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November 14, 2009

William Curley – new Pimlico shop

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Written by: Martin Christy
William Curley's new shop, Ebury Street, Pimlico, London

William Curley's new shop, Ebury Street, Pimlico, London

It’s taken quite a while, but it would be hard to argue that it wasn’t worth the wait.

William and Suzue Curley finally opened their second London store this week in Pimlico – at the second attempt, following the early closure of their first Central London venture in Mayfair.

Now Britain’s Best Chocolatier (as voted by the Academy of Chocolate for the last three years running) is back in a bigger and better flagship store to supplement their original Richmond shop, that could only be described as – ‘fabulous’.

Inside the new William Curley shop

Inside the new William Curley shop

More like a chocolate emporium than a mere shop, the Pimlico Road store is probably the largest chocolate shop in London.

The new shop features not only the full range of William Curley fresh patisserie and chocolates, but also a dessert and drinks bar, late night opening with licensing, exotically decorated seating areas and an upmarket but laid back feel.

The shop certainly has an air of plush luxury, but is not at all intimidating to enter.

Some top-end chocolatier boutiques can make you feel like an intruder into a much loftier world, where actually you only came in to buy some chocolates. (I couldn’t level that accusation at any of the current crop of London stores though).

Curley’s new shop keeps it friendly while layering on the style, creating a space you want to hang around in, not just dive into for a few minutes for a quick shop.

Serving from the new limestone counter

Serving from the new limestone counter

The design has the usual Curley Japanese and French influence, this time with a little ‘cacao’ thrown in. One wall is covered with cacao sack style hessian, on which is printed the names of famous cacao origin countries. (Along with the odd Japanese city, which can be spotted by the eagle-eyed – it had to be pointed out to me.)

The front seating area features a beautiful gold and black mural, creating a cosy sit down area ideal for impressing a date with champagne and chocolates, while at the back of the shop there is more seating, great for long chats and business meetings.

Brownies made with Amedei chocolate for just £2 a go

Brownies made with Amedei chocolate for just £2 a go

Though you might be shopping in a heavenly chocolate environment, Curley’s prices are fair and decent and there’s no sense of products being given orbital price tags just to make them appear somehow luxurious.

It would of course be possible to leave the shop with a much dented credit card, but many small items can be had for a few pounds. Often these are priced for barely more than you’d pay in a high street chain, for something that is on the face of it a similar item.

The quality is, of course, on a different planet. Sublime brownies for a mere £2 a go are just one example.

As well as the new shop, Curley also has new bags and new packaging for solid and filled bars, which make them just a bit more gift-worthy.

There’s also a new drinks menu and a few new patisserie items available, including “Citrus entremet” – layers of hazelnut sponge, lemon ganache, chocolate sponge and dark chocolate mousse accompanied by lemon curd.

The entremet was so good, I’d taken a few bites before realising I really should take a photo. The aftertaste was excellent and really lingered.

Citrus entremet, too good to resist

Citrus entremet, too good to resist

Congratulations go to William and Suzue – Ebury Street is a real acheivement and once again the Curley’s have ‘raised the bar’ for the London chocolate scene.

This can only be a good thing as London takes another step forward to becoming one of the leading fine chocolate centres in the world.

Certainly well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Nearest tube: Sloane Square, or Victoria if you don’t mind a walk or a short bus journey on the 211. Pimlico station is actually some distance away.

Info

William Curley
198 Ebury Street
London
SW1W 8UN

Tel. 020 7730 5522

Opening Hours:

Monday to Saturday 9:30 – 18:30
(Coming soon: Monday to Thursday 9:30 – 10:00pm)
Sunday 10:30 – 18:00



About the Author

Martin Christy
Martin Christy is Seventy%’s editor and founder and is a leading voice in the chocolate industry, promoting the cause of fine chocolate and fine cacao and those who produce them. With twenty years’ experience of fine chocolate, he has travelled extensively visiting cocoa plantations and meeting the world’s top producers and is a consultant to the fine chocolate and cacao growing industries worldwide. Martin is Judging Director of the International Chocolate Awards, which he founded in the UK with Kate Johns of Chocolate Week. He is also Acting Chairman of the new fine cacao and chocolate industry association, Direct Cacao and is a member of the Heirloom Cacao Preservation Initiative Tasting Panel. He is also a freelance writer about fine chocolate, contributing to UK magazines and several books about fine chocolate.




