London’s bi-annual Chocolate Festival is one of my favourite events of the year, mainly because it involves chocolate and partly because it gives me a chance to say hello to lots of lovely independent businesses, which I rarely get to meet in person. A number of activities such as chocolate demonstrations and cookery workshops take place across the weekend for a small fee. This spring’s Chocolate Festival was somewhat different to last year’s in which I happily spent the whole afternoon sat next to the river, munching my way through various goodies. The Chocolate Festival returned to London’s Southbank on the 22nd March until 24th March, possibly the coldest March weekend in history.
Sporting six jumpers and a fur coat, I arrived at 11am and quickly grabbed a coffee whilst waiting for the last of the traders to set up. Unfortunately, my visit was brief due to losing all feeling in my hands, which made photo taking and chocolate tasting impossible. However, I did manage to pick up a couple of goodies and find out about some of the new traders in town.
I came across the Village Workshop and their edible activity kits for children. These kits include gingerbread house components made from sweet pastes and biscuits and are great for children’s parties. My favourite has to be the ‘Bunny Huts’ a chocolate biscuit house with a bunny on top – how cute!
Offering something a little different, Bless Chocolate made their debut at this year’s Chocolate Festival with their chocolate shooters. Bless present a new way to enjoy chocolate and although I didn’t get a chance to try their shots, I’d very much like to. Their test tubes are filled with tiny balls of flavoured chocolate that can be shot down in one if you can’t resist! I am not sure this will catch on to become the next chocolate indulgence but it’s certainly a novel idea.
I decided I needed some food inside me to warm up so I picked up a giant peanut butter cookie from Outsider Tart. I have been wanting to get myself down to their Cheswick bakery for a while now, to pick up some tasty American-style treats. The cookie was priced at £2.75, a fair bit more than those from other festival traders like Sweet Tooth Factory which were over a pound cheaper. I was a little disappointed with my cookie from Outsider Tart. It was very hard and rather sickly, even for a peanut butter nutter like me. Maybe I got a bad cookie, who knows? Cookie aside, I would like to give Outsider Tart another chance and try another one of their products, as I have heard good things about this trader.
Next up I spoke to Alexandra from Amisqui about his Alfajores, a latin American delicacy which follows a traditional family recipe passed down by his grandmother. I was lucky enough to try a piece and I was pleasantly surprised as I would say Alfajores are similar to a light shortbread biscuit (not my favourite kind) but with chocolate or cream filling. I don’t think those from latin America would agree but my grandad is Scottish so I grew up around shortbread. The biscuits would go perfect with a cup of tea and I can see them being a real hit in the UK, I can’t believe I never came across them when travelling around Spain!
I squeezed my way through the crowd surrounding Rococo’s beautifully decorated stand where two ever-so-friendly members of staff offered me a couple of sugar almonds. Not only were the almonds tasty but like all of Rococo’s products they come in quirky illustrated packaging. I must make sure I try more of Rococo’s award-winning chocolates.
I was getting seriously cold so it was time to leave but not before stopping off at The Chocolatier in the hope to pick up some of his unique flavoured truffles. I am a big fan of unusual combinations of flavours and I particularly like The Chocoatier’s truffles, which come in a range of ever-changing seasonal flavours. I tried one of their ‘baked bean truffles’ at my first ever Chocolate Festival and I’ve returned every time in the hope to find it again. This time I was lucky to get my hand on another. The baked bean truffle is filled with a paste with a flavour similar to that found in a tin of Heinz. To experience the full flavour, it’s best to try the truffle centre separately as the dark chocolate offsets the baked bean taste but the tomato and chocolate compliment each other well and I would have no hesitation about purchasing a whole box. I’m hoping to get my hands on some of The Chocolatier’s unique flavours such as Nutmeg and Salted Caramel with Honey for a separate review. This is food experimentation at its best.
This Chocolate Festival introduced a number of new traders showcasing unique and wonderful products making it, in my eyes, the best one yet. It was such a shame the weather prevented me from visiting every exhibitor and forced me to leave after just 40 minutes outside in the cold. My hats go off to those who stuck it out the whole weekend, showing real dedication to their business. Southbank’s Chocolate Festival is a fantastic weekend event, free for the whole family. Be sure to get yourself down to the next festival which I believe will be held this autumn, where I hope the weather will be a few degrees warmer!
Living life, loving cake,