I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before or if you know this about me already but I do like chocolate. Okay, I LOVE CHOCOLATE! Not all chocolate admittedly. I steer clear of white chocolate, and I am still getting to grips with the dark side, but I have had a relationship with the milk variety for some time now. And somehow my chocolate senses are so heightened that I always seem to find it wherever I go. Take Italy in 2007, for example. We happened to stay at a villa near Perugia, which has an annual chocolate festival (didn’t know that when we booked – honest!), and then during our stay in Umbria, when we wandered across the border into Tuscany to a shopping centre, I managed to find the biggest Lindor truffle (see pic) imaginable and, as we were happily over there for my birthday (one of those big ones with an -0 on the end of them), I walked out of the store with that truffle. Oh yes, I did! and it was good. I shared some of it because I have friends who have exceptional taste and, besides me, also like chocolate. 😉
So anyway, I went up to London to meet a very dear friend from Sweden (and her colleague) yesterday. We found each other in the chaos that is Victoria Station on a sunny Saturday and she looked at me expectantly. You see, given that I live here in the UK and she doesn’t, she hoped that I’d know exactly where we should go to eat, drink and catch up. We needed somewhere with good beer, good food and where the music wasn’t so loud or distracting that we could hear ourselves think and talk. Um. On the spur of the moment, I settled upon going to the South Bank, if only because I enjoy the vibe of the place and love being beside the river. (I live up a hill in Wales and the only water I see comes down vertically.)
The taxi dropped us off at the London Eye and we wandered along the embankment for a while before plumping for benugo at the BFI as the place to while away our catch-up time. It was a great choice: friendly serving staff; traditional gastro-pub food so some Brit choices for my Swedish friends to try; Grolsch!; a buzzing atmosphere and plenty of people-watching opportunities (this latter is an essential requirement, obviously). All too soon, we had to leave in search of a taxi to take my friends back to Victoria and on to the airport. And this is when it happened. Behind the South Bank Centre, not only was there a taxi, but there was also something much more interesting to both me and my squirrel sidekick, Squizzey, who had tagged along for the day. We had stumbled upon a Chocolate Festival. Squizz and I were in our element and set about sampling some of the goodies on the various stalls.
We didn’t get off to a good start. One of the first things we tried was chocolate pretzels. I don’t recommend those but then I’m not really a savoury kind of girl, so don’t let me put you off if you are. I just think that there are some things that go together well – chilli chocolate works extremely well, for example – and there are others, like the humble pretzel and chocolate, who shouldn’t really ever get it on. Which brings me to our next great find. Squizzey and I are both on Twitter and I’ve been following Marmadale, the brains behind Rococo Chocolates, for some time now.So I was really excited to see that Rococo had a stall at the fair, especially as we’d missed out on coming down to London earlier in the month for a chocolate tasting they organised on a school night. Squizz snapped up some Scorched Almonds and Scorched Hazelnuts, which were both delish, and I decided to try the Earl Grey chocolate bars. I love Earl Grey tea. I love chocolate. But, Earl Grey chocolate is sadly not for me. (Refer to previous statement above about how some things should never merge.) Still, we did come away with the absolutely ace scorched goodies from lovely Marmadale and ventured onwards, sampling some hot chocolate along the way.
The next stall had some Amaretto chocolate balls and both Squizz and I wanted these. Again, bit of a disappointment, I think largely due to the low cocoa content chocolate used. They could have been great but sadly fall under the non-merger rule. Happily, nuts and chocolate were done properly and brilliantly by the excellent folk at Artisan du Chocolat and we purchased a sample box of their truffles to take home with us.
There comes a point when even a hardened chocoholic like myself has had enough and, after one final circumnavigation of the festival, it was time for my squirrel friend and I to slowly wend our way back along the Thames and over Westminster Bridge (where we were stopped and asked to take countless tourists’ photos) and back to Victoria for the journey home. Tired, happy, and totally chocolate-d out.