Posts Tagged reviews

Chocolate Review: Hotel Chocolat – Hacienda Lara, Extreme Pralines 90% Dark

Another selection from the Hotel Chocolat Purist range. This small box of chocolates was described as ‘rare and vintage’. Something a little bit special from an already excellent chocolatier. Labelled as ‘Extreme pralines’, they live up to their name being made with an unusually high 90% dark chocolate (cocoa from St Lucia), which is then mixed with Piedmont hazelnut.

The dark chocolate actually contains a drop of butter oil, which isn’t something I’ve noticed before in chocolate of this cocoa percentage.

What hits me first is a smell of full-bodied red wine followed by the taste of red fruits. The chocolate is indeed dark and intense, and as it melts, a pleasant taste of burnt caramel comes through, followed by the first hint of hazelnut. The praline is very smooth, wonderfully nutty and not too sweet.

Perfect. A rare and special treat.

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Chocolate Review: Hotel Chocolat, Santo Domingo 70%

One hundred grams of dark, fruity Santo Domingo 70% dark chocolate. Full of flavour, smooth but not over-powering. I don’t really taste the bitterness mentioned on the packet, but I did notice and appreciate the ‘fruity and wine-like notes’.

More depth than their house chocolate and not as more-ish. Definitely one to savour slowly.

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Chocolate Review – Hotel Chocolat, 70% House Dark Chocolate

Hotel Chocolat sell a variety of gourmet chocolates at a number of price points to suit every pocket. Their house chocolate is their standard and probably most popular chocolate. It is used in their lollies, slabs and special shapes, as well as many of their selectors.

The house dark chocolate is very accessible and additive. It is 70% cocoa and delivers a strong hit of flavour, while still remaining smooth and without being over-powering. It’s very more-ish and a good introduction to fine chocolate. Yet, it’s not their best dark chocolate and I find myself gravitating more towards their single-origin bars.

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Chocolate Review – HC, Rabot Estate 66% Dark Chocolate Baubles

The Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia is what makes Hotel Chocolat the largest bean-to-bar producer in the country. It’s also rather sought after and only finds its way into selected HC chocolates in their premium ‘Rabot Estate’ brand.

I’m generally not a fan of HC’s seasonal offerings. They tend to be much more expensive than the rest of their selection. And while they do have quirky and fun concepts, I prefer just a plain ol’ bar of good quality chocolate. I thought I’d give these chocolate baubles a go though, not least because they were 50% of in the post-Christmas sale..

For chocolate that’s less than 70%, it’s certainly very powerful, with flavours of figs and red fruits coming through strongly (it was described as such on the back-packet and I happen to agree, haven’t tasted the liquorice flavour that was also supposed to be there though).

Overall, excellent taste. As usual, it’s something to savour and certainly memorable. Perhaps my new year’s resolution should be to hunt out some more of the Rabot Estate offerings.

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Chocolate Review – Riverside Chocolate House, Handmade Dark Coffee Chocolate

A very smooth bar with hints of caramel. This sweet and creamy dark chocolate is only 54%. The chocolate doesn’t seem to have any deep or sophisticated flavours, but it’s possible it’s being overwhelmed by the coffee, which is of extremely good quality.

Overall, it’s a very tasty bar, if not a little sickly. It’s like a smooth, well made espresso and best approached a few small pieces at a time.

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Chocolate Review: Thorntons, 85% Dark

The Thorntons 85% dark chocolate bar is a 90g square of “intensely smooth, super-dark chocolate”. It’s part of their new-ish range of good quality chocolate squares. I’ve found Thorntons can be very hit and miss, but I’ve heard good things about this particular range.

It uses French beans from West Africa apparently and is described as ‘smooth’, with ‘strong cocoa notes’. On tasting, it is indeed very cocoa-y. Not as refined or fruity as my current favourite, Lindt 85%. It reminds me of a slightly more intense version of the Cote D’Or 86% bar.

At nearly £2 for 90g, it’s not cheap and doesn’t particularly differentiate itself from similar bars that cost slightly less. However, it’s very pleasant and I’m looking forward to finishing off the rest of the bar. And of course, I’m now keen to try the other flavours in their range..

