Salon du Chocolat: London’s best chocolate spread
National Chocolate Week drew to a spectacular close on Sunday with the third and final day of Salon du Chocolat – the world’s biggest trade chocolate show – at Kensington Olympia. Arriving in London for the first time in its 19-year history, the extravaganza featured the best of UK and international chocolatiers, pâtissiers and chefs who showcased mouth-watering pralines, ganaches, sauces, macarons, pastries, nougat and sweets.
The event drew an eclectic crowd, from chocolate connoisseurs and enthusiasts to budding bakers, families and groups. A children’s chocolate club kept the little ones entertained. Adults keen to learn about producing, cooking or baking with chocolate had several routes to pursue: cookery school with L’Atelier des Chefs held a succession of workshops, and a culinary theatre, hosted by pastry chef Will Torrent, featured the weekend’s most anticipated demonstration: a masterclass from Heston Blumenthal’s pastry team from The Fat Duck.
Executive pastry chef Hideko Kawa and her colleagues began with the production of a tartan chocolate blanket, using a transfer sheet and kitchen blowtorch. Of course, the theatrical elements synonymous with Blumenthal soon emerged: an umbrella, a spray gun (“purchased from a DIY store”), a toothbrush and liquid nitrogen were utilised to produce a speckled, chocolate eggshell filled with a sublime lemon, thyme and vanilla panna cotta. The team continued by producing jam tarts – inspired by Alice in Wonderland – each was served as a wafer-thin, edible playing card within a dainty, white envelope stamped with an edible crimson seal!
Rivalling their innovation was Aneesh Popat, the man behind the Chocolatier brand, whose presentation in the event’s tasting theatre explained how to defy tradition and produce creamy chocolate and ganache without butter or cream. The upbeat session included three chocolate tasters: a delicate Raw Coconut Bean, an acidic Beetroot, Red Wine Vinegar and Hazelnut and a moreish Mince Pie.
With quality and provenance at the core of the show, prices were beyond sweetshop and supermarket figures, but an overwhelming supply of freebies provided an opportunity to try different grades of produce. Drinking chocolate gurus Jaz and Jul offered shots of spiced Cinnamon and Rose and a sharper Raspberry Chocolate; Swiss company Beschle impressed with a flavoursome Green Tea Chocolate by Matcha. CaraMoka, a caramel and coffee sauce from Ed’M Jams et Caramels, had us returning for cheeky seconds!
We enjoyed bites from Hotel Chocolat (which also hosted a chocolate spa and massage area), Duffy’s, Venchi, The Highland Chocolatier, Melange, Valrhona and Demarquette as we continued around the floor. We cooled down with Artisan du Chocolat’s magnificent Chocolate Crème Caramel ice-cream, before sampling Luca Mannori’s exceptional panettone, studded with candied peel and almonds. However, it was François Pralus who offered the day’s standouts: an incredible Hazelnut Chocolate Spread and huge praline bars filled with whole roasted hazelnuts.
Leaving feeling slightly sick and overcome with a sugar-rush not felt since childhood, Salon du Chocolat was a rich, decadent and unforgettably sweet experience. In other words, a perfect outing!
For further information visit the Salon du Chocolat website here.