Who wouldn’t love a lock-in at “Hotel Chocolat”:http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/restaurants.html ? We have been to a chocolate tasting here before, but a lock-in was something new. This event took place in the café in Liverpool, was limited to about a dozen customers and took place right after the shop closed for the day. We were each provided with a glass of water to clean the palate and a glass of Prosecco to enjoy during the tasting of various boozy chocolates. Our experience started with a piece of dark chocolate. First we had to snap it in half to hear the snap, smell it, block your nose and chew it then breathe in. Drinking water at this point changed the taste of the chocolate – it was actually sweeter. A cardboard folder provided a glossary of chocolate terms from “cacao” to “winnowing” and was useful to hold the information provided about the “Tasting Tree” and the process from farming the cacao to tempering the chocolate. The Tasting Tree provides a guide of things to look for when tasting chocolate: the look and sound of the chocolate; the aroma of the chocolate; the taste of the chocolate; and the way it feels in your mouth or “mouthfeel” of the chocolate.
We were then given a chocolate bean and were asked to crack it open so we could see the different parts of the bean. Our hostess explained how Hotel Chocolat utilizes all parts of the bean in the production of their products. There was a paper napkin with illustrations on it that explains the “Pod Power”: the pulp goes into sorbets and drinks and tastes like lychee; the bean itself; the shell that is used in drinks and in body treatments; the nibs that are used to make the cocoa; and the husk which is used in composting. We even received a Hotel Chocolat pencil to take home.
Now for the heart of the matter; we had six boozy chocolates to try: Champagne Truffle, Red Wine Truffle, Gin Truffle, Rum Port Truffle, Salted Expresso Martini and Whisky Cream Truffle. My favourites are probably the first two. My only complaint was feeling a bit rushed with the tastings. The folder the chocolates were in laid out four steps for tasting: prepare your taste buds; cleanse your palate; take notes as per the Tasting Tree; and engage your other senses. I always seemed to be behind and was still savouring the last chocolate when the hostess was talking about the next one.
At only £10 admittance, it doesn’t matter that there are no concessions – the value for money more than covers the expense. In addition to the drinks and chocolates mentioned above, we each also received a £10 coupon and a 10% off coupon that we could use that evening to make purchases before leaving, a £5 coupon for a future event and a coupon for future use for a hot drink at the café. I purchased 8 items that evening which would have cost £34.10 but with the discounts (including a discount for some multiple purchases) only cost me £15.49. My aunt and I used the café coupons one day the following week when we were in Liverpool shopping. Will we be back for another chocolatey adventure? You bet!