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Chocolate review: Chocolate Garden, whole real gooseberries in fine chocolate

I picked up a box of these unusual treats at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, of all places. I’d never heard of Chocolate Garden before, but labelled as winners of the superior taste award 2009, the box of gooseberries coated in chocolate seemed too good and, well, too intriguing not to buy.

The chocolate used is 47% and while not labelled as dark chocolate does not contain any milk substance so I figured it counted as part of the series of reviews.

Further investigation (by which I mean, reading the packet) reveals that the gooseberries have been ‘candied’, i.e soaked in plenty of sugar. Rather ominously they have also had preservatives and flavouring added. The chocolate itself contains some vanillin, which implies a cheaper chocolate has been used.

Opening the packet reveals something a bit too uniform and shiny for something that’s labelled as homemade. The first bite uncovers a sticky centre that bares little resemblance in any regard to a gooseberry. Overwhelmingly sweet, there’s no taste of the tangy, tart tasting fruit I was expecting.

I can’t really comment on the chocolate, any taste has been drowned out by the incredible amounts of sugar and the (I assume) shellac glaze. I’d guess the glaze has been added to improve shelf life, but it’s a pity as it ruins the taste and texture of the chocolate.

In conclusion, they were not worth it. I’d rather save my money and have some cheap Tesco coated raisins instead, which is of comparable quality (but with less sugar!). Certainly not award winning produce.

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Chocolate Review: The Riverside Continental Chocolate House, Rosemary and Sea Salt Dark Chocolates

The Riverside Continental Chocolate House is a tiny shop and café, hidden away in deepest, darkest Wales. It makes its own chocolate on-site and resales a few other well-known and less well-known brands. The selection is more limited than I would have expected for a specialist shop, but there were some interesting options. So obviously, I picked out a few to try. The one I picked out for review was a dark chocolate ganache with rosemary and sprinkled with a touch of sea salt.

It was excellent, one of the nicest and most distinctive chocolates I’ve had. The rosemary was strong but not overpowering and proved to be just the right amount to perfectly complement the chocolate. The chocolate itself I’m guessing was around 60%, with a nice well-bodied flavour. The sea salt provided an extra dimension, by cutting through the other flavours and preventing it from being too heavy.

A good experience and I’d happily stop off at the café again if I’m passing in future. However, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way, even if they do sell one of the most memorable chocolates I’ve ever tasted.


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Chocolate Review: Hotel Chocolat Purist, 90% St Lucia Salted Caramels

Hotel Chocolat have become a high street name in the last few years. They’ve managed to maintain a very high quality, while extending their range to suit all tastes and wallets. Their recently launched Purist selection is their premium range by an already premium chocolatier. It uses a variety of single origin chocolates, in particular from their very own St Lucia estate, to create a nice choice of individual bars, ganaches and pralines.

The 90% St Lucia Salted Caramels came in a strip of six individual chocolates. The packaging was no-frills, yet gave the impression of something slightly special and I have to say they tasted amazing. I experienced a real buzz from the dark chocolate, balanced out nicely by the caramel, so not at all as overpowering or bitter as the percentage would suggest. The caramel perhaps tasted a bit too much of condensed milk, but there was just the right amount of salt and sugar, giving it a lovely taste that complimented the chocolate perfectly. You don’t get to explore the flavours in the chocolate as much as with a bar of their Purist dark chocolate, but a very pleasant treat nonetheless.

The Hotel Chocolat Purist range seems to contain the best chocolate currently available on the high street. Well worth trying and something I will no doubt come back to in these series of reviews.


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Chocolate Review: Tesco Finest Organic Ecuadorian 85% Plain Chocolate

The Tesco Finest Organic Ecuadorian 85% Plain Chocolate is a Fairtrade single origin bar made from Arriba beans. Described as intensely fruity, without the bitterness you’d expect of a 85% dark chocolate. I was slightly irritated by the use of ‘plain’ rather than ‘dark’ chocolate in the name, but I didn’t let that out me off.

It reminded me of the Cote D’Or 86%, having the same soft texture and more-ish-ness. I found it to be smooth, well-rounded and certainly fruity. Although there were no particularly complex flavours, meaning it seemed slightly lacking in depth. It was nonetheless very pleasant but all too easy to eat. A good introduction to dark chocolate and a bargain at its current price of a quid for 100g.


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