pluses outweighed the minuses; where they were good they were excellent.
We started with the excellent trifle, a narrow verrine layering sweet/sharp raspberry with vanilla-rich custard and a fine tasting cake base. Both a chocolate and strawberry mousse had the perfect light and creamy texture. I loved the lemon drizzle cake, which I would classify more as a bundt – moist, dense, simple, full flavoured and moreish. It was a generous size, and I didn’t leave a crumb. The star of the show was a superb chocolate loaf cake, which was the perfect fudgey texture and packed a wonderful flavour punch, not surprising if it is made with Cru Virunga, which I suspect it is. You can buy large versions of this loaf cake to take away, which ought to be a bestseller. The scones were also good, well flavoured and warm from the oven, with not a hint of imbalance from too much baking soda. They were served with the expected clotted cream, and a really good sour cherry jam enriched with Cru Virunga.
This is a well realised, technically elegant affair. It is certainly for the sweet-toothed as there are no savoury offerings. But if you have your sweet tooth at the ready it shouldn’t disappoint, and it excels when it brings that excellent chocolate into play. Plus, the filled chocolates and seasonal chocolate shapes have so far shown great promise. At the Chocolate Show I tasted a salted caramel in dark chocolate and was pleased to note a very well balance caramel, deep in flavour and well matched with the chocolate. I look forward to seeing how both the boutique, with its events and menus, and the chocolate offering will develop.