Today saw the launch of UK premium chocolate chain Hotel Chocolat‘s new high end chocolate shop, Rabot Estate. Strategically placed in Borough Market – the centre of London foodie culture, the new store marks quite a departure from the chain’s usual boutique style.
I was expecting something flash and out of place. Perhaps a commercial sector variation on the Hotel Chocolat branding that might have marked the beginning of the ‘Spitalfieldisation‘ of Borough Market. Instead, the new store has something of a Caribbean street food feel, with plenty of exposed brickwork, recovered timber and corrugated metal.
The store opens directly onto Stoney Street and a steel band (well, band of two) greeted the guests on this first official day of the new shop. This ‘open’ day featured plenty of free sampling of Rabot chocolate, chocolate tapas and desserts and cocoa tea.
Rabot Estate bars
On sale at the store are Rabot themed bars, including Rabot Estate, St Lucia and other country origin chocolate bars – all made for Hotel Chocolat by their chocolate maker partners in Germany, Coppenneur.
The most successful of these was the new 120 hour conched ‘Island Growers’ 65% dark. This has full yellow fruit and honey notes, with a slight tobacco hint and a clean after taste – certainly the best St Lucia so far to come our of the Hotel Chocolate/Coppenneur partnership. The 65% also worked pretty well in bars with whole Piedmont hazelnuts.
Hotel Chocolat founder Angus Thirwell told me that the equivalent recipe for the single plantation Rabot Estate bar was not quite ready for public consumption yet, but would be available soon.
Single source means seasonal variation, so recipes often need to be perfected for each batch.
Dash of milk
Instead the Rabot beans pop up in the new ‘Dash of Milk’ range – strong milk bars that are not pretending to be a conventional milk chocolate, but feature milk powder in place of sugar to take some edge off.
So in fact, the 70% ‘Dash of Milk’ is only 10% sugar. The lack of sweetness takes some getting used to, but the milky hit at the end takes the edge off.
For the more feint-hearted, the 50% ‘dash’ with 20% milk powder and 30% sugar comes in 150g packs with cacao nibs, though I did find this combination a little ‘meaty’ in flavour.
As well as Rabot coated nibs and flavoured bars in simple, artisan style packaging, the store includes a selection of the regular Hotel Chocolat range – there aren’t quite enough Rabot products to fill up a whole shop yet, and they’ll probably always be some room here for the shinier Hotel Chocolat gift products. (These are made in Hotel Chocolat’s own factory in Huntingdon, England, using Callebaut chocolate.)
The shop also features a food bar serving cocoa tea (optionally with a shot of St Lucian rum – should I really have tried that at 11am in the morning?) and a selection of sweet and and savoury dishes using St Lucia chocolate.
All in all a pleasant surprise and an impressive new addition to the London chocolate scene, adding a different take to our growing selection of chocolate shops.
2 Stoney Street
Tel: +44 (0)20 7403 9852
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 07.00 – 18.00