Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hotel Chocolat's Roast + Conch

Last Easter Sunday, I lay on the couch "watching" Mary Poppins - if "watching" can constitute semi-conscious chocolate overdose-induced blank stares at the screen. This year, I find myself munching on a pack of Quavers, after I had a pre-Easter fix of chocolate at the Roast + Conch in Covent Garden yesterday.

The Roast + Conch is a chocolate cafe - yes you read correctly. I love cafes, I love coffee and I love chocolate so you can imagine my delight when I saw such a thing as a 'chocolate americano' on the humble 2 sheets of stapled A4 paper that serves as a menu. But it being Easter weekend and all, I had to go all out and had a nice glass of hot chocolate.

Perhaps one of the hardest things about London is finding cafes that aren't part of a chain, and granted I thoroughly failed in that aspect as Roast + Conch is a part of Hotel Chocolat, the atmosphere of the cafe is something you'd expect to find in an indie cafe on Upper Street. After walking through your typical clean-cut Hotel Chocolat shop, you make your way down a black rusty spiral staircase into the actual cafe. This sets the tone for the homely, indie feel of the shop.

As I said, the menu is just two printed sheets of A4, you can see bits of concrete peeking through the roughly painted cream walls, and the mix of wood and stainless steel top tables all give a rustic feeling to the place. I quite fancied the sofas against the walls, that are decorated with lovely brown and bright green cushions. It was indeed a warm, cozy feel.

I'm a massive fan of Hotel Chocolat so let's say my expectations were high - the atmosphere lodged that expectation even higher, as did the £3 price tag. To start, the complementary bunny rabbits were sweet, tasty and rich. Dunking them in the hot chocolate was simply delightful. The actual hot chocolate took me by surprised when firstly, it took a good 10 minutes to arrive. With the "conch" on the go (this big metal tub with clogs stirring gorgeous melted chocolate) I thought it'd be a matter of minutes. It may have been a backlog of orders or some intricate art of making hot chocolate, but it's not a come-and-go Starbucks jobby - to be fair, the aforementioned atmosphere is everything but.

When the hot chocolates came, I found it not as rich nor sweet as I expected. It was smooth, light and nicely warm. I may sound put off, but actually, with no food to go with it, I think any sweeter or thicker and it could have been a bit sickly. That being said, why would you order a hot chocolate in such a gorgeous atmosphere if you didn't want to wedge yourself between the cushions, warm your hands on the mug and huddle your shoulders for a thick, creamy sip of gorgeous chocolate?

Not quite sure myself, but I have to admit it was good hot chocolate. It was suitable if you didn't have shortbread to water down the sweetness with and it was delicious. Was it fun? Not as much as it could be! A cute mug or a unique texture could have set this hot chocolate apart from the others in the city, and the atmosphere begged such expectations.

But I can only question - did I make the wrong choice? With cheeseboards, melting chocolate dipping pots and cocoa americanos on the menu, a boring choice may have been deserving of the less-than-exciting result. Hmm.. I suppose I'll have to go back for round 2.

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