 
 

 
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4 Comments


  1. Alex Rast

    I went to the new shop on the Monday after it opened. There can be little doubt that it offers the most pleasant (and, it must be said, least intimidating) environment of all London’s chocolate shops. Not that I’m unfamiliar with Curley, of course, but I got several items while there.
    The chocolates, as usual, are sublime. Of course the Chuao, and the sesame, are outstanding. I got a hazelnut – I can’t say I was quite as impressed as some of the others, in part because of the texture, which was of the “rocher” style, but that’s in a relative sense. I also got a raspberry – using a pate de fruit filling instead of a ganache is an instant winner, so much better in intensity.
    I got a raspberry cake which was textbook French patisserie. What is there to criticise? Perhaps the raspberry flavour wasn’t as intense as it might have been, but then again, this is late fall. I expect in summer this would be better. But the chocolate taste here was exceptional.
    It should, however, be noted that the chiller cases are imparting a slight flavour to everything. I think this is a by-product of them being so new. What I would do is this: get a “sacrificial” bag of cocoa powder. Place it in each chiller case. The powder should absorb the odour and improve the flavours in the products on offer. A bit like using baking soda, with a chocolate twist.
    I got a hot chocolate as well – seasonally appropriate. This proved to be the one disappointment. I honestly can’t say that this was anything more than a fairly standard hot chocolate that you might get from anywhere. It needs MUCH more chocolate as a ratio, MUCH less milk. Cafe Rivoire in Florence sets the reference standard for what hot chocolate should be like. Might one of the WC staff make a trip there to try it, so as to get a sense of what good hot chocolate is about?
    Service was very patient with me. I like to hand-select each individual chocolate. This can be cause for exasperation among staff, who in most chocolates are at a bit of a loss to understand why I’d want to select the specific individual piece from among a tray of chocolates of the same flavour. I got none of this here, though: the woman was completely accommodating, even when (as was inevitable) I selected the pieces that seemed always to be out of reach of her rather short arms.
    Hopefully Curley will have more success in this location than at the Mayfair shop. Going out to Richmond was always something of a trek and it’s nice to have something more central. I can’t resist commenting on the element of competition here, too: of course just around the corner is Artisan du Chocolat. Who will be the winner? Hopefully there is room for both.


  2. keith hurdman

    Interesting article Alex…if a little ungentlemany…short arms indeed lol!..lI ook forward to visiting soon…
    Have to disagree about Cafe Rivoire though .Nice place if albeit a tourist trap, the chocolate is good but not in the same class as Sprungli on Paradeplatz in Zurich…
    keith


  3. Alex Rast

    An update: since I last went, it seems Curley has adjusted the recipe for the hot chocolate. A more recent visit confirmed the superiority of the new formulation. It was close to definitive. I suspect this is about as strong as one can make it without it becoming too intimidating – or at least outside the boundaries of most people expect – for the general public. The chocolate flavour stood out more prominently and significantly, it was much less sweet, which is the critical improvement. Having now perfected the basic hot chocolate, perhaps Curley might experiment with an “intense” hot chocolate – aimed at those who want something more serious and who are already accustomed to high-power chocolate? In fact, another dimension to explore might be flavoured hot chocolates: the current version is a superb base for various additional flavours (e.g. mint, cinnamon, etc.) which could provide interesting range.

    Look at my posting in the forum for more details on what was an interesting visit.


  4. Yeah Alex its really interesting and I feel really hungry when I saw those appetizer and its great to bring my wife there she really loves chocolate.



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